If the European Union does not impose sanctions on Belarusian officials, EU member states neighbouring Belarus could consider imposing their own national sanctions, Poland’s foreign minister said on Monday.
Zbigniew Rau, speaking at a news conference in Budapest, said he hoped the EU would be able to reach a consensus soon on penalties, which he said were needed in view of the “evident violation of human rights” in Belarus against protesters.
“This issue (of sanctions) has been delayed due to the objection by one of the EU members, but we will come back to this at the EU forum,” Rau said via an interpreter after meeting Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto.
Cyprus has blocked an EU plan to impose sanctions against Belarus over alleged election fraud and human rights abuses due to a separate dispute with Turkey.
The issue has embarrassed the EU, highlighting how easily decision-making can become paralysed in areas such as foreign policy where unanimity among the 27 member states is required.
Belarus was plunged into turmoil following a presidential election last month that President Alexander Lukashenko says he won by a landslide, but the opposition says was rigged. In power for 26 years, he has shown scant inclination to resign, buoyed by support from Russia.
Poland, which shares a border with Belarus, wants the EU to offer Minsk financial aid of at least 1 billion euros ($1.18 billion) as part of a ‘Marshall Plan’ to rebuild the country and help make it less reliant on Russia.
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who is often at loggerheads with the EU over his tough stance on migration and over democratic freedoms, has defended the right of a single member state to prevent the whole bloc from making decisions.
“Don’t humiliate Cyprus,” Orban told Reuters in an interview on Friday. “Sanctions could be negotiated again and again, and if there is a unanimity … we can do so. But now there is no agreement.”