Having just demarcated the border with Belarus on Tuesday, Lithuanian Prime Minister Gediminas Kirkilas said today that he would disapprove of the planned European Union's (EU) economic sanctions against Belarus. The PM expressed that sanctions would worsen the country's economic isolation and affect its people without any consequences to the hard-line regime of President Alexander Lukashenko.
"We are in support of stricter political measures against Belarus but disapprove of economic sanctions that would burden lives of Belorussian people," Kirkilas told the Baltic News Service adding, "If there is a need to tighten sanctions against Minsk, let us expand the list of Belorussian state officials that are refused entry to the EU from 1,000 to 2,000 people."
In the prime minister's words, economic sanctions and the proposed higher prices for EU visas would "only contribute to isolation of the country, which is very useful to the regime."
Kirkilas spoke to the Baltic News Service on Wednesday commenting on proposals discussed by the EU to temporarily remove Belarus from the EU system of general trade exemptions. At a meeting of EU experts last week, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Greece and Cyprus were against the proposal, while Italy, the Czech Republic and Slovakia abstained.
If the ballot outcome is positive, EU's foreign ministers would have been able to officially announce the temporary removal in mid-October and allow for the European Commission to introduce new imports tariffs of timber, textiles and minerals from Belarus. European Union ambassadors will now have to reopen the issue in Brussels on Oct. 12.
"Our proposal is to revive and renew the EU Neighborhood Policy and take political sanctions to indicate that it is the Lukashenko dictatorship, not the people of Belarus, that is illegitimate," Kirkilas said.
However the prime minister did expressed how far his opposition would go saying that if supporters of strict economic sanctions are victorious in the EU talks, Lithuania would support the common EU stance.
Lithuania, EU members and other democratic countries have been criticizing Belorussian president Lukashenko for gross violations of democratic principles but have been supporting pragmatic economic relations with Belarus.