Thursday

15th Nov 2018

Poland urges EU to take action against Belarus

Brussels gave Minsk another tongue-lashing following police raids on a Polish NGO on Wednesday (27 July), but there is no sign of concrete EU action against Belarus in the short term.

The new episode is "deeply worrying" and takes place in "the context of growing repression of political parties, opposition groups and independent media", European Commission spokesman Amadeu Altafaj Tardio said on Thursday.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

"We are sending a clear and strong message to the Belarusian authorities and also to the Polish authorities, a message of support, a message of concern", he added, calling on Minsk to fall in with human rights norms under its Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) obligations.

The statement comes after Belarusian police forced its way into the headquarters of the Polish Union of Belarus (ZPB) in Hrodna last night, temporarily arresting several Polish and Belarusian journalists as well as ZPB activists, with three people facing 10-15 days in gaol.

The move follows Minsk's attempts to place pro-government figures at the head of ZPB, the largest and strongest NGO in the country, and the expulsion of three Polish diplomats earlier this month.

Poland calls for EU action

Wednesday's raid provoked a strong reaction from Poland, with Warsaw recalling its ambassador to Minsk, Tadeusz Pawlak.

Foreign minister Adam Rotfeld told press that "Polish-Belarusian relations have arrived at a very serious crisis".

He plans to send three letters to EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana, external relations commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner and UK Presidency chief Jack Straw on Friday.

The letters are likely to call for EU sanctions against Minsk in the name of protecting the Polish ethnic minority, but the precise nature of the request is under wraps for now.

Polish lower house speaker and leading presidential candidate Wlodzimierz Cimosiewicz also called for the UN, EU member states and Russia to condemn the latest "scandal".

The Polish parliament is currently pushing through a resolution calling on the EU to extend a travel ban on Belarusian politicians, bring in economic sanctions, boost support for NGOs and block Belarusian athletes from competing in international sports events.

EU reluctant to intervene

The European Commission said it will keep on monitoring the situation in Belarus for now, but that any action is unlikely before the next informal meeting of EU foreign ministers in September.

Member states have already kick-started a process that could see Minsk expelled from the general system of preferences on trade by late 2006, which could bring in steep tariffs on trade just in time for Belarus' presidential elections.

But Brussels is keen to play down the Warsaw-Minsk row as a "bilateral matter" for now.

One western European diplomat told EUobserver that "most of the institutional moves have already been made" when it comes to the Belarus problem, with most member states keen to maintain some dialogue with Minsk via their embassies or international fora such as the OSCE.

He added that Poland and Belarus have a long history of bellicose statements and that ZPB is being targeted because Warsaw is a vocal supporter of regime-change in the region.

Polish MEPs denied entry to Belarus

A delegation of Polish MEPs intending to provide support to the Polish minority in Belarus were on Monday denied access to the country.

News in Brief

  1. Full text of Brexit withdrawal agreement published
  2. UK cabinet agrees Brexit deal after marathon session
  3. Czechs join other EU states in rejecting UN migration pact
  4. EU Commission to give verdict on Italy budget next week
  5. EU's Tusk is Poland's most trusted politician
  6. Finland prepares to step in for Romania on EU presidency
  7. Trump threatens tariffs on EU wine
  8. US defence chief backs Nato amid 'EU army' calls

Opinion

Macron's 'European army': why is everyone talking about it?

Few people commented on one key point in Macron's statement: he did not justify the idea of a European army by the need to intervene in Africa, which would have been France's traditional approach. Instead, he invoked the Russian threat,

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  3. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  4. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels
  5. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  6. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  7. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General
  8. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs.
  9. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  10. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  11. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  12. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs

Latest News

  1. Asylum for Macedonia's ex-PM put Orban on spot
  2. How the 'EU's Bank' fails to raise the bar on accountability
  3. Knives out on all sides for draft Brexit deal
  4. Romania data chief defends forcing press to reveal sources
  5. EU to review animal welfare strategy
  6. Macron's 'European army': why is everyone talking about it?
  7. Merkel calls for 'real, true' EU army
  8. Italy defiant on budget on eve of EU deadline

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us