V4 warns Belarus of further sanctions

Visegrad Four and German foreign ministers say President Aleksander Lukashenko must release political prisonners or face further EU sanctions

The foreign ministers of Germany and the four Visegrad states (V4) have threatened to push for further EU sanctions against the authoritarian regime of Belarus President Aleksander Lukashenko, strongly admonishing human rights violations and calling on Lukashenko to release all political opponents.

“If Belarus does not develop in a positive direction, the EU will take further steps,” Polish Foreign Ministry state secretary Mikolaj Dowgielevicz said, as cited by Czech news agency CTK.

The warning came Thursday as the Visegrad group (Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovakia) foreign ministers met their German counterpart at a one-day meeting in Bratislava. The delegates also agreed on the need to bolster cooperation between the EU and Eastern Partnership countries.

“A country with a totalitarian rule has no future. We have sent a clear message to President Lukashenko — no discussion with his regime can be taken into consideration if only a single political prisoner remains behind bars,” Slovak Foreign Minister Mikulas Dzurinda (SDKU-DS) said.

Since the Minsk protest demonstration in December 2010 that followed Lukashenko’s contested reelection, 42 activists have been facing persecution, with 20 of them put into custody, mainly senior Belarusian opposition members, who have been held in jail without bail now for over two months.

Belarussian Deputy Foreign Minister Valery Voronetsky attended the V4 talks, but did not speak to the media, CTK reported.

At a Feb. 15 summit of prime ministers of the V4, Germany and Austria, the countries expressed serious concern over the violent crackdown that followed “the fraudulent Presidential elections in Belarus” last year and praised “the efforts of the people and civil society in Belarus who are actively engaged in defending democracy and the rule of law.”


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