Linkevičius: Declarations are not enough, the EU must take action
On 21 September, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Lithuania Linas Linkevičius attended the Foreign Affairs Council in Brussels, Belgium. The meeting focused on the EU’s response to the latest political developments in Belarus, issues related to Libya, the situation in Lebanon, the EU relations with China, Turkey, and the African Union, as well as the future partnership with the Southern Neighborhood.
At the request of several member states, the meeting also discussed the human rights situation in Russia. When speaking about the attempt on the life of the Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, the Minister Linkevičius stressed that the EU had to adopt a principled position and be ready to impose sanctions on the organizers of this crime. Linkevičius also urged Russia to cooperate with the experts from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons in the investigation of this crime.
“The brutal action against the opposition only shows that the Kremlin is not Russia. The trend of suppressing Kremlin critics is, unfortunately, clearly recognizable and has not changed in many years. Space for civil society in Russia is constantly shrinking. Therefore, we must make every effort to maintain dialogue with the opposition,” said Linkevičius.
Foreign Ministers and the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell also met with the Belarusian political leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya to discuss the latest political developments in Belarus and unanimously condemned the ongoing violent crackdown on peaceful protesters.
“It is important that the European Union’s voice be heard. We support the strong and clear statements by the President of the European Commission Ursula Von der Leyen and the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Borrell, but it is high time the EU took concrete action. The EU must immediately impose sanctions against persons and officials responsible for the violence and alleged crimes committed against their own citizens," said Linkevičius. Lithuania’s Foreign Minister noted that the scope and list of sanctions must reflect the extent of the crimes that were being committed.
According to Linkevičius, the EU has to send a clear message that agreements between the Belarusian leadership and Russia, which may restrict the sovereignty and independence of the country, will not be recognized.
The Foreign Ministers also discussed update on EU financial support to the people of Belarus and on the review of EU-Belarus relations. According to Linkevičius, the EU should avoid cooperating with the Belarusian authorities, but provide humanitarian aid to Belarusian citizens, civil society, independent media, and the European Humanities University that has been operating in exile in Vilnius since 2005.
In the meeting, Lithuania also raised the issue of the threat posed by the unsafe Belarusian nuclear power plant (NPP), which was being constructed in the EU’s neighborhood. “Due to the current political unrest in Belarus, the EU must call for halting the power start-up of the first unit of the NPP. A rush to launch the Ostrovets NPP shows that it is a political project, carried out in breach of international nuclear safety standards. This poses a threat to whole region and presents a problem for the entire EU. Therefore, we have to join efforts to address this issue,” said Linkevičius.