The European University Association (EUA) and the European Students’ Union (ESU) are concerned by the grave violations of democratic and human rights that continue to be witnessed in Belarus. The two organisations strongly condemn recent threats of expulsion, dismissal or conscription into the military directed against students and staff of Belarusian universities.
EUA and ESU call on the Belarusian authorities to refrain from suppressing peaceful protests and to guarantee all citizens, including students and university staff, the right to free expression, assembly and protest. EUA and ESU also urge the government of Belarus to reconsider the recent decision to no longer recognise diplomas from foreign educational institutions, which is in clear contravention of the Lisbon Recognition Convention.
EUA and ESU consider that a continuation of the higher education reform work with the Belarusian Ministry in the context of the Bologna Process is inappropriate and simply impossible under these present circumstances. The Bologna Process is built on transparency, mutual trust and partnership between governments and higher education stakeholders, as well as respect for academic freedom and institutional autonomy. All Bologna Process members, including Belarus, committed to respecting these fundamental values in the 2018 Paris Communiqué and are expected to reinforce them on 19 November 2020, when the Rome Communiqué will be signed. These commitments cannot be just empty words – they must be followed by action.
EUA and ESU express their solidarity with the students and staff of Belarusian universities and, together with their members, will seek ways to offer practical support. Several national initiatives to provide scholarships for students and academics have already been announced. EUA and ESU welcome such schemes and encourage others – both national rectors’ conferences and universities – to follow suit.
Finally, EUA and ESU wish to highlight that scholars and students are often targeted by oppressive governments and that Europe is an important safe haven. In 2019 around 80% of at-risk scholars supported by Scholars at Risks (SAR) were hosted at European higher education institutions. However, every year a considerable number of requests for support are turned down due to lack of funding for placements. In cooperation with Scholars at Risk and the Inspireurope project partners, EUA and ESU therefore call on the European Commission to establish a dedicated European and fellowship programme for researchers at risk.