Credibility at Stake: EU Red-Faced Over Failure to Impose Belarus Sanctions

Written by | Thursday, September 24th, 2020

European Union‘s foreign ministers had nothing to show to Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya when they met her in Brussels on Monday (21 September), as Cyprus continues to block the EU‘s sanctions against the country’s authoritarian ruler Alexander Lukashenko. Sanctions against Belarus have turned into a “high-voltage” crisis for EU foreign policy, EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell admitted after meeting EU foreign ministers in Brussels on Monday (21 September) – “We can’t have another foreign affairs council incapable of finding unanimity on sanctions against Belarus.” The bloc’s top diplomat even went as far as warning that the EU’s credibility is at stake after the bloc’s failure to agree on sanctions against Lukashenko’s regime. Borrell said Cyprus had prevented them from reaching unanimity on the issue.
The EU has rejected the official results of the 9 August Belarusian presidential elections, which credited long-time incumbent Alexander Lukashenko with over 80% of the vote, while his critics blame the authorities for rigging the election in his favour. Brussels has also condemned the subsequent violence unleashed against protesters and warned that it would “swiftly” impose sanctions on the people responsible for the rigging of the ballot and the repression. However, in the end, “although there is a clear will to adopt those sanctions, it is not possible to do that today because the required unanimity was not reached,”Borrell decried the outcome of the EU foreign minister’s meeting.
Cyprus blocked the imposition of the sanctions on Belarus, denying it as veto unless similar measures are adopted against Turkey for its illegal drilling in its own ´Exclusive Economic Zone‘. Rejecting to describe Cyprus‘ position as a ‚veto‘, the country’s foreign minister Nikos Christodoulides admitted a compromise on the matter is still reachable. “The Republic of Cyprus supports sanctions and doesn‘t put a veto on the table regarding Belarus. But there was a decision that the proposals over sanctions on Belarus and the proposals that Cypriots submitted over Turkey would move forward in parallel so that they would be immediately adopted.” EU leaders are now expected to try to break the deadlock when they meet in Brussels later on Thursday (24 September).

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