158 Belarusians on EU blacklist

The EU is to impose a travel ban on 158 Belarusian officials from President Luakshenko's administration Monday.

Brussels is to maintain the sanctions until all political prisoners, arrested in the wake of disputed presidential elections in Belarus on 19 December are freed. Minsk is also being urged to ensure media freedom and make crucial reforms to election laws.

The PAP news agency reports a statement prepared ahead of a meeting of foreign ministers from all 27 EU nations today saying: "These restrictive measures and the list of affected persons will be open and continuously revised."

The statement goes on to say that the EU, "has decided to impose visa restrictions and freeze assets of those responsible for fraudulent presidential election of 19 December 2010 and the subsequent brutal repression of the democratic opposition, civil society and independent media."

The travel ban will also include any countries where the EU has an associate agreement, those applying for membership, such as Turkey and Balkans nations such as Croatia, and nations in the European Economic Area such as Norway. In total, the travel ban will include around 40 nations.

The draft EU document does not mention economic sanctions, however.

The EU is following a travel ban slapped on President Lukashenko and others in his administration by Poland, which the Foreign Ministry says is already operational.

After the arrest of up to 700 opposition activists after December's elections, Poland's Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski wrote in a joint statement with his German, Swedish and Czech counterparts saying "What we have seen brings back memories of martial law in Poland in 1981."

As it slaps travel bans on Belarusian officials, Warsaw has also waived visa fees for students and other wishing to travel to Poland. The Polish government has also pledged around 15 million euros to be given in aid to civil society groups in Belarus and maintains funding to alternative media outlets such as Belsat TV, which is based in Warsaw.


Partners: Social Network