Magazine article Europe-East

Eu/belarus : Minsk Gets Second Chance'

Magazine article Europe-East

Eu/belarus : Minsk Gets Second Chance'

Article excerpt

Welcoming "certain positive steps" taken by Belarus over the last six months, the EU's foreign ministers decided, on 16 March, to give the country a "second chance" and extend for nine months the visa ban reprieve for Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko and a handful of his high-ranking officials. They underlined, however, that despite some "positive signs," such as "the increased high-level EU Belarus dialogue" and "the intensified technical cooperation," the EU "continues to be concerned about the human rights station in Belarus and the recent cases of violations in this area".

In a clear attempt to enhance its ties with Belarus and to help the country to pursue reforms, the ministers agreed to renew the travel ban and the asset freeze on Lukashenko and over 30 other high-ranking Belarusian officials for a year, but at the same time prolonged the current visa ban suspension for nine months. The decision on freezing the assets of 41 Belarusian officials, including Lukashenko, subject also to the visa ban remains in force.

Last October, the EU decided to temporarily lift visa sanctions against Lukashenko and 35 of his officials for half a year, to renew political contacts and open new possibilities for cooperation with the country in the wake of the Georgia-Russia war in August. Russia's military intervention against Tbilisi has prompted the EU to enhance ties with its Eastern neighbours, including Belarus. To this end, the EU offered Minsk participation in the Eastern Partnership - a new initiative providing for deeper political and economic ties, including free trade agreements and "in the long run" a visa-free regime with five other countries in the region (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine). …

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