22nd Jan 2018

EU calls for release of Belarus prisoners

  • Many October Square protestors have been beaten and are currently in jail (Photo: Andrew Rettman)

(Updated 14:24 CET) EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS – The EU has "condemned" the Friday morning arrests of 150-300 Belarusian protestors, according to the final conclusions of a two-day summit in Brussels (24 March).

It also "decided to take restrictive measures against those responsible for the violations of international electoral standards, including president Lukashenko," the final statement says.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

"We will continue to act in close coordination with our international partners," the text goes on.

A specific mention of the US as an international partner was taken out however, after some member states expressed concern it would add weight to the idea – often peddled in Belarusian state media – that the EU and US are partners in a western conspiracy to topple the regime.

The Friday morning arrests and beatings put an end to a five day protest against OSCE-deemed fake elections on Sunday, with over 400 other opposition campaigners already in jail.

The EU statement calls for the "immediate release" of all prisoners, "deplores" the Belarusian regime’s actions and calls on Minsk to "refrain" from further repressions with a view to planned protests on Saturday.

"On a continent of open and democratic societies, Belarus is a sad exception," it adds, echoing the words of US foreign affairs chief Condoleezza Rice last year that Belarus is "the last dictatorship in Europe."

Czech project with Polish backing

Sparked by the biggest protests in Belarus for ten years, the statement was a Czech-led initiative with Czech diplomats pushing to keep the strong wording in the drafting process.

The Czech delegation came to the Brussels summit with a letter from Belarus opposition leader Alexander Milinkevich and "spread it around" diplomats said.

The letter described beatings, arrests, seizures of campaign literature and a climate of "fear" surrounding the Sunday poll.

Poland strongly endorsed the Czech initiative with the Baltic states, Sweden and Denmark also in the core group pressing for a strong reaction.

President Lukashenko's name appearing in the text is "punishment for [his] sins, the battle of good versus evil" Polish foreign minister Stefan Meller said.

Sanction details later

Details of sanctions will "have to be worked out in the next few days" EU diplomats explained, but the number of Belarusian officials' names on the current EU visa ban list could jump from seven to over 20 and might include family members.

Reports by NGO Charter97 indicated that EU officials have been calling Mr Milinkevich’s team in Minsk in the past few days to gather up the new names.

Foreign ministers will also look into sanctions against firms, such as Belarusian arms exporters, that directly benefit the Lukashenko clan.

But a major trade ban is off the agenda, despite some NGO calls for the EU to force an economic crisis in Belarus to bring more people out on the streets.

The final statement also promises to boost support for civil society and independent media in the country.

EU seeks to extend Morocco fish deal, despite legal opinion

An EU court advisor says an EU fish deal with Rabat should be scrapped due to the Morocco-annexed territory of the Western Sahara. The fisheries agreement is set to expire in July but the European Commission want to renew it.

US warns on flare-up in Ukraine 'crisis'

Fighting in Ukraine escalated to "hellish" levels not seen since February amid warnings of a humanitarian catastrophe in the run-up to Christmas.

News in Brief

  1. Germany confirms attendance at air quality summit
  2. Nearly half of 'fixed' Dieselgate cars show problems
  3. YouTube, Twitter, Facebook up hate speech deletion
  4. UK mulls bridge to France
  5. German far-right float anti-asylum bill
  6. EU Parliament to investigate glyphosate-decision process
  7. 'Mutagenesis' falls outside EU's GMO rules, says EU top lawyer
  8. Decision on Polish MEP's Nazi-era slur postponed

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Solutions for Sustainable Cities: New Grants Awarded for Branding Projects
  2. Mission of China to the EUTrade Between China, Belt and Road Countries up 15%
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersOresund Inspires Other EU Border Regions to Work Together to Generate Growth
  4. Mission of China to the EUTrade Between China, Belt and Road Countries up 15%
  5. AJC Transatlantic InstituteAJC Calls on EU to Sanction Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, Expel Ambassadors
  6. Dialogue PlatformRoundtable on "Political Islam, Civil Islam and The West" 31 January
  7. ILGA EuropeFreedom of Movement and Same-Sex Couples in Romania – Case Update!
  8. EU2017EEEstonia Completes First EU Presidency, Introduced New Topics to the Agenda
  9. Bio-Based IndustriesLeading the Transition Towards a Post-Petroleum Society
  10. ACCAWelcomes the Start of the New Bulgarian Presidency
  11. Mission of China to the EUPremier Li and President Tusk Stress Importance of Ties at ASEM Summit
  12. EU2017EEVAT on Electronic Commerce: New Rules Adopted

Latest News

  1. Middle East, Messi and missing MEPs on the agenda This WEEK
  2. Instagram and Google Plus join EU anti-hate speech drive
  3. EU wants 'entrepreneurship' in education systems
  4. UK loses EU satellite centre to Spain
  5. Pay into EU budget for market access, Macron tells May
  6. Ethiopian regime to get EU migrants' names
  7. EU to lend Greece up to €7bn more next week
  8. Nato prepares to take in Macedonia