EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell spoke on the lines of action that the EU could pursue in support of Belarus, taking into account the current situation, and also said that he was ready to come to Minsk if this could contribute to progress.
European top diplomat said that at the meeting of the heads of the diplomatic departments of the EU countries on Monday, 21 September, four lines of actions were discussed, which should become a response to the actions of the Belarusian authorities.
First, sanctions. A package of around 40 names and entities has been prepared, which targets those responsible for the electoral fraud, the repression of peaceful protests and state-run brutality. In concrete terms, it would mean these people and entities will have any assets inside the EU frozen; they will not be able to receive any kind of funding or finance from within the EU; and they will be banned from entering the EU.
Second, the need for national dialogue and the role of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).
“It is clear that the Coordination Council must be included in a forthcoming national dialogue. They are clearly calling for the holding of new, free and fair elections under international observation. The best way out of a crisis of political legitimacy such as in Belarus is to organise credible elections so that the people can freely choose their President and hence the future of their country,” he wrote.
Borrel also noted that for weeks, the Belarusian authorities have refused any engagement with the pro-democracy movement or international mediation through the OSCE.
“Despite this regrettable stance, we need to continue exploring any possibilities. For this reason, I welcome and support the activation of the “OSCE Moscow Mechanism” to carry out a fact-finding expert mission focusing on alleged human rights violations. We also support the proposal by the current and future OSCE Chairman in Office, Albania and Sweden, to go to Minsk. I am ready to go to Minsk if this could contribute to progress. Until now, Lukashenko has refused to engage with the European Union at any level.”
He once again stressed that the EU is not going to interfere in the affairs of Belarus, but only supports the democratic choice and fundamental rights of Belarusian people, and it is not because it wants to influence the outcome of the elections or push the country in a certain direction.
I repeat: this choice belongs to Belarusian people,” Josep Borrell reiterated.
The third line of action is to do a full review of EU-Belarus relations. The EU want to use all instruments and levels of engagement bilaterally, including in the Eastern Partnership framework. Foreign ministers also expressed their desire to supportthe civil society and independent media, increase contacts between students, facilitating exchanges to the EU.
The fourth line of action is about EU support to the Belarusian population. The European Commission is mobilising €53 million of immediate support to the Belarusian people in these challenging times. It covers legal assistance, medical support and other emergency assistance to those most in need.
Recall that on 21 September, the foreign ministers of the EU member states did not make a decision on the imposition of a package of sanctions against Belarus, since it was blocked by the representative of Cyprus. It was the only country that opposed it. Cyprus, in turn, requires the EU to impose sanctions on Turkey in connection with gas production in the Cyprus economic zone of the Eastern Mediterranean.