Thursday

18th Jan 2018

Belarus joins Burma as EU trade outcast

Belarus at midnight on Thursday (21 June) became the second ever country to be kicked off the EU's 36-year old "GSP" trade scheme, but some EU states believe the move is ill-judged.

The suspension of Belarus from the 1971 Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) on trade will see extra tariffs of up to 3 percentage points imposed on imports to the EU of products such as forestry and textile goods.

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.

The move comes after the Geneva-based International Labour Organisation (ILO) said Minsk had fulfilled just four of 12 necessary pro-trade union reforms, with the extra tariffs set to cost the country around €400 million a year.

Asian dictatorship Burma in 1997 was the only other country ever to have faced GSP sanctions, despite the fact that other GSP beneficiaries - such as Uzbekistan - have worse workers' rights records than Belarus.

The GSP suspension is reversible, but it is much harder to get back into the system than to stay in: the months-long process would involve a new ILO report, a new European Commission recommendation and a new EU state decision.

Minsk in a statement said the "short-sighted step taken by the EU towards its immediate neighbour affects in the first place the interests of ordinary Belarusian citizens" and called for the EU to "reverse it immediately."

Belarus has also queried Brussels' claim the decision was a purely "technical" process based on ILO compliance. "It was a political decision - the ILO said we made progress, but this was not taken into account," a diplomat said.

The position has been echoed by Belarus' EU neighbours, Latvia, Poland and Lithuania, who had fought the move at EU-level, saying the Belarusian nomenklatura's income comes from arms and energy sales - not covered by GSP.

An EU official said that close personal ties between senior ILO and EU officials have helped Brussels get the kind of ILO reports it wants, with other issues such as political prisoners also impacting the reading of ILO texts.

"It's well known that if they had released all the political prisoners, things would have been different," the EU contact said.

First millionaire

Ordinary Belarusians live on $170 a month. But Polish daily Dziennik reports the country's tax authorities this week saw an unnamed Belarus citizen post an income of $9 million - the first official millionaire in the country's history.

The US state department believes that president Aleksander Lukashenko has skimmed off a personal fortune of over $1 billion, part of which had been stashed in Serbia but is now kept in unknown locations.

Another Polish paper, Rzeczpospolita, writes that senior Belarus official Viktor Sheiman could be posted to Venezuela in order to transfer Lukashenko's fortune to Caracas, should the Belarusian president one day seek asylum.

"Our number one interest in Venezuela is in the energy sector," the Belarusian diplomat said, calling the Rzeczpospolita article "fantastic speculation."

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. Catalan parliament elects separatist speaker
  2. Czech government resigns
  3. MEPs back tighter export rules on cyber tech
  4. Annual eurozone inflation at 1.4 percent in December
  5. EPP group calls for 'European Netflix'
  6. Ex-MEP Goulard slated for senior French bank post
  7. Luxembourg speaks out in support of Palestinian state
  8. Danish fishing communities to be hit hard by Brexit, says report

Stakeholders' Highlights

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