Brussels (AP) – Following the emergency landing of a plane in Minks, EU heads of state or government will discuss new sanctions against Belarus on Monday.
Charles Michel, President of the EU Council, soon put the issue on the agenda of the already planned two-day EU special summit in Brussels. “The incident will not be without consequences,” said the Belgian. At the same time, he condemned the crash landing of the Ryanair plane and the reported arrest of a Belarusian journalist by the authorities of the authoritarian republic.
Other top politicians in the EU, such as Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, also expressed their disgust at the Belarusian approach. “The scandalous and illegal behavior of the regime in Belarus will have consequences,” von der Leyen wrote on Twitter Sunday evening. “Those responsible for the Ryanair hijacking should be punished.” Last year, the EU had already imposed sanctions on ruler Alexander Lukashenko, among others.
The US government has also strongly condemned the actions of the authorities in Belarus. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken wrote on Twitter in view of Belarusian ruler Alexander Lukashenko that it was a “brutal and shocking act by the Lukashenko regime.” “We advocate an international investigation and coordinate next steps with our partners. The United States supports the people of Belarus. “
The authorities of the former Soviet Republic landed a Ryanair plane in Minsk on Sunday on its way from Athens to Vilnius. According to the airline, the crew has been informed by the Belarusian side of a possible security threat on board and instructed to fly to Minsk airport. On board the machine with more than 100 passengers was the blogger Roman Protassewitsch, who was internationally sought after by Lukashenko. According to the Wesna Human Rights Center, he was arrested after landing at Minsk airport.
The diverted plane finally landed on Sunday evening with a delay of more than eight hours at the airport in the Lithuanian capital Vilnius. After landing, Lithuania opened an investigation into the hijacking of an aircraft. The prosecutor’s office announced that the preliminary investigation will be conducted by the criminal police of the Baltic EU and NATO countries. For this purpose, the passengers and crew of the aircraft must also be interviewed. “We also expect them to cooperate with law enforcement agencies and provide our officials with all the information they know,” Lithuanian Prime Minister Ingrida Simonyte said, according to the BNS bureau, after meeting with passengers at Vilnius airport.
The special EU summit on Monday and Tuesday is the first physical meeting between Chancellor Angela Merkel and her EU colleagues in Brussels since December. Monday would actually be mainly about broken relations with Russia. This topic is now likely to be pushed into the background, focusing instead on new sanction threats against Belarus. Nevertheless, Josep Borrell, head of EU foreign policy, is expected to take stock of relations with Russia by the June summit. In addition, the heads of state or government wanted to sharply criticize the current course of the government in Moscow. In addition, the relationship with Great Britain is on the agenda after his final departure from the EU.
Federal Foreign Minister Heiko Maas (SPD) called for “clear consequences” after the incident in Belarus. “The fact that a flight between two EU countries was forced to stop under the pretense of a bomb threat is a serious interference in civil aviation in Europe,” the SPD politician said in a statement. “We are very concerned about reports that the journalist Roman Protassevich has been arrested in this way.”
Due to the ongoing repression of the democracy movement in Belarus, the EU had already imposed sanctions on the country last year. In total, almost 60 people from Belarus are on the EU sanction list, under their ruler Lukashenko. The sanctions include entry bans and allow assets to be frozen.
On Tuesday, the heads of state and government want to continue to coordinate the fight against the corona virus on the second day of the summit. The focus is both on opening steps with a view to summer, as well as caution regarding particularly dangerous virus variants.
How the climate target for 2030 can be achieved needs to be discussed longer. In some cases, the EU states are still far apart here. The EU wants to reduce its greenhouse gases by at least 55 percent below 1990 levels by 2030. The European Commission intends to make extensive proposals in mid-July. Tuesday’s discussion should give the authority some guidance on the positions of the EU countries.