Participation in Euro 2024 qualifiers will be used as propaganda by Alexander Lukashenko’s regime in Minsk, the letter says.
Belgium, (Brussels Morning Newspaper) More than 100 MEPs, from all the major groups, called on European football’s governing body UEFA to expel the Belarusian national team from the Euro 2024 qualifiers over human rights abuses committed by President Alexander Lukashenko’s regime.
According to a letter seen by Brussels Morning, the MEPs stated that they believe it is important that UEFA reconsider its current position in the Belarusian football federation.
“It is clear from an international standpoint that the current measures are inadequate and fail to reflect what the Belarusian authorities are doing in relation to human rights and other UEFA values. Over40 000 inhabitants of Belarus have been detained or imprisoned since 2020, among them many football players.Almost1 500 persons in Belarus have been recognized as political prisoners and are facing sentences of up to 20 years imprisonment. For example, a 48-year-old football coach – Oleg Fomin – spent 2,5 years in Belarusian prison on trumped-up charges. These innocent detainees are being exposed to torture and abasement in clear violation of their rights and freedoms. Much of Belarusian society is now living in fear, intimidated, and terrorized that even a slight sign of not supporting the Lukashenka regime could result in the loss of their careers or freedom. This includes Belarusian athletes and sportsmen. It is therefore clear to us that the footballers who are still on the Belarusian football team are supporting the Lukashenka regime” it is noted in the letter.
It is important to understand that, as a consequence of human rights abuses, violent repression of opposition members, and the EU’s support for Russia’s full-scale attack on Ukraine, Lukashenko’s regime is under EU sanctions in the context of the letter of the MEPs.
Since the beginning of the month, several opposition figures — including human rights advocate and Nobel Prize winner Ales Bialiatski and the opposition leader in exile, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya — were given decades-long prison sentences for “high treason” and financing opposition protests.
Lukashenko, a close ally to Russian President Vladimir Putin, was also instrumental in Moscow’s attack on Ukraine last February when some Russian troops entered Ukraine from Belarus.
Belarus has been sanctioned by UEFA for its role in the war on Ukraine: The country is no longer allowed to host international games and Belarusian clubs cannot play against Ukrainian teams in European competitions.
But, unlike Russian teams, which have been expelled from all UEFA competitions, the Belarusian clubs and national teams are still allowed to compete in international competitions.
The Belarusian national team is set to compete against Switzerland, Israel, Romania, Kosovo, and Andorra in the Euro 2024 qualifiers. Its first match takes place against Switzerland on March 25 and will be played in Serbia. The final tournament next summer will then take place in Germany.