1st Dec 2021

EU exploring visa ban on Honduras coup leaders

The European Union has expressed its "deep concern" over the current political crisis in Honduras and the "ongoing violation of constitutional order" in the country, and is exploring what further sanctions can be applied to the putsch government that took over the country in June.

EU member sates are studying the legality of a Spanish initiative to ban members of the de facto government in Honduras from traveling to the EU following the ousting of President Manuel Zelaya in June. Spain has already banned the officials concerned from entering its territory.

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"Until a peaceful settlement is found, the EU will stand ready to take further restrictive measures including targeting those members of the de facto government who are seen to be blocking progress on a negotiated solution," EU foreign ministers said in a statement in Brussels on Tuesday (15 September).

The ministers voiced "deep concern" about reports of human rights violations and said they would not resume political contacts with the new regime.

"[EU] member states will continue to restrict contacts at the political level with representatives of the de facto government. EU budgetary support payments have been put on hold. Development co-operation with the de facto government has also been suspended allowing only for support to civil society and humanitarian assistance," the statement added.

The EU in July already suspended aid to Honduras worth €65 million.

The EU also called on both sides "to find a rapid and peaceful negotiated solution to the current situation and restoration of constitutional order" on the basis of the so-called San Jose Accord, a deal proposed by the president of Costa Rica.

The accord envisages President Zelaya's return to power and the creation of a unity government alongside a political amnesty for the coup plotters.

"The [EU] resolution is important because it means a zero tolerance towards the coup in Honduras," Spanish deputy foreign minister Diego Lopez Garrido told reporters in Brussels.

EU ambiguity on elections

The EU position broadly follows the US' tough reaction to the crisis. But unlike the US and Latin American nations, the EU has refused to categorically deny the validity of November elections planned by the putsch authorities.

Spain had pushed for the EU to take a stronger position on the question of the elections. But Germany and Italy want to recognise the results as they feel that the vote would provide a quick resolution to the crisis, EU diplomatic sources said.

"We are not going to pre-empt that at this time, but we also are not going to send election observers because we don't believe they could operate effectively under the present circumstances," European Commission spokesperson Christiane Hohmann said.

The EU's reticence on the elections issue comes at the same time as a major trade initiative in the region. The bloc was at the time of the coup in June crafting an Association Agreement with six Central American states, including Honduras.

On 1 September, a working group of mid-ranking EU diplomats called Colat (the Committee on Latin America) recommended that the bloc move ahead with technical-level talks on the agreement and envisaged EU support for the November elections.

The European Commission's spokesperson on trade, Lutz Gullner, said talks on the pact have been suspended at all levels since June. But he confirmed that EU countries are interested in restarting the process after the November vote

EU recommendation creates doubt

"The Colat recommendation was only that: a recommendation ...there is no formal suspension, but there are no negotiations either," he told EUobserver. "We are waiting for the presidential elections to see if talks can be restarted."

Civil society groups have welcomed what they described as tough language in the EU ministers' statement. But they queried the EU's position on the November poll.

"The EU's moves are very important, but we don't understand why they cannot be clearer on the question of an election run by coup-plotters,"Luis Guillermo Perez, of the Copenhagen Initiative for Central America and Mexico, a Brussels-based group that monitors EU-central-American relations told this website.

"This is a very, very grave situation. We do not want to see a return to the past. If Honduras goes, Guatemala, El Salvador, other nations could be next."

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