Germany in Favor of Sanctions against Belarusian Authorities
Reporting on Belarus in Germany has not stopped with the beginning of the New Year. While the liberal Minister of Foreign Affairs, Guido Westerwelle, is deep into trouble as his party threatens to withdraw its support to the leader at the annual party congress on January 6th, German foreign policy makers are struggling to find the right approach to Belarus.
All of them, however, share the fear to have an impenetrable dictatorship at the doorstep of the EU. In a guest commentary, Green Member of Parliament, Marie-Luise Beck wrote in Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung on January 5th:
When the regime crushed down the opposition violently, the West stayed strangely silent. In the Ministries, in the best cases the spokespersons formulated lukewarm protests. (…) Why did the EU not organize a special summit? Why did Messrs. Westerwelle, Sikorski, Bildt and Schwarzenberg only write an article in the New York Times but did not travel to Minsk immediately?
In its January 4st edition, Sueddeutsche Zeitung wrote:
As a protest to the persecution of opposition activists, the Federal Government is in favor of EU-sanctions against the authoritarian regime of Alexander Lukaschenko.
Before taking a final decision, consultations with other EU member states are going to take place. Guido Westerwelle told Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung on January 2nd that Germany is not going to accept the election fraud in Belarus. “We are going to urge the EU to give a clear political answer to the free and fair elections in Minsk”, he said.
This statement is remarkable for a German government. In comparison with his predecessor Joschka Fischer, who was minister of foreign affairs in the Schröder’s Socialist-Green coalition from 1998-2005, Westerwelle finds clear and astonishingly harsh words and is ready to take action against the Belarusian authoritarian regime. Angela Merkel has shown several times that the respect of human rights does not remain an abstract concept for her government. It is therefore likely that the German government will speak in favor of the reinstallation of sanctions during the EU summit, as Westerwelle has announced.
The forced closure of the OSCE office in Minsk and the critical reaction to this step are mentioned in all newspapers. During a phone conversation with his Lithuanian counterpart Audronius Azubalis, who is chairman of the OSCE at the moment, both ministers agreed that the strengthening of the civil society is a priority now. According to him, this should be done by continued work of the Media Freedom Representative of the OSCE and the ODIHR. Both decided that the EU must find a clear and common answer. The COPS (Politics and Security Committee) will discuss further steps to be taken by the EU in its Friday session. (Press release of Auswärtiges Amt, January 4th).
Apart from installing sanctions against the regime, visa facilitation for Belarusian citizen is discussed in Germany. Marie Luise Beck, Green Member of Parliament wrote in her guest commentary in Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung on January 5th:
The really important step to facilitate travelling to the West for Belarusian citizen has not been taken. The EU claimed that it was not possible to liberalize the visa process for citizen of an authoritarian state. With other words: The EU helped the dictator to lock his citizen up in his country.