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EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell to address European Parliament on EU-Belarus relations

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EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell to address European Parliament on EU-Belarus relations

EU
Photo: Virginia Mayo/AP

EU Foreign Policy Chief Josep Borrell will address the EU parliament today on its deteriorating relations with Belarus.

EU-Belarus relations have been strained since last year’s Belarusian presidential election in which incumbent Alexander Lukashenko claimed victory despite widespread accusations of fraud, and Minsk’s crackdown on subsequent protests. Tensions again increased after Belarus forced Ryanair flight 4978 to land in order to arrest an opposition journalist, prompting the EU to ban all Belarus-operated commercial flights over EU territory.

Expect today’s remarks to address the implementation of new sanctions on Belarus. EU diplomats currently expect two rounds of sanctions to be imposed, a small set in the coming week and a larger round to be imposed once Parliament convenes on June 21. The initial round will focus on sanctioning Belarus’ defense and transport ministries and senior aviation officials. These sanctions are intended as a stopgap until the more impactful second round can be imposed.

The second round of sanctions will target key sectors in the Belarusian economy including bond sales, the oil sector and potash exports. The oil and potash industries are cornerstones of the Belarusian economy and targeting them is likely to cause a sharp economic downturn, harming President Lukashenko’s government.

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