14th Aug 2022

EU examines ways to trim Belarus sanctions

EU experts are preparing options on how to reduce Belarus sanctions, with a majority of EU states open to the idea of re-opening diplomatic ties with President Lukashenko's regime despite rigged elections.

A meeting of senior EU diplomats in the Political and Security Committee (PSC) in Brussels on Tuesday (30 September) called for the expert analysis, which will be put together on Thursday in the so-called COEST "working group."

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

Minimalist options could be suspending a 1997 ban on meetings with Belarus politicians above deputy-minister level, or taking a few junior names off a 41-strong EU visa ban list compiled over the past four years.

The experts may also suggest temporarily suspending the whole visa ban register to allow top-level meetings with Belarus President Lukashenko, even though such a move would theoretically welcome characters such as former security chief Viktor Sheyman - accused of murder by the Council of Europe - into the EU.

"It's a moral dilemma. Nobody wants to let in people with blood on their hands but nobody wants to leave Belarus in a vacuum either," an EU diplomat told EUobserver. "We are well aware that [Russian prime minister Vladimir] Putin is going to visit Minsk on 6 October. But we have no possibility to counter that with our own offer."

The PSC meeting saw the 27 EU states agree with the OSCE verdict that Sunday's parliamentary vote in Belarus fell short of democratic standards. The PSC ambassadors also recognised that Belarus made some positive steps by freeing political prisoners ahead of the vote and allowing selected street protests to go unpunished.

But there was less agreement on how to handle the regime going forward. "Most of the countries were either in favour of some kind of sanctions move or signaled that they would not object," the EU diplomat said.

Poland and Lithuania are leading the push to re-open relations for fear that Belarus could be lost to Russia once and for all in the new Cold War atmosphere after the Georgia conflict. Germany is in the neutral camp. But Denmark and the Netherlands are the strongest opponents of any sanctions move, Polish press agency PAP reported.

The PSC gathering was the first EU 27-level discussion of Belarus after the elections. The final decision on sanctions is likely to be unveiled at an EU foreign ministers' meeting on 13 October.

The French EU presidency on Tuesday issued a default statement on the parliamentary vote, urging Belarus authorities to "redouble their efforts to come into conformity with international democratic standards."

Sweden to extradite man wanted by Turkey

The Swedish government has agreed to extradite a Turkish citizen with Kurdish roots wanted for credit card fraud to Turkey, amid the backdrop of Turkey's Nato threat.

Estonia and Latvia sever China club ties

Beijing's club was meant to forge stronger European relations. Lithuania left it last year. Now Estonia and Latvia have also decided to walk over Chinese bullying.

EU hopeful of Iran nuclear deal

A possible deal to revive the 2015 Iran nuclear pact is within reach, says the European Union. Washington backs the final proposals, but Tehran remains cautious.


Only Western unity can stop Iran hostage-diplomacy

The Belgian parliament's recent decision to ratify its prisoner-exchange treaty with Iran is a grave mistake, and one which exemplifies the many downfalls of dealing with Iran's human-rights abuses on a case-by-case basis.

News in Brief

  1. Germany to help nationals cope with energy price spike
  2. Germany wants pipeline from Portugal
  3. Ukraine urges US to sanction all Russian banks
  4. Spain evacuates 294 Afghans
  5. EU sanctions have 'limited' effect of Russian oil production
  6. Donors pledge €1.5bn to Ukraine's war effort
  7. Sweden overtakes France as EU's top power exporter
  8. Italy's far-right star in European charm offensive

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBConstruction workers can check wages and working conditions in 36 countries
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Canadian ministers join forces to combat harmful content online
  3. European Centre for Press and Media FreedomEuropean Anti-SLAPP Conference 2022
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers write to EU about new food labelling
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersEmerging journalists from the Nordics and Canada report the facts of the climate crisis
  6. Council of the EUEU: new rules on corporate sustainability reporting

Latest News

  1. Defying Russian bombs, Ukraine football starts 2022 season
  2. Sweden to extradite man wanted by Turkey
  3. EU must beware Beijing's new charm offensive
  4. Forest fire near Bordeaux forces over 10,000 to flee
  5. Estonia and Latvia sever China club ties
  6. Russian coal embargo kicks in, as EU energy bills surge
  7. Only Western unity can stop Iran hostage-diplomacy
  8. Kosovo PM warns of renewed conflict with Serbia

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us