The presidents and prime ministers of the European Union countries agreed after more than eight hours of negotiations, to adopt sanctions against representatives of the Belarusian regime and to take joint action against Turkey. According to the President of the European Council, Charles Michel. The agreement opens the way to a diplomatic solution to the tensions in the Mediterranean and, at the same time, shows that the EU is firmly behind Cyprus. He demanded a stricter approach to Ankara in exchange for his consent to Belarusian sanctions.
“It is very important that we have done what we agreed on a few weeks ago,” Michel welcomed the final agreement on sanctions against 40 Belarusians responsible for electoral manipulation and the violent repression of opposition protests. The list was ready in mid-September, but Cyprus has still blocked it during ministerial talks.
According to Michel, the member states should formally approve the sanctions today. The authoritarian ruler Alexander Lukashenko, whom the EU does not recognize as president, is not on the list despite the Baltic countries’ urging in particular.
“We will, of course, monitor developments in Belarus,” said the head of the EU summits on the possible extension of sanctions to Lukashenko. However, he said that the union prefers to seek dialogue so far, which could lead to an end to violence against the opposition in Belarus and a new election.
According to Michel, the next few weeks will be crucial to relations with Turkey, when it will be seen whether Ankara is interested in dialogue or whether it wants to continue exploratory mining off the coast of Cyprus. In the latter case, today’s agreement allows the union to resort to tougher action, including possible sanctions.
“It is now up to Turkey to show whether it wants to go with us constructively. This is our offer today. But we are very clear that otherwise, we have all the necessary tools at our disposal,” said European Commission President Ursula von der Leyenová. According to her, the summit agreement could motivate Ankara to cooperate by offering a closer trade partnership and enlargement of the customs union, but if Turkey does not avoid “unilateral provocations,” the EU can resort to sanctions.
According to diplomats, the Cyprus president rejected the ongoing proposals on several occasions during a long meeting on Thursday evening and tonight to accommodate Turkey. However, the leaders of several other countries, including presiding Germany, wanted to prevent a further deterioration in relations with a partner in NATO, which is helping to curb the influx of refugees into Europe as part of a migration agreement.