BRUSSELS, August 11. /TASS/. The European Union does not believe that the recent Belarusian presidential election was either free or fair and is now exploring possibilities to impose sanctions against people responsible for police violence that ensued after voting was closed, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell said Tuesday in a statement agreed by foreign ministers of all 27 EU member states.
"The elections [in Belarus] were neither free nor fair. State authorities deployed disproportionate and unacceptable violence causing at least one death and many injuries. Thousands of people were detained and the crackdown on freedoms of assembly, media and expression intensified. We call on the Belarusian authorities to release immediately and unconditionally all detained," the statement reads.
"It is against this background that we will be assessing the Belarusian authorities’ actions to address the current situation and conducting an in-depth review of the EU’s relations with Belarus. This may include, inter alia, taking measures against those responsible for the observed violence, unjustified arrests, and falsification of election results," the statement notes.
"Furthermore, credible reports of domestic observers show that the electoral process did not meet the international standards expected of an OSCE participating State. The people of Belarus deserve better," the EU diplomatic service believes.
Borrell recalled that in 2015-2016 the EU took a few big steps to lift some sanctions that were imposed against Minsk back in 2004. "Since the 2015 release of political prisoners, the relationship between the EU and Belarus had improved. But without progress on human rights and the rule of law, the EU-Belarus relationship can only get worse," the document reads.
"We call on Belarusian political leadership to initiate a genuine and inclusive dialogue with broader society to avoid further violence. The EU will continue to support a democratic, independent, sovereign, prosperous and stable Belarus," the diplomatic agency stressed.
When is the decision due?
However, the statement does not clarify when the EU foreign ministers intend to review and reevaluate relations with Belarus and consider possible sanctions. As a diplomatic source in Brussels told TASS earlier, the top diplomats could discuss the situation that ensued after the presidential election in Belarus at an informal meeting in Berlin on August 27-28. The source confirmed that it could consider "proposals of some EU countries to reinstate sanctions."
At the same time, Poland on Monday called for an urgent EU summit on Belarus, however, there were no confirmations either on official or technical level that such a meeting could indeed be convened. Some diplomats in Brussels concede that a short video conference could be set up for foreign ministers to discuss ties with Minsk, however, there are no specifics about these plans as well.
The EU as yet neither congratulated Alexander Lukashenko on his election victory nor rejected the voting results.
On August 9, Belarus held its presidential election. Preliminary results show incumbent President Alexander Lukashenko securing his reelection with 80.08% of the votes, while his biggest rival Svetlana Tikhanovskaya received 10.09% of the ballots cast. The other three candidates failed to get more than two percent each. After exit poll results were revealed late on August 9, many cities and towns across the country saw mass protests that in some cases turned into clashes with the police. The national Interior Ministry said 3,000 had been detained with dozens of police officers and protesters being injured. Moreover, law enforcement officers apprehended a few reporters. Tikhanovskaya challenged the results, refused to recognize them and said that she believes herself to be the elected president. She also filed a complaint with the national election commission.