Catherine Ashton, the European Union’s high representative for foreign affairs and security policy, wants the bloc to return their ambassadors to Belarus within seven days.
«Foreign ministers are to meet on March 22 and 23, and we want the ambassadors back in Minsk before then,» an EU official told AFP of Ashton’s request, communicated to national governments ahead of high-level discussions on March 22-23, 2012.
On February 27, 2012 EU Foreign Affairs ministers agreed an assets freeze and visa ban against 19 magistrates and two highly placed police officers who are suspected of stifling Belarus’ political opposition.
In response, Head of the EU delegation to Belarus Majra Mora and Leszek Szerepka, the Polish Ambassador to Belarus, were invited to the Belarusian MFA. In the statement published on the MFA’s web site, Press-Secretary Andrey Savinykh attacked the policy of sanctions and declares: «Head of the EU Delegation to the Republic of Belarus and Ambassador of Poland to Belarus have also received the recommendations to return to their capitals for consultations and to convey to their leadership a firm position of the Belarusian Side on inadmissibility of pressure and sanctions.»
In ther turn, EU member countries’ ambassadors in Minsk were withdrawn in solidarity.The decision was made at a meeting of EU ambassadors, where they also decided that countries where Belarus had an ambassador would call these in to issue a formal protest.
At the summit in Brussels on March 2, 2012 the leaders of the European Union countries called on the EU Council to take further measures toward Belarus, Maja Kocijancic, spokesperson for Catherine Ashton, the EU’s high representative for foreign affairs and security policy, said.
«The European Council expresses its serious and deepening concern over the further deterioration of the situation in Belarus. It welcomes the decision reached at the Council to extend the list of those responsible for serious human rights violations or the repression of civil society and the democratic opposition or supporting or benefitting from the Lukashenka regime to be targeted by a travel ban and an asset freeze. The European Council invites the Council to proceed with its work on further measures. It reiterates the Union’s commitment to strengthening its engagement with the Belarusian civil society and to supporting the democratic aspirations of the Belarusian people,» as quoted from the Conclusions of the European Council (1-2 March 2012).
On March 15, 2012 commenting on the possibility of returning EU ambassadors back to Minsk Maria Vanshina, Head of the Press Service of the Belarusian MFA, told journalists: «We don’t have such information. However, if we reason soundly, how can we speak about the return of the ambassadors when the European Union itself constantly threatens us to impose new sanctions on March, 23. Let’s wait until this date first and then we will determine our position, including the one related to the return of the ambassadors.»
On March 23, 2012 the Council of EU Foreign Minister may impose new sanctions on Belarus.