On Monday, European Union foreign ministers expanded the list of criteria on which sanctions could be imposed against the regime of Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko. Concretely, people and organizations that actively participate in the illegal crossing of European external borders by migrants can now be punished.
The technical decision opens the door to sanctions, for example, against the Belarusian airline Belavia. It takes migrants to Belarus, where they are taken to the borders with Poland, Lithuania or Latvia to try to enter the European Union. According to the union, Minsk is engaged in a “hybrid attack” in an attempt to destabilize the European Union and endanger human lives.
“Today’s decision shows the European Union’s determination to stand up to the exploitation of migrants for political purposes and to stand up to this inhuman and illegal practice,” said Josep Borrell, High Representative for European Foreign Policy. According to Borrell, the union also wants to continue to punish Lukashenko and his supporters for the repressive approach to their own people.
After the rigged presidential elections in Belarus in the summer of 2020 and the violent crackdown on opponents, the European Union began imposing sanctions on Minsk. There are already 166 people and 15 organizations (“entities”) on the European sanctions list. Belarusian airlines such as Belavia are also no longer allowed to enter European airspace, and targeted economic sanctions have already been imposed.
Sanctions due to the situation at Europe’s external borders must now also be added to this. However, it is not yet clear when new measures based on the expanded criteria will be introduced. On Monday morning, Borrell said, before the start of the meeting with foreign ministers, that preventing the flow of migrants through Belarus was “almost complete.” “Regarding the influx, things are under control. But we must provide humanitarian assistance to these people (trapped at the European external borders, ed.) and avoid any kind of mixed attack against the EU borders.”
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