March 11 – March 17, 2024
Belarus-West relations

You Scratch My Back, I’ll Scratch Yours: EU Contemplates New Restrictions Against Belarus, Regime Introduces Counter-Sanctions

The situation has not changed
You Scratch My Back, I’ll Scratch Yours: EU Contemplates New Restrictions Against Belarus, Regime Introduces Counter-Sanctions

The EU is considering strengthening sanctions against Belarus. The reasons include the deterioration of the human rights situation, repression against the population, support for Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, and assistance to Moscow in circumventing sanctions. In response, the regime introduces counter-sanctions against the Baltic countries and increases migration pressure.

EU leaders plan to call for new sanctions against Belarus, North Korea, and Iran for their role in circumventing restrictions against Russia. The new “bans” are expected to affect companies in third countries that help Moscow access sensitive components and technologies crucial for military operations. Moreover, Belarus is a topic of discussion at the EU Foreign Ministers’ summit (March 18) due to recent events in the country. Special attention is given to the deterioration of the human rights situation and the Lukashenko regime’s support for Russia’s aggressive war against Ukraine.

The European Commission (EC) is also preparing proposals to limit the import of grain from Russia and Belarus – possibly through import quotas on agricultural products. However, transit will still be allowed, as such restrictions could affect food prices, which, in turn, could impact the interests of the global South.

The European Parliament supported the idea of an embargo, which apparently influenced the EC. However, the commission is likely to be cautious in its proposals. Previously, Latvia introduced an embargo on the supply of products from Belarus and Russia. Similar measures are now being discussed in Lithuania. The Polish Sejm adopted a resolution calling on the EU to impose a similar ban. These countries’ stance is clear: such an embargo will not create a food shortage in Europe. They also ask the EC to ensure cooperation and coordination among EU countries for the effective and uniform application of the ban across the EU.

In turn, Belarus has banned the import of certain goods from Lithuania in response to Vilnius’ decision to halt the movement of goods, transport, and people through two border checkpoints. The ban on imports for sale and consumption in Belarus includes water, beer, wine, grape must, vermouths, other fermented beverages, ethyl alcohol, vinegar, rubber pneumatic tires, clothing, and other used items, as well as used parts and accessories for vehicles.

The list of goods banned from import and sale in Belarus has also been expanded. Changes were made to the Council of Ministers’ resolution No. 700 from December 6, 2021. The list now includes condensed milk and cream, fruits and nuts, coffee, fruit juices, water, vinegar, tights, stockings, socks, certain building materials, refrigerators, and freezers originating from Lithuania.

The Belarusian Ministry of Foreign Affairs notes that the bans do not affect goods imported to Belarus for personal use. According to official Minsk’s logic, such measures will not impact the economy and consumer market, will reduce pressure on Belarusian customs at border checkpoints with Lithuania, and will hit Lithuania’s logistics sector.

Minsk also threatens that Latvia’s government steps in introducing an import embargo in 2024 against a number of Belarusian food group products will not go unanswered.

Predictably, against this backdrop, the regime has returned to increasing migration pressure, coinciding with improved weather conditions. If in January, Lithuania, Latvia, and Poland reported minimal numbers of violators, often seeing no attempts during the day, in recent weeks, more than 100 people have tried to cross the border daily.

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Once a week, in coordination with a group of prominent Belarusian analysts, we provide analytical commentaries on the most topical and relevant issues, including the behind-the-scenes processes occurring in Belarus. These commentaries are available in Belarusian, Russian, and English.

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