Khalezin: EU should lift sanctions against Belarus officials, businessmen

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Lukashenka's prominent critic Nikolay Khalezin maintains that visa sanctions simply do not work against Belarus officials, the latter feeling no discomfort over the measure.  Both the government officials and businessmen on the 'black list' have either got used to them or learned how to dodge the sanctions. As for the freezing of Belarusians' bank accounts and seizure of their assets in Europe, Mr Khalezin cannot recall even one situation when this would take place.

“The mechanisms, applied by the European Union, are not properly developed. Therefore, they do not work," reflects Nikolay Khalezin. "In my view, there mechanisms are just a half-measure, which, nevertheless, allows to say: “Yes, we are having leverage on Belarusian authorities."

But when travel restrictions are lifted, Europeans will end up face-to-face with those in Belarus whom they "isolated" by the sanctions. In the view of Mr Khalezin, this cannot but push them towards a more resolute policy with regard to Belarus.

"European officials will find themselves in the same company with the people who are responsible for jailing innocent peaceful demonstrators. The people who give orders and who were involved in the killing of political opponents. Naturally, this will accentuate the processes and expedite the opposition between EU officials. Today they are represented by only three or four people, and that's it! What needed it is that European official apparatus should break into two halves when the ones insist they would not sit at the same table with these people and those who defend the opposite stance."

In the aftermath of December 19, 2010 presidential elections and violent crackdown on peaceful protests in Independence Square in Minsk, several Belarusian officials and top businessmen were targeted by EU visa and economic sanctions. Aliaksandr Lukashenka and his children as well as government officials, judges and persons who, in the view of Europeans, "support the regime" are banned from entering the European Union member states.

However, on June 24 the Council of EU Foreign Ministers lifted the sanctions against Uladzimir Makei, currently the Belarusian foreign minister, who in 2010 served as the head of Belarusian president's administration. Now that Makei is the foreign minister, the EU Council resolved that it was necessary "to ease diplomatic contacts between EU and Belarus". On July 22 Uladzimie Makei took part in the meeting of the foreign ministers of EU member states and Eastern Partnership members in Brussels.

During the December 2010 presidential elections, Nikolay Khalezin пtook an active part in opposition presidential candidate Andrei Sannikov's campaign. After the crackdown on demonstrators and civil society on December 19, 2010 he had to flee Belarus and currently lives in London.

Photo: Radio Svaboda