Foreign Minister Zbigniew Rau informed that the main topics of the Monday meeting of the heads of EU diplomacy with the participation of US Secretary of State Antony Blinken were relations between the European Union and Russia, the situation in Belarus and cooperation between the European Union and the USA. He confirmed that during the talks a decision was made on further sanctions against Russia.
The Foreign Affairs Council of the European Union in Brussels was attended by EU foreign ministers and the European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Josep Borrell. In the afternoon, the new head of US diplomacy, Antony Blinken, joined the conference participants through a videoconference.
“Society in Belarus under great pressure”
Minister Zbigniew Rau said that three main issues were discussed during the meeting: the situation in Russia and EU-Russia relations after the imprisonment of the anti-Kremlin oppositionist Alexei Navalny, and after Joseph Borrell’s visit to Moscow. “We quickly managed to reach a consensus on the need for individual sanctions imposed on those found guilty of the unlawful imprisonment of Alexei Navalny,” Zbigniew Rau said on Twitter.
As regards Belarus – as reported by the head of Polish diplomacy – EU ministers emphasized in the discussion that the situation was deteriorating there as regards human rights violations. “There are already over 220 political prisoners, recently joined by two journalists from Belsat TV, who have been sentenced to two years in prison. We also emphasized that civil society in Belarus was under a lot of pressure – especially recently one of their leading organizations, i.e.Viasna “said the minister.
He added that in connection with these reports there were more and more voices “firmly demanding that the European Commission announce an economic plan for a democratic Belarus”. He recalled that such a plan was outlined in October last year in Lublin by the prime ministers of the Visegrad Group countries. “The European Council asked the European Commission to prepare the details of such a plan. We are still waiting for its disclosure,” noted Rau.
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“The Threat of Russia’s Policy”
According to him, the EU ministers spent most of their time on Monday discussing with the new US secretary of state. “We raised a number of issues pointing to a very similar position of the United States and the European Union on issues such as climate issues, multilateralism, and thus the US’s return to the World Health Organization, to the Paris Agreement, to involvement in the World Trade Organization” – reported the head of Polish diplomacy.
He added that the US and EU ministers also showed “great convergence in the perception of the rivalry between the West and China.” “We pointed to the multidimensional threat resulting from Russia’s policy. There were also issues of such unconventional behavior by Turkey, although Secretary Blinken pointed to some rapprochement of Turkey with the European Union in recent weeks,” Rau noted.
Josep Borrell also announced on Monday that further sanctions against Russia in connection with the imprisonment of Navalny have been agreed. The list of people affected by the travel ban and the freezing of assets will include: Alexander Bastrykin, the head of the Investigative Committee reporting directly to Russian President Vladimir Putin, the prosecutor general Igor Krasnov, the commander of the National Guard Viktor Zolotov and the head of the prison service (FSIN) Alexander Kalashnikov.
The EU decided not to introduce restrictions against the Russian oligarchs, which was postulated by Alexei Navalny’s associates.
Main photo source: Twitter/@PLPermRepEU
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