by Adam Richards The EU aims to ban Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko in protest at the suppression of the opposition after the recent presidential election, European diplomats announced on Friday, January 7th.
At a meeting in Brussels, the Permanent Representatives of the Twenty-Seven countries of the Union said they had decided to launch proceedings to restore the visa restrictions on the Belarusian President and a series of regime officials, said a diplomat.
The EU had imposed visa bans against President Lukashenko and officials from Belarus in 2006 to protest against the repression of the opposition then. Those sanctions were suspended in 2008 in hopes of encouraging an opening up of the regime. The EU also froze the assets of the dignitaries listed in 2006 and this penalty is still in force. The EU ambassadors also agreed Friday to study the development of a new list of people to punish Belarus.
A broad consensus was reached at the meeting to send a strong signal to Belarus and to demand the immediate release of all persons arrested for political reasons. Ultimately, decisions on the issue will be confirmed at the ministerial level or at a meeting of EU ministers in Brussels a diplomat reported.
The presidential election in Belarus on December 19 was won with nearly 80% of the votes by Alexander Lukashenko who has been in power for sixteen years and who faced nine opposition candidates, who have denounced widespread election fraud. A protest, attended by tens of thousands of people in central Minsk after the election ended with the arrest of about 600 people, mostly opposition candidates, but also defenders of human rights and journalists. Hundreds of them are still in prison.