Tuesday, July 5

EU agrees to toughen sanctions on Belarus after plane hijacking to detain critical journalist

The EU has decided to tighten its sanctions on Belarus. EU leaders already put it on track four weeks ago at a summit in Brussels, and that Monday the foreign ministers of the 27 meeting in Luxembourg have finalized it after a breakfast with the leader of the Belarusian opposition, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya.

Thus, the Foreign Council has decided to impose sanctions against 78 people and 8 Belarusian entities “as a result of the escalation of serious human rights violations in Belarus and the violent repression of civil society, the democratic opposition and journalists.”

Seven of these individuals and one entity have been listed for their connection “to the illegal and forced landing of a Ryanair flight in Minsk, Belarus, on May 23, 2021, which endangered air traffic safety, and the arrest by the Belarusian authorities of the journalist Raman Pratasevich and Sofia Sapega “, affirm the foreign ministers of the EU.

Also among the sanctions targets are “a number of prominent business figures who support and benefit from the Lukashenko regime.” Therefore, says the EU Council, “these sanctions send a strong signal to supporters of the regime that their continued support for Aleksandr Lukashenko comes at a substantial cost.”

The head of European diplomacy, Josep Borrell, explained that it is “a comprehensive package of sanctions” that includes “economic sanctions, which affect the economy in sectors directly linked to exports.” The High Representative himself acknowledged: “The sanctions are a way of putting pressure on the Belarusian government. They will severely damage the Belarusian economy. What do you expect with the punishment? Change their behavior. We usually stick to measures that affect people. , because when we affect the economy of a country we affect people, and we try not to touch people who have nothing to do with it. And this will affect the economy, the people; but the government does not change its attitude There are more than 500 political prisoners. We must use all the means we can. And the economic sanctions are there for that. ”

EU sanctions on Belarus now apply to a total of 166 individuals and 15 entities. “Designated are subject to an asset freeze, and EU citizens and companies are prohibited from making funds available to those on the list. In addition, natural persons are subject to a travel ban, which prevents them from entering. or transit through the territories of the EU “.

The Foreign Minister, Arancha González Laya, affirmed upon her arrival in Luxembourg about the sanctions “for human rights violations, for the repression of the opposition and for the difficulties they are creating for coexistence within the country. They add to the battery of measures that have been taken in recent months and after the incident with the Ryanair plane, which shows the determination of the European Union to support the opposition and coexistence within Belarus. ”

Indeed, at the end of May, the leaders of the European Union approved new sanctions on Belarus for hijacking a Ryanair flight to arrest journalist Roman Protasevich and his partner, Sofia Sapega. EU leaders have already called for “the immediate release of Raman Pratasevich and Sofia Sapega” and called on the Council “to adopt additional lists of individuals and entities as soon as possible based on the relevant sanctions framework”, in addition to calling for “new specific economic sanctions “and to invite the High Representative and the European Commission to” present proposals to this effect without delay; calls on all EU airlines to avoid flying over Belarus “and to ask the Council to adopt” the necessary measures to ban the overflight of EU airspace by Belarusian airlines and preventing access to EU airports by flights operated by these airlines “.