Cause and Effect in European Politics and Law

Only Italy backs Lukashenko in the EU

Angel Shoilev Junior, January 11, 2011

Italy said it was against possible European sanctions to be imposed on Belarus because of the violence the authorities in the country used after the elections in December. As euinside reported, the EU intends to impose a ban on President Alexandr Lukashenko and other Belorussian officials from traveling in the EU because of the violence, used against opposition officials, journalists and citizens during the protests in the capital Minsk.

EU embassies in the Belorussian capital have prepared a list which had to be discussed at the meeting of the Political and Security Committee in Brussels on January 7th. During the meeting it became clear, though, that Italy did not approve the imposition of sanctions against Belarus. EUobserver quoted an unnamed EU diplomat who commented the European position like this: "They are a bit alone on that. Their traditional argument is that these kinds of sanctions have never been effective and that it is important to keep channels open even with the bad guys".

According to the diplomat, Spain and Portugal are also cautious toward the idea of imposing sanctions against Lukashenko. On the other end are Germany, Poland, Sweden and the UK who said that as the Union had tried hard to establish a dialogue with Belarus, now the EU has to react firmly. Another diplomat said that there was a full consensus with regard to the priorities - releasing political prisoners, boosting civil society and providing guarantees that people who had possibly committed crimes would be punished. Differences, however, remain regarding the way these goals to be achieved.

The final decision has to be taken through a written procedure within 10 days or by the foreign ministers of the EU at their Council on January 31st. But in order sanctions could be imposed, however, it is necessary a consensus to be achieved among all 27 member states.

This is not the first time Rome backs Lukashenko. In October last year it was Italy that insisted the temporary removal of sanctions against Lukashenko to be turned into a constant lift of sanctions. In 2009 Rome was the only European capital that spread the red carpet for Lukashenko's visit and Silvio Berlusconi paid back by visiting Minsk, EUobserver recalls.