A strong EU message: More sanctions on Belarus

During the EU Council meeting that is being held in Brussels, EU leaders unanimously agreed on further sanctions on Belarus. These actions are a retaliation for the forced landing in Minsk of a Ryanair flight en route from Greece to Lithuania, and the arrest of journalist Roman Pratasevich and his travel companion Sofia Sapega.

This incident has been labelled by EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen as an act of terrorism, while EU Council President Charles Michel called for an ICAO international investigation into the incident. Other condemnations from EU leaders followed suit, and Malta’s Foreign and European Affairs Minister Evarist Bartolo condemned this act as unacceptable and unprecedented, which jeopardised the safety of passengers onboard. 

In their Council Conclusions, EU leaders called on EU air carriers to avoid the Belarusian airspace, while also called on the Council to ban overflight of Belarusian airlines and access to EU airports by the same airlines. The EU High Representative for External Relations will be submitting proposals for targeted economic sanctions against Belarus and to adopt additional listings of individuals under the relevant sanctions framework. The EU is also demanding the immediate release of Roman Pratasevich and his companion. 

The EU is demanding the immediate release of Roman Pratasevich and his companion.

Through these Council Conclusions approved unanimously by EU leaders, the EU is sending a strong and unequivocal message to Belarus and its government, that enough is enough and should Belarus dare to take unilateral action, the EU stands more united than ever.  

Meanwhile, Russia is scrambling behind its ally Belarus, and the Russian Foreign Affairs Minister Sergey Lavrov was quoted as having described this action as ‘reasonable’. The Belarusian forced landing of an aircraft sent shockwaves across the Western world, and is thought to have also breached the Chicago Convention. This incident will likely force Belarus to depend even further on Russia, thereby failing in its attempts to balance the two powers.   

European Council Conclusions can be read in full here.