The Brussels Brief

Belarusian Sanctions

EU sanctions against the Belarusian regime have entered into force. The EU imposed new economic sanctions against the regime following the forced landing of a Ryanair flight to arrest Opposition activist Roman Protasevich and his travel companion. The economic sanctions are aimed at crippling the regime’s ability to function, and to weaken its position internally. In total, 78 individuals and seven entities were targeted, and potash, oil, petrochemicals and finance industries are being hit by these sanctions.

More on this here.

Shifting Political dynamics

Marine Le Pen’s National Rally Party and French President Emmanuel Macon’s La République En Marche! have fared miserably in last week’s regional elections with the Republicans making a comeback. Sweden is in political crisis as the Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven of the Social Democratic Party has been voted out in a vote of noconfidence. Meanwhile, German elections are on the horizon and Merkel’s era will be coming to an end after serving as Chancellor for 16 years. Her departure from politics will be affecting Europe as she was often seen as the glue that held Europe together. Other leaders are already vying for her position, with Victor Orban of Hungary and Mark Rutte of the Netherlands, splitting Europe in two camps, the East and West, liberals vs conservatives.

A Slap in the Face

This week’s UEFA decision not to light the Munich Stadium in rainbow colours has angered many. The move has been regarded as a slap in the face for the LGBTIQ community around the globe. UEFA has succumbed to Hungary’s pressure that such a move was political and therefore should be avoided by UEFA. And speaking of Hungary, the Hungarian legal amendments banning gays from TV adverts and school books, made it on the agenda of the EUCO Council.

In a spirit of solidarity, the Dutch brought their rainbow flags into Budapest Stadium as they faced the Czech Republic. Previous reports claimed that UEFA banned rainbow flags at the stadium as they were being confiscated by Security Guards. However, in a statement UEFA denied these claims.

More here.

Trigger Article 50 and leave

A direct message by the Netherlands Prime Minister Mark Rutte to Hungary’s Orban during the EUCO Council. The discussion on Hungary’s legal amendments turned and personal emotions played a hand during proceedings. Luxembourg Prime Minister Xavier Bettel who is openly gay opened the debate, while Orban dug in his heels. The EU vs Hungary will not be quietening any time soon as Hungary will be heading into national elections in 2022. On Thursday morning, 16 EU leaders including Malta’s PM Robert Abela co-signed a letter affirming their resolve to fight discrimination – a subtle message to Hungary. More on this here.

Franco-German alliance weakening?

In a late move on Wednesday evening, the day before European leaders were to head to Brussels for the European Council, French and German diplomats presented a joint paper to EU Ambassadors on Russia. The new proposed EUCO Conclusions on Russia included a proposal for a summit with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin. The proposal drew the ire of the Eastern countries especially the Baltics and the Polish who were threatening to block the conclusions if this proposal was not withdrawn. The meeting ended at two in the morning, and reason prevailed. However, diplomats commented that this move has weakened the Franco-German alliance within the EU, as the French scrambled to save their face.

Read our full EUCO roundup here.


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