Brussels (Brussels Morning) EU foreign ministers meeting today are to discuss further sanctions against Belarus in the face of the increasing migratory pressure being mounted against the Union by the Belarus President, Alexander Luashenko, as part of his retaliatory campaign.
The EU has already imposed a range of sanctions against individuals in Belarus following Lukashenko’s brutal crackdown on protests against his rule following the August 2020 election, which the opposition claims was rigged in his favour.
Lukashenko further angered the Western countries when he ordered his military to forcibly ground a commercial flight passing through Belarus airspace in order to arrest a dissident journalist and his girlfriend who were returning from vacation in Greece. His actions prompted more EU sanctions.
Now, the EU is mulling a new wave of sanctions after seeing the evidence that Belarus is aiding migrants from the Middle East to enter the country, before routing them in the direction of bordering EU countries. Lithuania has been under the greatest pressure given its lengthy stretches of border that pass through unpopulated woods.
So far, Lithuania has received financial and technical aid from the EU to manage the influx of migrants, while it has also deployed troops to guard its borders, as well as having begun construction of a border wall.
“We need to introduce stricter sanctions”, Latvia’s Foreign Minister, Edgars Rinkēvičs, maintained ahead of Monday’s ministerial meeting. “It means to put so-called tourism companies that are organising flights under sanctions. I also believe we need to sanction Belavia fully, so that it cannot receive any kind of support”, Rinkēvičs observed, a reference to, the Belarus’ national air carrier, which has been banned from entering EU airspace since the grounding incident.
Apart from Poland, Latvia and Lithuania, which are receiving the brunt of the migrant pressure coming from Belarus, Austria, Germany and High Representative Josep Borrell have all expressed their support for expanding the sanctions against Minsk.