Saturday

4th Dec 2021

EU leaders reject Belarus election result, urge dialogue

EU leaders rejected Belarus president Alexander Lukashenko's re-election and announced more sanctions against those involved in the violent crackdown of peaceful protests.

At an emergency summit on Wednesday (19 August), EU leaders called for dialogue and for a peaceful transition of power, pledged money to Belarus civil society and independent media, and warned of Russian meddling in the country's affairs.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

However, leaders did not call for fresh elections, after Lukashenko claimed he had won 80 percent of the votes in the 9 August poll, which the opposition says was rigged.

"Belarus must find its own path, that must happen via dialogue in the country and there must be no intervention from outside," German chancellor Angela Merkel said after the videoconference of leaders.

She added that the dialogue should include Lukashenko.

Merkel ruled herself out as a mediator, after revealing that she had tried to phone Lukashenko, but "he refused to talk to me, which I regret".

The EU also did not offer to mediate itself, but supported the idea of dialogue proposed by the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), of which both Belarus and Russia are members.

The EU wants to avoid a repeat of violence in neighbouring Ukraine, where six years ago a popular uprising ousted the pro-Kremlin leader, triggering a Russian military intervention.

Instead, it is trying to walk a fine line between ensuring stability in the region, supporting peaceful protests, and avoiding a strong reaction from Russian president Vladimir Putin.

Contrary to Ukraine, in Belarus, protesters do not want to loosen ties with Russia.

Russia has also warned the EU against meddling in Belarus, while pointing at what happened in Ukraine.

Meanwhile, top EU officials insisted that the people of Belarus must chose the direction of their country.

European Council president Charles Michel said any resolution of the crisis "must be found in Belarus, not in Brussels or in Moscow."

But some leaders called for a rerun of the elections, even if leaders did not want to call for it as a bloc, to avoid being perceived as provocative.

"The entire European Council condemned the situation in Belarus and we all believe that the elections in Belarus should be held again," Poland's prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki said after the meeting.

The other countries in the Visegrad group - the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Slovakia - supported free and fair elections, with Austria and the Baltic states joining them.

The EU will also channel €53m to the Belarus health system to fight Covid-19, help civil society, and victims of the crackdown.

Leaders pledged to sanction those responsible for the violence against protestors and the election fraud.

European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen on Wednesday also had a phone call with Belarus opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, who had earlier fled to Lithuania, an EU member state.

Tikhanovskaya has called for a second vote.

"It is the Belarusian people who are demanding a rerun of truly free and fair elections ... We support the Belarusian people in them choosing the path they want to have, it's their decision where they want to lead their country," von der Leyen said after the video call with leaders.

More protests, more crackdown

Despite the EU's message to Lukashenko about dialogue and avoiding escalation, the Belarus strong man is doubling down on his position.

Later on Wednesday, hundreds of Belarusian protesters gathered in Minsk to defy a new order from Lukashenko to his police to clear the streets of the capital.

"There should no longer be any disorder in Minsk of any kind," he said, according to local news agencies.

Police dispersed a demonstration and detained two people at the Minsk Tractor Works (MTZ) plant.

Earlier, police also took control of the main state theatre in Minsk, a gathering place for protestors after its director was fired for speaking out against the mistreatment of demonstrators.

EU leaders urge Putin to push for Belarus dialogue

European Council president Charles Michel, French president Emmanuel Macron and German chancellor Angela Merkel had each one of them a call with Russian president Vladimir Putin on Tuesday (18 August) on the situation in Belarus, calling for dialogue.

Merkel and Macron offer Belarus mediation, help for Navalny

French president Emmanuel Macron and Germany's chancellor Angela Merkel offered EU mediation to Belarus, while also offered health care and asylum to Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny who is suspected of being poisioned.

Opinion

Holding safe elections under Coronavirus

Implementing new voting technologies and procedures for processing ballots, especially right before an election, can introduce new security risks.

News in Brief

  1. Covid: Belgium might close schools and cultural activities
  2. EU consumers can sue Facebook, judge advised
  3. French centre-right tilts toward Pécresse
  4. EU urged to blacklist Israeli spyware firm
  5. Austria's ex-chancellor Kurz quits politics
  6. EU agency: Omicron to be over half of infections 'within months'
  7. New German restrictions target the unvaccinated
  8. EU commission unveils proposal to digitalise justice systems

Opinion

Why Russia politics threaten European security

Russia could expand hostile operations, such as poisonings, including beyond its borders, if it feels an "existential" threat and there is no European pushback.

Analysis

Ten years on from Tahrir: EU's massive missed opportunity

Investing in the Arab world, in a smart way, is also investing in the European Union's future itself. Let's hope that the disasters of the last decade help to shape the neighbourhood policy of the next 10 years.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNew report reveals bad environmental habits
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersImproving the integration of young refugees
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNATO Secretary General guest at the Session of the Nordic Council
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCan you love whoever you want in care homes?
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNineteen demands by Nordic young people to save biodiversity
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersSustainable public procurement is an effective way to achieve global goals

Latest News

  1. Belgium tightens Covid rules as health system 'is cracking'
  2. EU and US tighten screw on Lukashenko
  3. Belgian impasse leaves asylum seekers on snowy streets
  4. EU 'missed chance' to set fossil-fuel subsidies deadline
  5. EU energy ministers clash amid gas price uncertainty
  6. ECJ told to dismiss Poland and Hungary rule-of-law challenge
  7. Covid: what Germany got right - and wrong
  8. Quick Take: Enrico Letta

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us