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EU Imposes Sanctions Against Belarus

  • 26 May 2021
  • 5 min read

Why in News

Recently, the European Union (EU) imposed sanctions against Belarus, including banning its airlines from using the airspace and airports of the 27-nation bloc EU.

Key Points

  • Background of Belarus’ Polity:
    • Europe's longest-serving ruler, President of Belarus Lukashenko took office in 1994 amid the chaos caused by the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.
    • Often described as Europe's "last dictator", he has tried to preserve elements of Soviet communism.
      • He has been in power for 26 years, keeping much of the economy in state hands, and using censorship and police crackdowns against opponents.
    • In 2020, after Lukashenko was announced as the winner in elections, protests broke out in the capital, Minsk which was met with a violent security crackdown.
      • There has been widespread anger against the government over a stagnant economy and doubts about the fairness of the election.
  • Previous Sanctions:
    • In response to the violent crackdown, the EU and the United States (US) imposed several rounds of financial sanctions against Belarus in 2020.
    • The US also imposed travel restrictions and targeted financial sanctions on nine state-owned entities and 16 individuals, including President Lukashenko. First imposed in 2006, these were tightened in 2008.
    • The EU first introduced restrictive measures against Belarus in 2004, following the disappearance of two opposition politicians, a journalist and a businessman several years earlier.
  • Reason for Recent Sanctions:
    • Belarus forcely diverted a passenger jet and scrambled a warplane to arrest an opposition journalist in an act denounced by Western powers as “state piracy” (an act of piracy where the state is involved).
  • Steps Taken by EU:
    • Restrictions on Airspace:
      • Called for Belarusian airlines to be banned from the 27-nation bloc’s airspace and urged EU-based carriers to avoid flying over the former Soviet republic.
    • Investigation into Forced Plane Diversion:
      • Agreed to widen the list of Belarusian individuals they already sanction and called on the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) to urgently investigate Belarus forcing a Ryanair plane to land in Minsk on a Greece-Lithuania flight.
      • It also called for the release of the journalist who was detained.
    • Sanctions on Individuals and Businesses:
      • Since October 2020, the EU has progressively been restricting more and more key political figures with measures like travel bans and asset freezes.
      • With the recent incident, the bloc decided to add even more targets to its sanction list of 88 individuals and seven entities.
    • Billion-Euro Economic Package:
      • The EU had a 3 billion Euro investment package ready for Belarus that it will now freeze until the country turns democratic.
  • Implications:
    • Belarus lies on the flight path of routes within Europe and between Europe and Asia. Skirting Belarus would slow flights down and cost airlines money.
    • Belarus receives income from airlines that enter its airspace of up to 70,000 Euro each day, losing this amount of money would be an inconvenience but not have a significant impact on the economy of Belarus.

International Civil Aviation Organisation

  • About:
    • It is a United Nations (UN) specialized agency, established in 1944, which laid the foundation for the standards and procedures for peaceful global air navigation.
      • The Convention on International Civil Aviation was signed in December 1944 in Chicago.
      • It established the core principles permitting international transport by air, and also led to the creation of the ICAO.
  • Objective:
    • To foster the planning and development of international air transport so as to ensure the safe and orderly growth of international civil aviation throughout the world.
  • Members:
    • India is among its 193 members.
  • Headquarter:
    • Montreal, Canada.

Way Forward

  • The President of Belarus should ensure the formation of a legitimate government that could address the country’s vital problems.
  • He has to reach out to the Opposition and offer talks to find a peaceful settlement to the crisis.


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