Friday

28th Apr 2017

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.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

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."

Dont expect 'quick fix' in Syria, China tells EU

Beijing special envoy on the Syrian conflict said in Brussels that "imposing" a solution from the outside would "not be workable" and that the peace process will not be "smooth sailing".

Russia suspected of Macron hack

Likely Russian spies tried to steal email passwords from Macron's people the same way they hacked US elections, new study says.

Russia threat triggers European military spending hike

Russia's annexation of Crimea in Ukraine has intensified military and defence spending throughout much of Central Europe, according to a new report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.

Investigation

Illicit Russian money poses threat to EU democracy

It cost €11 million to help Le Pen campaign in elections, but it cost the Russian mafia less than €100,000 to hire a former UK attorney general to lobby against EU sanctions.

Russia suspected of Macron hack

Likely Russian spies tried to steal email passwords from Macron's people the same way they hacked US elections, new study says.

News in Brief

  1. EU has no evidence of NGO-smuggler collusion in Libya
  2. Poland gets 'final warning' on logging in ancient forest
  3. Commission gives Italy final warning on air pollution
  4. Romania and Slovenia taken to court over environment policies
  5. Report: EU parliament says FN jobs cost €5mn
  6. Turkey suspends 9,000 police officers
  7. May hosts Juncker at Brexit dinner
  8. 700,000 people granted EU asylum

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. ECR GroupSyed Kamall: We Need a New, More Honest Relationship With Turkey
  2. Counter BalanceParliament Sends Strong Signal to the EIB: Time to Act
  3. ACCARisks and Opportunities of Blockchain and Shared Ledgers Technologies in Financial Services
  4. UNICEFRace Against Time to Save Millions of Lives in Yemen
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersDeveloping Independent Russian-Language Media in the Baltic Countries
  6. Swedish EnterprisesReform of the European Electricity Market: Lessons from the Nordics, Brussels 2 May
  7. Malta EU 2017Green Light Given for New EU Regulation to Bolster External Border Checks
  8. Counter BalanceCall for EU Commission to Withdraw Support of Trans-Adriatic Pipeline
  9. ACCAEconomic Confidence at Highest Since 2015
  10. European Federation of Allergy and Airways60%-90% of Your Life Is Spent Indoors. How Does Poor Indoor Air Quality Affect You?
  11. European Gaming and Betting AssociationCJEU Confirms Obligation for a Transparent Licensing Process
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region and the US: A Time of Warlike Rhetoric and Militarisation?

Latest News

  1. EPP group frustrated with Orban
  2. Verdacht gegen Russland bezüglich Macronhacking
  3. 'Serene' EU warns UK against Brexit 'illusions'
  4. EU telecom watchdog plan dead on arrival
  5. Russische Fake-News überschwemmen die sozialen Medien Frankreichs
  6. EU agency stuck with London rent bill
  7. EU anti-fraud office ditches Martin Schulz probe
  8. Commission launches bid to make Europe social