20th Oct 2016

EU declines to retaliate against Belarus

EU countries have opted not to retaliate against Belarus in its diplomatic war on Sweden.

They will instead tell Belarus' own envoys to EU capitals that the Union is not happy. They might also add more Belarusian officials and businessmen to the EU sanctions list in autumn.

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  • Lukashenko flew off the handle about the teddy bears on national TV on Thursday (Photo: Presidencia de la Republica del Ecuador)

"There is going to be a very clear message to all Belarusian ambassadors around Europe in the next few days expressing full solidarity with the Swedes on this," Olof Skoog, the Swedish-origin chairman of the Political and Security Committee (PSC), a high-level EU diplomatic forum, said after meeting EU ambasadors in Brussels on Friday (10 August).

"We will be reviewing sanctions on Belarus later on in the next few months ... the situation with the Swedish embassy will have an effect on this," he added.

Skoog convened the PSC after Belarus earlier this week expelled all of Sweden's diplomats from Minsk. Sweden also threw out three Belarusian diplomats in the dispute.

Some EU diplomats had expected EU states to pull out all of their envoys from Minsk in solidarity with Sweden.

EU envoys already quit Minsk once this year in February when President Alexander Lukashenko expelled the EU and Polish ambassadors.

One diplomatic source told this website this would "limit contacts before the Belarus elections [in September], which isn't a good option," however.

He said Russia's effort to pull Belarus into the Eurasian Union, a quasi-EU club of former Soviet states, also makes it a bad time for the West to push away Lukashenko.

He noted that Lukashenko expelled the Swedes because they were among the most active EU countries in supporting dissidents.

He added that the teddy bear stunt, in which a Swedish advertising firm air-dropped bears with pro-free-speech slogans into Belarus last month, was "the last straw" for the irritable dictator.

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