The European Union has just turned the corner. The Heads of State or Government, currently meeting in Brussels at the special summit, were aware of what was at stake in the dispute over Belarusian sanctions: if a decision had been postponed again, the EU would have a public mockery committed. Especially in Poland and the Baltic states, the way in which Brussels supports the protesters in Belarus is closely followed.
Sanctions are a clear sign of this. Obvious interference from the EU, as happened in Ukraine after its overthrow there six years ago, is out of the question for the community this time. But on the other hand, in the case of Belarus, after the election fraud in August, the EU could not have left with the prayer-wheel-like statement that Alexander Lukashenko was not considered the rightful head of state.
Sanctions against 40 Belarusian officials
The decision of the EU summit now makes it possible to freeze the accounts of 40 people from the Lukashenko area and deny them access to the EU. They are accused of being behind the electoral fraud and crackdown on protests.
The fact that Lukashenko himself is not on the sanction list is mainly due to tactical reasons. The EU wants to keep some leverage to get the Belarusian dictator to give in. Heads of State or Government would like to see Lukashenko agree to mediation by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). If he fails to do so, he may soon end up on the sanction list.
Wrong construction in European foreign policy
However, the battle over the Brussels sanctions against Belarus has also exposed the shortcomings and flawed structures in European foreign policy. Weeks passed without a sanction decision as Cyprus exercised its right of veto. The process shows once again that the unanimity principle for such sanctioning decisions needs to be urgently reconsidered.
Cyprus president Nikos Anastasiades is certainly not against Belarusian sanctions. But the small EU country only wanted to agree to the punitive measures against the Minsk regime on one condition: the EU should impose new sanctions on other employees of the Turkish energy company TPAO. Turkey is conducting test drilling in the gas fields off the Cypriot coast there. Nicosia saw the decision on the Belarusian sanctions as a welcome means of resolving the gas dispute with Turkey in the Eastern Mediterranean in the interest of the two EU countries Cyprus and Greece.
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Ultimately, Cyprus was postponed at the summit. Possible sanctions against Turkey could not be discussed until the summit in December. Meanwhile, the community is trying to follow the motto “carrot and stick” in relation to Ankara.
Carrot and stick for Ankara
In detail, this means that the community has an extensive set of tools to bring Turkey, which, under its President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has more than ever turned away from the values of the community since the crackdown on the coup attempt in 2016. to bring it closer to the community again. This could be an extension of the customs union or a simplification of visa issues. Erdogan, on the other hand, knows that the EU had to knowingly make itself dependent on Ankara when it signed the refugee deal with Turkey in 2016.
French Head of State Emmanuel Macron at the EU summit Photo: REUTERS
The summit made it clear that hardline advocates in the Eastern Mediterranean gas dispute are not necessarily in the majority. French President Emmanuel Macron and Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz are on the side of those who support Turkey’s sanctions. But for now, the representatives of a dialogue solution have prevailed among heads of state or government. Chancellor Angela Merkel is one of them.