EU may suspend sanctions against Lukashenka in October, but reinstate them in case of ‘step back’

The Council of the European Union made a decision to suspend sanctions against Belarus for the period of four months, France’s Secretary of State for European Affairs Harlem Desir said on Monday.

“We have taken the decision to suspend the sanctions for the next four months, but they can be reinstated immediately if that is required,” Mr. Desir said, adding that they would be reviewed at the end of that period. He said that the decision ‘allows us at any moment, if we see there is a step back, to reestablish the sanctions’.

He added the decision taken makes possible to concurrently keep sanctions against Belarus but suspend their effect.

According to the top official, Europe wants to take Belarus to its bosom so that the situation in the region could improve.

Lithuania’s Foreign Minister Linas Linkevičius confirmed that asset freezes and travel bans for Belarusian officials might be temporarily lifted for four months. The EU’s show of good will follows relatively peaceful election campaign and the release of six political prisoners, he said.

When reached by independent news agency BelaPAN, Maja Kocijancic, spokesperson for the EU’s high representative for foreign affairs and security policy, said that although the Belarus issue was not discussed by the EU Foreign Affairs Council, the high representative, Federica Mogherini, made reference to the presidential election in her report to the ministers. “The decision on the future of the sanctions needs to be taken by the end of October,” Ms. Kocijancic said.

Although the recent presidential election in Belarus was recognised by CIS countries, Significant problems, particularly during the counting and tabulation, undermined the integrity of the election,” the International Election Observation Mission (IEOM) says in Monday’s preliminary statement.

A total of 175 individuals, including Mr. Lukashenka, are currently subject to entry bans and all of them plus 18 economic entities are subject to asset freezes within the EU.

The Foreign Affairs Council drew up the blacklist in January 2011, following a brutal police crackdown on a post-election protest in Minsk. The list was repeatedly extended and included as many as 243 Belarusian individuals and 32 business entities at one point.

Some days ago a group of diplomats close to the issue told Reuters that the EU’s list of around 140 individuals, including Alyaksandr Lukashenka himself, would be suspended from the end of October until the end of February, allowing those in question to move their money around and travel again. An arms embargo will remain.

Four members of Lukashenka’s security services, suspected of being behind the disappearances of political opponents, are expected to remain under sanctions.