Knock on the wallet to apply pressure. “It doesn’t happen every day, but the European Union is on the same line. We had fixed the line at the European summit and today we are going to transform the test ”, had warned the head of Luxembourg diplomacy, Jean Asselborn. The Europeans thus decided, Monday, June 21, to cut important sources of income for the Belarusian regime to sanction the rerouting of a flight by the company Ryanair in order to arrest a journalist and examined the support to be given to civil society during a meeting in Luxembourg.
The decision was approved ” unanimously “ at a meeting of the twenty-seven foreign ministers, said two participants. “We have sanctions that target people. And now we have sanctions in seven economic sectors, from weapons to tobacco, to fertilizers, that is to say potassium ”, said Mr. Asselborn. “These are measures that will massively affect Belarus and state revenues and therefore the funds on which Lukashenko and his regime depend”, stressed the German Minister Heiko Maas.
The ministers first spoke with the exiled opponent Svetlana Tsikhanovskaïa, who arrived in Luxembourg on Sunday evening. They then began their meeting with the approval of the addition of 78 names and 8 entities to the list of Belarusian officials sanctioned for suppressing the opposition.
Seven people and one entity are directly involved in the rerouting of a Ryanair flight on May 23 to arrest two of its passengers, Belarusian dissident journalist Roman Protassevich and his Russian friend Sofia Sapega. They then confirmed the political agreement reached Friday between the capitals on the key economic sectors targeted.
Cut imports of certain products
The hijacking of the Ryanair flight was ” the trigger “, confirmed another European diplomat. “The EU sanctions an act of air piracy, according to Jean Asselborn. No one expected us to go this far. (…) The regime must be aware that the EU has levers and that it is ready for other sanctions. “
The EU will stop its imports of certain types of potash and its imports of petroleum products produced in Belarus or re-exported from the former Soviet republic as diesel, several sources said. Products for tobacco factories will also be banned from exporting, it was specified.
The sanctions will also prohibit any new bank lending to the state, the central bank and banks and entities majority owned by the state. The sale of certain financial products, including securities, investment services and insurance products, will also be prohibited. The EU will also strengthen its arms embargo to include those for hunting and sport, and ban the sale of dual-use goods and surveillance equipment.
“Not a miracle solution”
“Sanctions are not a quick fix, but they can help end violence and free people”, commented Svetlana Tsikhanovskaya on her Twitter account.
Sanctions aren’t a silver bullet, but they can help to end violence & release people. Had an enlightening conversat… https://t.co/QBpsIZDJ2P
“They are a way to put pressure on the government of Belarus and they will hurt”, for his part, assured the head of European diplomacy, Josep Borrell.
The sanctions imposed on 78 people and 8 entities are individual. Those responsible will be banned from staying and their assets in the EU will be seized. It will also be prohibited to grant European funding to the entities concerned. The EU has already sanctioned 88 members of the regime, including President Alexander Lukashenko and his son. But the consequences of these individual sanctions were above all to accentuate the repression. “The situation continues to deteriorate”, commented a European diplomat.
With the economic sanctions, EU leaders hope to bend the regime. Some want to go further and fight the feeling of impunity of the Belarusian president. “I personally hope that one day Lukashenko will be held accountable in front of an international tribunal, because he does horrible things”, commented Jean Asselborn.