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Lithuania, Poland and Romania to ask EU leaders to offer trade, visa-free travel to Belarus

FILE PHOTO: Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda takes off his protective mask to make a statement as he arrives for an EU summit in Brussels, Belgium July 17, 2020. Francisco Seco/Pool via REUTERS

VILNIUS (Reuters) - The presidents of Lithuania, Poland and Romania will ask European Union leaders at a summit later this week to offer a support package for Belarus if the country holds a democratic election.

The proposed package would include a favourable trade regime with the EU, visa-free travel and support in negotiations to enter the World Trade Organization, according to the statement from the three presidents to the EU leaders seen by Reuters.

Financial assistance for reforms, and help to diversify its energy sector and transition towards liberal economy was also part of the support package.

The support would only be offered after “new, democratic elections” with interational observers in the country, the Lithuanian president’s office told Reuters.

“If Belarus citizens decide to undergo political and economic reforms in the country, to establish independent institutions to defend human rights and freedom of speech - we will help with our knowledge and experience”, Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda said in a statement.

Poland wants the European Union to offer Belarus financial assistance of at least 1 billion euros ($1.18 billion) as part of a “Marshal plan” to rebuild the country, Prime Minster Mateusz Morawiecki said last Thursday.

Belarus was plunged into turmoil following a presidential election last month that President Alexander Lukashenko says he won by a landslide, but the opposition says was rigged. In power for 26 years, he has shown scant inclination to resign, buoyed by support from Russia.

The EU has said it would impose sanctions on Minsk for alleged election fraud and human rights abuses but has yet to do so.

EU leaders will meet in Brussels on Thursday and Friday to discuss the single market, industrial policy and digital transformation, the coronavirus pandemic, and foreign relations.

Reporting By Andrius Sytas; editing by Niklas Pollard and Angus MacSwan

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