¿o te la hacen?
SANCTIONS? HAHA OF COURSE NOT: EU foreign ministers were unable to agree on sanctions on Alexander Lukashenko’s regime on Monday, in case you harbored any illusions to the contrary. Cyprus, according to diplomats, is still tying its consent to getting its own agenda through. Or, as Josep Borrell, the EU’s chief diplomat, put it after the meeting: “Ministers discussed the sanctions issue, and although there is a clear will to adopt those sanctions, it has not been possible to do that today because the required unanimity was not reached.”
Seriously though, what does Belarus have to do with Turkey’s drilling activities in the Mediterranean? Well, nothing — and nobody pretended otherwise. It’s just that the unanimity principle allows every single country to link any of its issue to anything else. Before you complain, be thankful for a moment that — depending on your point of view — you’re much further away from Turkey than Cyprus is, or that Nicosia’s foreign policy doesn’t go beyond a single issue. And so, foreign ministers, and the EU’s foreign policy in general, have been made laughing stocks again.
In Borrell’s own words: He admitted that possibly not everybody agrees with him in saying “ministers sent a strong signal.” Borrell said it “is becoming a personal commitment” to get these sanctions adopted at the next Foreign Affairs Council meeting, “because I understand clearly that the credibility of the European Union, and the forging of a common foreign affairs policy, depends on sanctioning Lukashenko.”
Got that, and the implications? If the EU is not able to agree on sanctions against Lukashenko, “then I understand perfectly that our credibility is at stake,” Borrell said. Aside from the sanctions, the result of Monday’s meeting: “We consider these elections falsified. We don’t recognize the result and so we don’t recognize Lukashenko’s legitimacy.” David Herszenhorn and Jacopo Barigazzi have the full details.
Over to you, Charles Michel: EU leaders will now look into the issue at their summit on Thursday and Friday and issue “political guidance,” as Borrell put it. He added that he’s got no idea how European Council President Charles Michel is going to break the deadlock among leaders — suggesting it’s not a question of negotiating skills but of stubbornness. Prepare for a long EU summit.
ON THOSE HOPES THAT WENT UP IN SMOKE: “I asked the European Union for help,” Svetlana Tikhanovskaya said, referring to the purpose of her visit to Brussels this week. “We did a lot by ourselves, but now we need exterior help,” she added. She spoke to reporters in the courtyard of Lithuania’s EU embassy on Monday. Tikhanovskaya, the opposition’s candidate in the August presidential election and a leading figure of the ongoing protests in Belarus, met EU foreign ministers in the morning.
Here’s what she told them: The opposition wants a few very specific things: Sanctions, including against Lukashenko himself, “I think is necessary,” she said, as a means to pressure him into starting talks with the protest movement, represented by the Coordination Council. Asked what she told the skeptics among the ministers, she responded: “Just to be more brave.”
Follow the money: “Don’t support the regime financially” and “just stop” the flow of money into Lukashenko’s pockets, Tikhanovskaya said: “We want this money to be given for the fight against COVID, not to the regime.” That touches upon a sensitive issue: Accepting EU money would also be dangerous for the opposition, as it could give the regime a pretext to claim the EU wants to unduly interfere in domestic affairs. “This is an absolutely internal crisis in our country … and we will manage to solve it on our own,” Tikhanovskaya said.
Personal plans: Tikhanovskaya said she sees her role as managing a possible transition. “I am not planning to run for presidency if — no, when — there are free and fair elections,” she said. A figure with more economic expertise should lead the country out of the crisis, she added — which, at this point, has yet to become more than a wild dream. Tikhanovskaya will continue her campaign from her Lithuanian exile: “I adore my country … but I don’t feel I and my children are safe there,” she said, adding that if she went home, she would go to jail. “Can I do anything from a prison cell? No. I can do much more for my people than sitting in a cell.”