October 15, 2012 - 12:11 AMT
PanARMENIAN.Net - The foreign ministers of 27 EU countries will meet in Luxembourg on Monday, Oct 15 to consider extending sanctions on Belarus by one year over human rights abuses, lack of legitimacy and failure to respect democratic principles in the country, according to RIA Novosti.
“The Foreign Affairs Council will hold a broader debate on Belarus, on 15 October, when sanctions will come under review,” Maja Kocijancic, the spokesperson for EU High Representative Catherine Ashton, said Sept 24, the day after the parliamentary elections in Belarus.
New companies and individuals are likely to be added to the list of some 270 Belarusian entities and people already blacklisted.
The last time sanctions were renewed, on March 23, they were targeted at those Belarusian individuals, organizations and companies "benefiting from and supporting the regime," and according to the EU, infringing human rights.
Belarus has been subject to EU sanctions since 1996, two years after Lukashenko became president, though they were temporarily suspended in 1999 and 2008.
The West accuses the Belarusian authorities of persecuting the political opposition and the denial of basic rights and freedoms, in particular freedom of expression.
Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko maintains that pressure on Minsk is pointless and said he hopes the European Union will try to regain its credibility as a serious partner and a good neighbor.
Belarusian-EU relations worsened in late February when the EU expanded its sanctions against Belarus over its alleged human rights violations, after which Minsk ordered the Polish and EU ambassadors to leave the country. All EU ambassadors were withdrawn in response. In late March the EU further expanded the list of Belarusian officials and companies covered by the sanctions.
Relations worsened further after Belarus expelled Swedish Ambassador Stefan Eriksson in August over an incident in which a Swedish light aircraft dropped hundreds of teddy bears bearing pro-democracy slogans over Belarus in July.
The EU also criticized the September parliamentary elections in Belarus, which according to Brussels, failed to meet international democratic standards. All 110 seats to the country's parliament, the National Council were won by pro-Lukashenko candidates.