The limited impact of sanctions on Belarus

Belarus was absent from the Eastern Partnership summit, Wednesday, December 15, in Brussels. Targeted by a series of sanctions since the presidential election of August 9, 2020, the regime boycotted the meeting, which usually brings together, in addition to this country, five other former Soviet republics – Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine.

The European Union (EU) has nevertheless insisted that it always cooperates with “The Belarusian people”. The leader of the opposition in exile, Svetlana Tsikhanovskaya, was thus present in Brussels, where, on Sunday, she met the leaders of the Union, Charles Michel, Ursula von der Leyen and Josep Borrell. As a sign of support, the EU has also announced the payment of 30 million euros to “Young people, independent media, small and medium-sized enterprises in exile and cultural actors”. This sum is in addition to the 33 million euros provided since August 2020 to civil society.

Two levers

Support “those who fight for democracy in Belarus” on the one hand, punish the regime of Alexander Lukashenko on the other: in the face of the frantic repression that has raged in the country since the fraudulent re-election of its leader, Alexander Lukashenko, the EU is trying to activate these two levers. Five rounds of European sanctions have been adopted since the election. A sixth package of restrictive measures was to be discussed on Thursday at the European summit.

The last series validated, on December 2, responded to the instrumentalisation, by the regime, of thousands of exiles on the borders between Belarus and Poland. It targets the judiciary, propaganda bodies, high-ranking political leaders, but also companies – in particular the airline company Belavia -, tour operators and hotels accused of having participated in the orchestration of this migratory crisis.

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In order to send a « signal fort », this fifth package of sanctions was, for the first time, published at the same time as that of the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom. In total, 183 people and 26 entities are concerned today in Belarus. This results in an asset freeze, a ban on European companies from making funds available to them, or even the impossibility of travel for natural persons.

“Gradual” approach

The impact of these sanctions remains difficult to assess for the time being. “They are expected to produce the most significant effects in the medium term, from the second half of 2022”, confides a European diplomatic source, which specifies that an evaluation report must be released “In January or February [2022] ».

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The limited impact of sanctions on Belarus