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Lusa - Business News - EU/Presidency: Belarus democratic opposition supports further sanctions

Luxembourg, June 21, 2021 (Lusa) - Belarus' democratic opposition agrees with the European Union's sanctions on the regime and advocates strengthening them. The foreign minister pointed out on Monday after a Council adopted a new package of restrictive measures.

At the end of a meeting in Luxembourg at which the 27 adopted the fourth package of sanctions against the Belarusian regime - sanctioning 78 people, including two ministers, and eight entities involved in human rights violations and the forced hijacking of a commercial flight - Augusto Santos Silva said that the leader of the Belarusian democratic opposition, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, with whom the EU heads of diplomacy met for breakfast today, "not only understands that sanctions are necessary, but even that they should be strengthened".

"We have examined and will continue to examine a list of additional measures requested of us by the Belarusian democratic leader. She presented this list, which is quite detailed and requires work, both from a political point of view and from the point of view of its legal basis", he said, recalling that the Council also has a mandate from EU leaders to propose economic sanctions, but these have not yet been finalised.

When questioned about the risks of the sanctions also penalising the Belarusian people, Santos Silva noted that "sanctions always have risks associated with them", which is why "the EU is very parsimonious in using sanctions that may harm groups or populations".

"And in the discussion we had with the Belarusian democratic leader, that issue was present. Several of us sought to ascertain what the Belarusian opposition's understanding of sanctions was and to what extent the damage that is or may be associated with the decision to apply economic sanctions can be outweighed by the benefits to the cause of peaceful democratic transition and 'relegitimation' of the leadership in Belarus," in the face of last year's fraudulent presidential elections.

The view of the Belarusian opposition - he continued - is that the benefits from the point of view of the political impact of sanctions far outweigh the risks associated with them. Therefore, those in Belarus who want to move towards a state that practises democratic elections [say] that the EU should support the democratic cause through the sanctions route and that sanctions should be reinforced, he said.

The Portuguese foreign minister also said that "there is another decision underway in the EU, without a final position yet, which concerns the participation of Belarus in the next summit with the Eastern Partnership.

Pointing out that Belarus is one of the six Eastern partners and that a summit is scheduled for the end of this year, Santos Silva indicated that the question on which the 27 should reach an understanding is whether Belarus should be represented and, if so, by whom, an issue which he admitted was "important" and "delicate".

"The Portuguese position is simple: we always contribute to the consensus, and we won't break any consensus. So we have starting positions, and then we seek to build consensus. He went on to say that "our starting position is that Belarus cannot be represented at the Eastern Partnership summit by a president [Alexander Lukashenko] whose legitimacy we do not recognise".

Santos Silva also said that it is "clear", at least to Europeans, "that the Belarusian regime, particularly President Lukashenko, is isolated from an international point of view, increasingly distant from the EU and increasingly close to or dependent on the Russian Federation".

"And it is also clear to us that it has crossed an absolute red line with that incident" of the Ryanair flight, he added.

Foreign ministers of the 27 today imposed restrictive measures against the defence and transport ministers and five other personalities. One entity for their involvement in the forced landing of a Ryanair flight in Minsk on May 23 to arrest activist Raman Pratasevich and his companion, Sofia Sapega.

As for the remaining targets of today's extension of sanctions, the Council pointed out in a statement that "the decision was taken because of the escalation of serious human rights violations in Belarus and the violent repression of civil society, the democratic opposition and journalists", and that "several prominent business figures who support and benefit from the Lukashenko regime" are among those targeted.

"These sanctions send a stronger signal to the regime's supporters that their continued support for Aleksander Lukashenko comes at a substantial cost," reads the Council statement, which targeted key sectors of the Minsk regime's economy.

The restrictive measures against Belarus now apply to 166 persons and 15 entities whose assets have been frozen and barred from receiving funds from EU citizens or companies and travelling to or within the EU.

Earlier this month, the Council adopted the decision to close airspace and airports to Belarusian aircraft following the hijacking and forced landing of the Ryanair flight between Athens and Vilnius, as agreed by EU heads of state and government at a summit held on 24-25 May in Brussels shortly after the incident.



Agency : LUSA

Date : 2021-06-22 10:45:34


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