Magazine article Europe-East

Eu/belarus : Union Warns Minsk against Further Repression

Magazine article Europe-East

Eu/belarus : Union Warns Minsk against Further Repression

Article excerpt

The EU's foreign ministers condemned, on 22 February, the repression against the Polish minority organisation Union of Poles in Belarus (ZPB) by President Alexander Lukashenko' s regime and warned that if human rights continue to suffer, bilateral relations with Belarus will be put back on ice. "It is a step back," said High Representative Catherine Ashton, referring to the harassment of the Polish minority in Belarus. She added the EU will monitor the situation and come back to this issue in April.

Prior to the foreign ministers' meeting, Poland's Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski said Warsaw was expecting the EU to reaffirm conditionality as the core element of its relations with Lukashenko's regime. "I'm not going to advocate sanctions," he told a group of journalists, on 21 February. After the meeting, Sikorski said, however, that if repression continues, the invoking of sanctions - namely a visa ban on Lukashenko and a handful of his closest aides - cannot be ruled out in April.

On 15 February, Belarusian police arrested the leader of the ZPB, Angelika Borys, along with some 40 other activists on their way to a rally in Valozhyn, in the West of the country. Poland has strongly condemned the crackdown and in response sealed off its border to the individuals responsible for the harassment. Warsaw also warned that it might block Belarus' applications for IMF and EBRD loans as well as its participation in the Eastern Partnership if Lukashenko's regime does not back off and stop its attacks on civil society. …

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