The President of the European Parliament Roberta Metsola welcomed Belarus' Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya to the European Parliament. In her speech, she said that the people of Belarus must be able to live free from autocracy and free from oppression.
Today we have with us one of the bravest, toughest, most resilient leaders I have the honour of calling a friend: Belarus’ Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya.
Dear Sviatlana, the world has witnessed your determination, your courage and your perseverance. The values that underpin your and your people’s struggles bind us together as Europeans. It is a pleasure to welcome you back to the European Parliament. You are here among allies and among friends.
The Lukashenko regime in Belarus represents everything that Europe was built to stand against. Autocracy, arbitrary detention, torture. Three years ago, the Belarusian people spoke. They chose to end the age of dictators. Their will must be respected.
The situation in Belarus has reached a tipping point. 1,500 people remain political prisoners, including your trailblazing husband Sergei Tikhanovsky, Maria Kalesnikava, Maksim Zank and Mikola Statkevich. From here let me reiterate our demand for their immediate and unconditional release.
I have said it before but this bears repeating for as long as it takes: The people of Belarus must be able to live in freedom. Free from autocracy. Free from oppression. It is what they want. It is what they chose. It is what they deserve.
We will continue to support Belarusian democratic forces and to play an active role in shaping the European Union’s response to the on-going political crisis in Belarus. It is critical that we further expand European Union sanctions against the regime and do not lose sight ever of what they have done.
To quote you Sviatlana, “We’re not strangers, we’re family members who have been away for too long. We’re the forgotten Europeans returning home. Belarusians have always been a part of Europe and will always be.”
Let me assure you, you have never been forgotten. We will always stand with you and help you return home.
Sviatlana, you have the floor.