After weeks of blockade, the European Union has imposed sanctions against those responsible for electoral fraud and election violence in Belarus. Cyprus withdrew its veto at the EU summit in Brussels on Friday evening and received concessions in exchange for rival Turkey: the EU continues to threaten with sanctions against Ankara. At the same time she also seeks dialogue. Chancellor Angela Merkel had also promoted this.
The decisions were preceded by hours of disagreement over Turkey’s policies at the summit. Ankara is investigating natural gas fields in the sea areas in the Eastern Mediterranean, claimed by Greece and Cyprus.
The EU therefore issued an ultimatum to Turkey at the end of August and threatened additional sanctions. With regard to Greece, there were signs of some relaxation afterwards, but not with Cyprus. Cyprus now demanded punitive measures and wanted to support Belarusian sanctions only on this condition. After much swaying, Cyprus gave in.
Merkel welcomed the resolutions on Belarus and Turkey as “great progress”. The sanctions against supporters of controversial Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko are “a very important signal,” said the CDU politician. There was a “long, difficult discussion” with Cyprus and Greece about EU policy towards Turkey. Nevertheless, they want to call for a “constructive agenda with Turkey – provided that efforts to reduce tensions also continue”.
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She hoped there would now be “dynamic negotiations” with Turkey, also in view of refugee policy and customs union with the EU, Merkel stressed. Ursula von der Leyen, head of the European Commission, said Turkey had to prove that it wanted to take the constructive path.
By the December Summit, the situation in the Eastern Mediterranean should be re-discussed and a decision taken on how to proceed. French President Emmanuel Macron said that if the dialogue did not continue, restrictive measures would be taken. Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz has already argued for a tougher line, calling for sanctions and an end to EU accession negotiations with Turkey.
Charles Michel, president of the EU Council, is relieved that the Belarusian sanctions, which have been on hold for weeks, are now coming. Photo: Johanna Geron / AFP
Von der Leyen and Council President Charles Michel were relieved that the Belarusian sanctions, which had been suspended for weeks, are now coming. According to Michel, they should enter into force immediately after a written procedure. This is a clear signal of the EU’s credibility, Michel said.
With the punitive measures, the EU wants to build extra pressure on the leadership in Belarus (Belarus) and show solidarity with the people in the country. In the former Soviet Republic, there have been protests and strikes against Lukashenko, who has been in power for 26 years since the presidential elections on August 9.
40 people affected by sanctions
According to the current state of affairs, the EU sanctions are intended to affect 40 people accused of participating in electoral fraud or violent action against peaceful protests. Lukashenko was initially not supposed to be one of them. Because they want to keep diplomatic options open to settle the conflict and, if necessary, sharpen the course again later.
EU Council President Michel convened the two-day special summit to present the EU as a united community and as a strong player on the world stage. Relations with China were also on the agenda with Turkey and Belarus. The summit officially condemned the poisoning of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny in Russia, especially for the use of chemical weapons. In addition, Heads of State or Government unanimously called for an immediate end to the violence in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict region of southern Caucasus.
On Friday, the second day of the summit will include “strategic autonomy” for the EU for important goods such as medicines, but also for digital infrastructure. The aim is, for example, to develop our own European computer clouds and a uniform European system for electronic identification – called e-ID. In addition, the top must also advise on the status of Brexit. (dpa)