EU extends restrictive measures against Belarus for one year

The Council of the European Union has decided to prolong restrictive measures against Belarus until February 28, 2018.

The measures include an arms embargo, as well as an asset freeze and a travel ban against four individuals listed in connection with the unresolved disappearances of two opposition politicians, one businessman and one journalist in 1999 and 2000. 

In particular, entry bans and asset freezes remain in force for former Interior Minister Uladzimir Navumaw, former Prosecutor General Viktar Sheyman, former Interior Minister Yury Sivakow, and Dzmitry Pawlichenka, a former commander of an Interior Troops unit. 

However, the Council introduced an exemption to the restrictive measures to allow export of biathlon equipment to Belarus, which will remain subject to prior authorization by national competent authorities on a case-by-case basis. 

“Tangible steps taken by Belarus to respect universal fundamental freedoms, rule of law and human rights will remain key for the shaping of the EU’s future policy towards Belarus,” the Council says in a statement published on its website. 

In February 2016, the Foreign Affairs Council of the European Union decided not to extend the bloc's restrictive measures against 170 Belarusian citizens, including Alyaksandr Lukashenka, and three companies. 

Belarus expects the European Union to fully abolish its sanctions targeting the country, Deputy Foreign Minister Aleh Krawchanka said in an interview published by Hungary's newspaper Magyar Hirlap earlier this month. 

"Most of the sanctions targeting Belarus were lifted last year, that laid the foundation for a new stage in Belarusian-European relations," Mr. Krawchanka said. "After almost 20 years we can finally speak about the serious normalization of relations. We expect the remaining sanctions to be lifted, although we understand that time is needed for that and are calm about that." 

The deputy minister noted that Belarus and the EU were looking for "common ground, common interests, cooperation opportunities." "It seems to me that we have managed to overcome many disagreements," he said. "Of course, certain problems remain but we seek to find a compromise. Providing security in the region is certainly in the interest of both sides."