Czech Republic spearheads sanctions-and-aid plan for Belarus

By Daniela Lazarova

The EU is considering the possibility of imposing sanctions against Belarus after its disputed presidential elections. Not surprisingly, it is the EU newcomers who have experienced four decades of communist oppression, that are spearheading the drive for some kind of effective action against the regime of President Alexander Lukashenko.

Eight mostly ex-communist EU states have drafted a sanctions-and-aid plan for Belarus after its disputed elections. The proposal was initiated by the Czech Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda and has received backing from Poland, Slovakia, the Baltic states, Denmark and Sweden. At this stage it involves three main points: an evaluation of the elections, a proposition for sanctions and aid and an appeal to the international community to support the EU stance. Ministers are currently in the process of deciding who the sanctions should target. Almost certainly the EU will expand its ban on Belarus officials travelling to the block to include those who are suspected of rigging the elections. According to Jana Beranova who is a member of the Czech delegation to Brussels, the Czech foreign minister has been stressing the need to find a fine balance between diplomatic sanctions and assistance to the people of Belarus who are victims of the autocratic Lukashenko regime. In the course of Friday's negotiations he emphasized the need to maintain dialogue with Minsk and the importance of helping the opposition, universities and NGOs - in short all who would further the democratization process in the country. One of the proposals put forward involves people to people contacts between Belarus and EU countries, which would enable an exchange of views and experiences.

A broader debate on what measures should be taken is expected at the next regular talks of EU foreign ministers scheduled to be held on April 10th in Luxembourg.