The European Union will reinforce its restrictive measures against the Lukashenka regime unless it releases the country’s political prisoners, Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski said at a news conference in Berlin on March 21, according to Poland’s news agency PAP.
"We hope that the political prisoners will be released. If they are not, the EU will have to introduce new sanctions", said Mr. Sikorski after holding talks with his German and Russian counterparts in Berlin earlier in the day.
Meanwhile, Andrey Savinykh, spokesman for the Belarusian foreign ministry, said in an interview with the government’s news agency BelTA on March 21 that the EU should stop using pressure against Belarus if it wanted to "settle existing differences".
Both Belarus and the EU will benefit from a "mutually acceptable settlement" of them, said Mr. Savinykh.
"The EU should in the first place drop the practice of reinforcing its sanctions on a regular basis", said the spokesman. "The point is not about whether the sanctions are efficient. What is important is that this practice rules out the possibility of bringing sensibly and reasonably the positions closer to each other".
The EU foreign ministers are expected to add more Belarusian individuals to the 27-nation bloc`s blacklist at a meeting in Brussels on March 23.
On January 31, 2011, the EU Council imposed asset freezes and travel bans on 156 Belarusian government officials and other individuals for their role in "the violations of international electoral standards" in the December 14-19, 2010 presidential election and a post-election crackdown on civil society and pro-democratic supporters. The Council blacklisted more Belarusians later, placing on the list judges and prosecutors involved in the prosecution of post-election protesters, as well as the judge and the public prosecutor in the trial of prominent human rights defender Ales Byalyatski.
At present, there are 222 Belarusians on the EU’s blacklist, BelaPAN said.
After the EU imposed travel bans and asset freezes on new Belarusian officials on February 27, the Belarusian foreign ministry "recommended" that the head of the EU delegation to Belarus and the ambassador of Poland to Belarus return to their capitals for consultations, while simultaneously recalling the country`s permanent representative in Brussels and ambassador in Warsaw.
All EU ambassadors have left Belarus since "in expression of solidarity and unity".