The European Union’s member states have decided to lift most sanctions targeting Belarus ‘for strategic reasons’, despite the country’s ‘dismal’ human rights record, news agency BelaPAN reports with reference to the Brussels-based online newspaper EUobserver.
Ambassadors in the EU Council’s Political and Security Committee, at their last week’s meeting in Brussels, reportedly opted to scrap the bloc’s asset freezes and visa bans on 170 people, including Alyaksandr Lukashenka, and three companies.
They maintained the sanctions on four people directly implicated in the disappearances of Mr. Lukashenka’s political opponents. They also kept an arms embargo, said EUobserver.
The move was to be endorsed by EU foreign ministers on Monday.
The ministers will say, according to a draft statement seen by EUobserver, that ‘there is an opportunity for EU-Belarus relations to develop on a more positive agenda and that progress … can better be achieved through enhanced channels of communication’.
They were expected to say the EU ‘remains concerned with the situation of human rights’ but praise the Belarusian authorities for releasing their political opponents from prison last August, and urge Minsk to hold fair parliament elections this year and to fully rehabilitate former political prisoners.
On October 29, the European Union suspended sanctions against 171 Belarusian individuals and 10 economic entities for four months. At the moment, only four people from the European black list are not able to enter the EU. According to the bloc’s press service, the lifting of sanctions is a ‘response to progress in Belarus and is aimed at encouraging new changes’.
At the same time, the EU’s Foreign Affairs Council extented its restrictive measures, due to expire on October 31, until February 29, 2016.
Thus, the European Union is to decide by February 29 whether to re-impose its restrictive measures against Belarusian authorities, prolong their suspension or abolish them altogether.
Belsat.eu, via BelaPAN