eu-sanctions 27 May 2021

Belarus: forced landing and Pratasevich detention ‘changes EU calculus on sanctions’

The Council of the European Union has ‘strongly condemned’ the ‘forced landing of a Ryanair flight in Minsk, Belarus, on 23 May 2021 endangering aviation safety, and the detention by Belarusian authorities of journalist Raman Pratasevich and Sofia Sapega.’ In addition to demanding the pair’s release, and calling on the International Civil Aviation Organisation to ‘urgently investigate this unprecedented and unacceptable incident’, it said that it,

  • ‘invites the Council to adopt additional listings of persons and entities as soon as possible on the basis of the relevant sanctions framework;
  • calls on the Council to adopt further targeted economic sanctions and invites the High Representative and the Commission to submit proposals without delay to this end;
  • calls on all EU-based carriers to avoid overflight of Belarus;
  • calls on the Council to adopt the necessary measures to ban overflight of EU airspace by Belarusian airlines and prevent access to EU airports of flights operated by such airlines;
  • stands in solidarity with Latvia following the unjustified expulsion of Latvian diplomats.’

Dr Maria Shagina of the Center for Eastern European Studies at the University of Zurich told WorldECR that while the EU was previously ‘reluctant to impose economic sanctions which could hurt the population…recent events have changed this calculus. Brussels announced that it will target economic entities supporting and financing the Lukashenka regime. Sectoral sanctions on companies in the oil, petrochemicals, potash fertilisers, metals and wood industries, including Belaruskali, Belneftekhim, and sanctions on six Belarusian banks are expected.’ She added that securing Ukraine’s alignment on the sectoral sanctions would also be important, as the country is a key trading partner for Belarus.

Bill Browder, justice campaigner and architect of the Magnitsky sanctions regimes, said that he was sceptical about the EU’s ability to deliver meaningful sanctions against Belarus – because of Russian influence: ‘[W]hat I’ve seen of EU policy-making is that it requires all 27 member states to agree on every name, every person who’s going to be sanctioned. And that’s where you run into trouble. Because you have a number of EU member states – particularly Hungary, Cyprus, Malta, who are under the influence of [Russian President] Vladimir Putin and as we all know, Lukashenko is not doing this by himself – he’s doing this with the support of Vladimir Putin, so Russia could have some influence on the EU’s sanction list.’