EU regrets that Minsk breaks off relations after economic sanctions

The European Union regrets Belarus’ decision to sever ties with the bloc, as this will only further isolate the country and have a negative impact on the Belarusian population.

In a statement on Facebook on June 28, the Belarusian Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced that Minsk had ordered its permanent representative back to the EU for consultations after Brussels imposed economic sanctions last month in response to the forced diversion of a passenger flight to Minsk, which led to the arrest of a renegade journalist and his girlfriend.

The ministry also suggested that the EU representative in Minsk go for consultations, saying that those responsible for the sanctions targeting key sectors of the Belarusian economy and important sources of income for the regime of the authoritarian ruler Alyaksandr Lukashenka should enter Belarus is prohibited.

The ministry accused the EU of using sanctions “as a tool to exert pressure on a sovereign and independent state” and said Minsk was also suspending its participation in the Eastern Partnership program, which promotes closer cooperation between the EU and six former Soviet republics aspires to – – Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine.

The President of the European Council, Charles Michel, condemned the decision, saying in a tweet that “tensions will continue to escalate and have a clearly negative impact on the people of Belarus by depriving them of the opportunities offered by our cooperation”.

In one separate tweet, Michel wrote that the people of Belarus “can count on the EU”.

“We stand by your side with solidarity and practical support. We remind you of your right to elect your President through new, free and fair elections. “

Separately, a spokeswoman for EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said Minsk’s decision to suspend his participation in the Eastern Partnership “only serves to further isolate Belarus and is yet another demonstration of the regime’s disregard for the Belarusian people “.

“The EU remains open to further cooperation with the Belarusian people in this framework and will continue to support the Belarusian people and civil society and their democratic aspirations,” said spokeswoman Nabila Massrali.

Regarding the Belarusian authorities’ request to call the EU envoy in Minsk back to Brussels for consultations, Massrali said that “in times of crisis, keeping communication channels open is essential. That has always been our intention. “

Minsk has also started a procedure to suspend the readmission agreement between the EU and Belarus, the Belarusian Foreign Ministry said, adding that such a move would “promote cooperation with the European Union [the] Fight against illegal migration and organized crime. “

However, Massrali dismissed the ministry’s claim, saying the suspension would not automatically affect the visa regime between Minsk and Brussels, which she believes is crucial in maintaining personal ties between EU and Belarusian citizens.

“The decision to suspend the readmission agreement does not mean the automatic suspension of the Visa Facilitation Agreement (VFA) between the EU and Belarus according to a suspension article in the VFA,” said Massrali on June 29.

“It should be remembered that the Visa Facilitation Agreement is one of the most important tools we need to maintain strong human ties between the EU and the Belarusian people. This remains a key objective of the EU, ”she said. “The actions of the Lukashenka regime isolate the country, but we are doing everything we can to ensure that the Belarusian people are not isolated either.”

The Belarusian Foreign Ministry announced that the head of the EU delegation in Belarus, Dirk Schübel, had been called to the ministry to inform him of the steps.

The day before, Lithuanian Interior Minister Agne Bilotaite said Belarusian officials were behind the surge in migrants to the Baltic country this year, calling it a “well-organized” plan by the Belarusian authorities.

The Belarusian Foreign Ministry’s announcement comes four days after the EU made an emergency landing in response to “the escalation of serious human rights violations in Belarus and the violent repression of civil society, the democratic opposition and journalists” against Minsk’s main export industries and access to finance of a Ryanair flight in Minsk on May 23, 2021 and the associated imprisonment of the journalists Raman Pratasevich and Sofia Sapega.

Lukashenka’s regime has been under international pressure since it cracked down on the political opposition and the independent media after a controversial election in August 2020.

Belarus crisis

Read our coverage Belarusians continue to demand the resignation of Alyaksandr Lukashenka amid brutal crackdown on demonstrators. The West refuses to recognize him as the country’s legitimate leader after the 9th election.

Protesters said the elections were rigged while the EU, United States and other countries refused to recognize the official results of the vote and did not consider Lukashenka to be the country’s legitimate leader.

The crisis reached a new level on May 23, when Belarusian authorities used a military jet to escort a Ryanair Athens-Vilnius flight to land in Minsk in what has been viewed by many countries as a “state hijacking”. After the plane landed, which was diverted shortly before it left Belarusian airspace, law enforcement officials immediately arrested opposition blogger Pratasevich and Sapega, his Russian girlfriend.

The European Union, United States, Britain and Canada have previously imposed sanctions on Belarus for diverting Ryanair flights, including asset freezes and visa bans on dozens of officials, lawmakers and ministers from Lukashenka’s administration and members of his family. as well as Belarusian units.

The EU has also refused to allow aircraft operated by Belarusian airlines to land, take off or fly over EU territories.

Earlier rounds of Western sanctions also hit individual institutions and the inner circle of Lukashenka because of the brutal action taken by the Belarusian authorities against the opposition following the controversial presidential elections last year.

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