Stockholm, May 25(ChinaEuropeNet) –The special meeting of the European Council, which started on Monday 24 May in Brussels, has strongly condemned the action taken by Belarus on Sunday. A Ryanair flight from Athens to Vilnius was forced to land in Minsk where opposition leader and journalist Raman Pratasevich was arrested.
“We consider the action by Belarus extremely exceptional and condemnable. Belarus must immediately release Raman Pratasevich, his partner Sofia Sapega and other political prisoners. We must support Belarusian civil society and strengthen belief in that democracy will eventually win,” says Prime Minister Sanna Marin.
The European Council calls on the Council to submit proposals for further targeted economic sanctions without delay. In addition, the Council is called on to prepare the necessary measures to ban overflight of EU airspace by Belarusian airlines and prevent access to EU airports of flights operated by such airlines. The European Council calls on the International Civil Aviation Organization to urgently investigate the incident and all EU-based carriers to avoid overflight of Belarus.
The EU has imposed sanctions on Belarus three times since the country’s latest presidential elections. The sanctions apply to both private persons and communities. Preparations of the fourth sanction decision were initiated before Sunday’s events.
In line with its agenda, the special European Council held a strategic debate on Russia. The EU leaders condemns the illegal, provocative and disruptive Russian activities against the EU, its Member States and beyond. The European Council reaffirms the EU’s unity and solidarity in the face of such acts as well as its support to Eastern partners. The European Council reaffirms its commitment to the five principles governing EU policy vis-à-vis Russia. It invites the High Representative and the Commission to present a report with policy options on EU-Russia relations, in line with these principles, with a view to its meeting in June 2021.
During the first meeting day, the European Council also discussed the EU-UK relations following the entry into force of the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement on 1 May 2021. In addition, the European Council welcomed the ceasefire in the Middle East.