Election fraud and violence against peaceful demonstrators – these are the reasons the EU cites for its sanctions against supporters of the Belarusian head of state Lukashenko. This threatened with countermeasures.
The foreign ministers of the EU countries have agreed on punitive measures against high-ranking supporters of the Belarusian head of state Alexander Lukashenko. Those affected are accused of being responsible for fraudulent elections and the violent crackdown on peaceful protests, said Foreign Affairs Representative Josep Borrell after consultations with the ministers in Berlin.
How many people will be affected has not yet been definitively determined. The last targeted number of around 20 people is expected to be increased again, said Borrell.
Dispute over the scope of the sanctions
With the planned sanctions, the EU wants to put pressure on the leadership of the country and show solidarity with the people of Belarus. However, there is disagreement about the exact procedure: The Baltic states have unsuccessfully pleaded for significantly more people to be banned from entering the country and financial sanctions. There was also a dispute because there should initially be no sanctions against Lukashenko.
The Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Antanas Linkevičius called the EU plans too symbolic: "This is definitely not enough. This is not a serious reaction". Ukraine had previously frozen all diplomatic contacts with neighboring Belarus.
Lukashenko threatens EU country Lithuania
Lukashenko threatened Lithuania with countermeasures. His country has survived punitive measures in the past and will continue to withstand them in the future, he said, according to state media. "The world is not without good people. Therefore nobody needs to scare us."
On the other hand, he praised Russian President Vladimir Putin as a "friend". Putin had previously promised Belarus aid in the crisis – including troops from his Interior Ministry, in order to suppress protests against Lukashenko in an emergency.
Time of implementation open
At the meeting of the EU foreign ministers, it remained open when the agreement in principle could be converted into the necessary formal decision. At the meeting in Berlin, for example, Cyprus indirectly threatened to veto the Belarus sanctions if the EU’s pressure on Turkey in the gas dispute was not increased.
Lukashenko had previously rejected a telephone mediation attempt by Chancellor Angela Merkel. She justified her attempt by saying that it was important to talk to all sides of the conflict. "I can’t just talk to the Russian president about Belarus," said the CDU politician.
Merkel also spoke out in favor of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) taking on a mediating role. Belarus itself is one of the 57 members of the OSCE from Europe, North America and Asia. Merkel said the OSCE must have access to various groups in Belarus. The organization has historically proven itself in such situations and can now play a "very, very important role".
OSCE calls for an end to human rights violations
The OSCE itself called for an end to human rights violations in Belarus. This is a prerequisite for the dialogue between the government and the opposition, said Albania’s Prime Minister Edi Rama, the current OSCE Chairman. "Immediate and significant improvements in the human rights situation are needed, not at some point in the future, and without ifs and buts."
Rama said after a meeting of the 57 OSCE states that this is a fundamental question that has nothing to do with interference in internal affairs.
There have been protests and strikes against President Alexander Lukashenko in Belarus for more than two weeks. The government uses the OMON special police. In Minsk she arrested numerous people – at least temporarily – during the night, including many journalists. The Interior Ministry spoke of inspections. The Belarusian human rights organization Wesna in Minsk spoke of more than 250 arrests. Men in particular were driven away in prisoner trucks.
The trigger and reason for the protests is the election overshadowed by falsification allegations, after which the 65-year-old was declared the winner with 80.1 percent of the votes. The legality of the election is also questioned internationally.