BRUSSELS – The European Students Union thinks that Belarus should not be invited to become a member of the European Higher Education Area (EHEA) during the Bucharest Ministerial Meeting in April 2012. Allan Päll, Chair of ESU said: “Even though Belarus might fulfill formal criteria to join the EHEA, it should not become part of it as there is no such thing as academic freedom in Belarus.” Belarus has applied to become EHEA member on 30 November 2011.
A decision on the membership is scheduled for 26-27 April 2012 when the higher education ministers of the EHEA meet in Bucharest, Romania. However, ESU hopes that before this date the accession committee will highlight facts of the continuous violation of academic freedom in the country. The civic society group will finalise an 'alternative report' which will be brought to the attention of the ministers.
Päll continued: “In December 2010, around 600 activists –mainly young people and students- were put on trial and twenty Belarusian students were expelled from their university following the violently repressed protests against the election of the Belarusian president, Alexander Lukashenko. ESU was and is disgusted by these practices and has not forgotten about it.”
In response to urgent letters from ESU, the Norwegian ministry of Education initiated a joint statement in January 2010 with ten other European countries in which they expressed their common concern about the violation of academic freedom in Belarus. Päll: “Some of these countries are now considering letting Belarus join. Main argument they use is that once Belarus is in the EHEA, we could support democratic change in the country. But ESU fears that letting them join right now, will make it impossible to hand out sanctions in case of student repression.”
He added: “The Belarussian government is clearly out for the EHEA label and we highly doubt their willingness to implement any meaningful reform in higher education.” ESU however supports cooperation with academics and students and the full use of current mechanisms, such as Tempus and Erasmus Mundus. Päll concluded: “We hope more openness will gradually bring positive change in the country. Then the ban on accession can be revised.”
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Published: 14 December 2011
For more information, please contact:
Allan Päll, ESU Chairperson: +32/479.591.499 or firstname.lastname@example.org or Marianne Slegers, ESU Communications Manager: +32/473.669.894 or email@example.com