In principle, the EU states agree: They want to impose sanctions on the Lukashenko regime. However, it is not yet clear what exactly they should look like. Foreign Minister Maas no longer wants to rule out anything.

How quickly can the European Union implement the sanctions against Belarus that the heads of state and government agreed on earlier this week?

The pressure is now on Foreign Affairs Representative Josep Borrell and the EU Foreign Ministers.

No decisions were made during their deliberations in Lisbon; that was not possible at the informal meeting.

At least it can now be seen in outline where the Union wants to use the lever to hit the regime of Alexandr Lukashenko.

Foreign Minister Heiko Maas even threatened a “large and long spiral of sanctions”.

The European Union receives support from NATO. As early as Wednesday, the North Atlantic Council issued a joint declaration calling for the “unconditional release” of the regime critic Roman Protassewitsch and his partner and supporting the allies’ measures. NATO Secretary General Stoltenberg, who took part in the EU Defense Ministers’ meeting in Lisbon, was even more clear. Stoltenberg called the measures commissioned by the European Council “absolutely justified”. The forced landing of the airliner in Minsk is not only a “blatant violation of international rules and norms, but also an attack on democratic values, on freedom of expression and freedom of the press”. The case is so obvious that it is not necessary to wait for the result of an international investigation.

“Russia lacks commitment to basic international norms”

Stoltenberg did not want to speculate about the role that Russia might have played in the incident.

However, he pointed out that Moscow had defended the actions of the Belarusian authorities.

“That tells us something about Russia’s lack of commitment to basic international norms and rules as well as democratic rights.” Given the Russian action against its own opposition and the poisoning of Alexei Navalnyj, this is not surprising.

EU sanctions would not only send a clear message to Belarus, said Stoltenberg, “but also to any other country that is considering doing something like this”.

Foreign Minister Maas spoke out briskly on how to proceed after the foreign ministers’ deliberations. The behavior of the regime in Minsk has “terrorist traits” and is so unacceptable that “we can no longer rule anything out”.

That was his answer to the question of whether one could also consider measures against the Yamal gas pipeline, which transports natural gas to Germany via Belarus. But that is “more of an issue in the medium and long term,” says Maas – which should mean: when Nord Stream 2 is finished. The Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis advocated sanctions against the oil sector; Belarus operates several refineries.

Maas, on the other hand, focused on state-owned companies in the “potash and phosphate sector”. Lukashenko owns Belaruskali [No he doesn’t, LOL. It’s state-owned.], the world’s largest manufacturer of fertilizers, which operates four mines and employs 20,000 people.

The Foreign Minister also brought up financial sanctions. He spoke of a possible restriction on “payment transactions”; it is processed between banks via the Belgium-based service provider Swift. “In particular” Maas also wants to examine whether the issuance and trading of Belarusian government bonds listed in euros will be banned.

However, all of this requires a detailed investigation, especially with regard to the economic effects on EU countries. External Representative Borrell said proposals should first be discussed in the council’s technical working groups; the foreign ministers could then take decisions at their next council on June 21st. The fourth package with sanctions against individuals and organizations is to be decided on earlier. We are also working at full speed on the formal implementation of the landing and overflight ban for the Belavia line.

Source: Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung