Wednesday

19th Sep 2018

EU expected to recall Belarus ambassadors

  • The EU Council will make its decision on Friday, with follow-up talks after the summer break (Photo: consilium.europa.au)

EU countries' diplomats expect a special meeting on Friday (10 August) to end with a mass pull-out of EU ambassadors from Belarus.

The bad blood comes amid a worsening diplomatic dispute between Belarus and Sweden.

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Belarus last Friday expelled the Swedish ambassador. Sweden later kicked out three Belarusian envoys. And Belarus on Wednesday expelled all remaining Swedish diplomats in Minsk.

"Recalling the EU ambassadors for consultations [to their home capitals] is the minimum that we can do. The situation has seriously escalated and this would be a natural step," one EU diplomatic contact said.

A source from another EU country noted: "The ball is in Sweden's court, but everybody wants to express solidarity with them."

He said further options include calling in all Belarus ambassadors in EU capitals for consultations "in order to give them a unified message" or even sending them all back to Minsk.

The EU reaction will be decided at a meeting of the Political and Security Committee, a club of senior EU diplomats, in Brussels on Friday.

Neither Sweden nor the EU External Action Service have put forward any proposals yet.

"This is not an issue just for Sweden. It [a mass EU pull-out] is not self-evident. We'll see what other countries suggest also," a Swedish foreign ministry spokesman told EUobserver.

It is unclear what all the fuss is about.

Swedish foreign minister Carl Bildt says his ambassador was expelled for promoting human rights. Belarus said he was destroying bilateral relations.

One EU diplomat described it as a form of propaganda: "The regime needs to have a strong external opposition, or to make a show that there is strong external opposition in order to keep a grip on the situation [inside Belarus]."

Popular opinion says it is because a Swedish advertising agency air-dropped teddy bears into Belarus last month to make fun of President Alexander Lukashenko.

Meanwhile, some EU foreign ministers are venting their spleens on Twitter.

"Sweden can be proud of its role championing #HumanRights in Belarus," the UK's William Hague said on Wednesday. "Second that. EU must show solidarity," Poland's Radek Sikorski noted.

Investigation

'Lukashenko put cucumbers in my trunk'

Belarus' former leader - Stanislav Shushkevich - says Lukashenko is an "arse-kisser" whose power will wane if the EU imposes economic sanctions.

EU wants continental free-trade deal with Africa

Earlier this week, European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker in his state of the union announced a new relationship with Africa. On Friday, his subordinates outlined the vision, promising jobs and growth by leveraging public funds for investments.

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