Foreign Minister: Belarus targeted sanctions are an option for EU countries

The European Union calls for more dialogue in Belarus - but could impose sanctions - while Baltic leaders call on President Lukashenko to de-escalate the situation.

Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto (Green) in his office at the Government Palace, Helsinki, 27th August 2019 / Credit: News Now Finland

Foreign Minister¬†Pekka Haavisto¬†(Green) says the EU could impose “targeted sanctions” against members of the Belarus government or authorities implicated in crimes against citizens.

This week tens of thousands of people have taken to the streets of towns and cities in Belarus, accusing the incumbent President¬†Alexander Lukashenko of rigging last Sunday’s election which brought him another term in power. Lukashenko has run Belarus since the mid-1990s and is sometimes referred to as ‘Europe’s last dictator’.

Hundreds, perhaps thousands of people have been detained by security forces, with widespread reports of torture and mistreatment.

We “appeal that all those who were detained must be released and also pressure against opposition must be stopped” says Haavisto following Friday’s EU foreign minister video conference.

“EU ministers also discussed about possibility of targeted sanctions against all those individuals who have committed crimes against people” he adds.

President Lukashenko was declared the winner of the election by a landslide, while opposition politicians were detained or fled the country. EU foreign minister say the vote was not free or far, while the Organisation for Security Co-operation in Europe OSCE, which has 57 member states including Belarus and which routinely deploys election observer missions, was blocked from sending observers to monitor last week’s vote.

While the EU is appealing for dialogue between the Belarus government and opposition protesters, President Lukashenko on Saturday sought to contact Russian President Vladimir Putin, saying the protests more than a threat to only Belarus.

“Of course many issues depend currently on the Belarus administration and President Lukashenko himself. Of course we are appealing that dialogue between the administration and opposition should take place, and looking also to the future of the country” Pekka Haavisto tells News Now Finland.

“It’s too early to say where this leads to but Belarus has been a country that has very close relations as we know with Russia, but has also been a part of the EU partnership arrangement. So we have had, and we still have, very close links and relations with Belarus” the foreign minister explains.

Baltic Presidents call for action from Belarus leader

The Presidents of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania joined with the President of Poland to call on Lukashenko to de-escalate tensions.

“As regional neighbours of Belarus, members of NATO and the EU, [we] want Belarus to be a stable, democratic, independent and prosperous country” the leaders said in a Saturday statement.

Among the requests are a halt to violence and for authorities in Belarus to respect human rights including freedom of speech, media, assembly and safety of journalists.

The Baltic and Polish leaders also want all detained prisoners to be released, and to start a national reconciliation process between representatives of the government and citil society.

“We strongly believe that dialogue is always the best path to advance social development, discuss reforms and the future of your country” the statement says.

“We stand ready to offer our mediation efforts to reach a peaceful solution in Belarus and to strengthen your country’s independence and sovereignty.”