Foreign Affairs Council discussed sanctions against Belarus
On 12 October, the Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs of Lithuania Albinas Zananavičius attended the Foreign Affairs Council in Luxembourg, which focused on the situation in Russia and Belarus, issues related to Latin America and the Caribbean, Nagorno-Karabakh, and the Kyrgyz Republic. Ministers also discussed the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue and the EU Action Plan on Human Rights and Democracy 2020-2024.
Ministers discussed the deteriorating human rights situation in Russia and agreed to devote more attention to this issue, seeking ways to support civil society. After the leaders of the EU member states unanimously condemned in early October the assassination attempt on Alexei Navalny, who was poisoned with Novichok, the Foreign Affairs Council discussed the proposals by Germany and France to impose restrictive measures against those responsible for the attempted murder of the opposition leader. A political agreement on these measures was reached in the Council.
“The guiding principles outlined in 2016 must remain a basis of the EU-Russia relationship. The EU’s policy should not change as long as Russia’s behaviour remains aggressive towards the opposition and neighbouring countries, and human rights violations continue,” said the Foreign Vice-Minister Zananavičius. According to him, Lithuania does not believe that the dialogue with Russia could be developed without strong guarantees for neighbours in the Eastern Partnership region.
When discussing the ongoing repression in Belarus, the regime’s refusal to engage in dialogue with the opposition, and the pressure on Lithuanian and Polish diplomatic missions in Belarus, Zananavičius stressed the need to include the financial supporters of the regime in the EU’s list of sanctioned individuals. Lithuania’s Foreign Vice-Minister also thanked the EU member states for showing their solidarity with Lithuania and Poland — the countries coping with diplomatic pressure exercised by Minsk. The Council reached a political agreement on reviewing the list of persons targeted and stands ready to immediately take further restrictive measures, including against Alexander Lukashenko.
The Council adopted conclusions on the EU's response to the developments in Belarus, underlining the democratic right of the Belarusian people to elect their president through new, free and fair elections. The EU also calls on the Belarusian authorities to engage in an inclusive national dialogue with broader society, in particular the Coordination Council. The EU continues to support the proposal of the current and upcoming OSCE Chairmanships-in-Office to facilitate this dialogue.
The Council underlines that the list of persons targeted will be under constant review. In view of recent developments, the Council will recalibrate bilateral financial EU assistance to Belarus in order to ensure it benefits the population at large notably by directing it to the maximum possible extent away from central authorities and towards civil society.
The Council underlines that the safety and security of nuclear installations is a key priority for the EU and remains of great importance for the EU relations with Belarus. The Council urges Belarus to comply with the highest international environmental and safety standards and implement the EU stress tests recommendations without delay. In this regard, it underlines the importance of the cooperation between Belarus and the European Nuclear Safety Regulators Group (ENSREG) in the stress test process, including a formal review and monitoring of the urgent implementation of the Belarus‘ National Action Plan by ENSREG.