Lithuania’s Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis: The foundation for imposing sanctions on the organisers of migrant smuggling was laid in Brussels
On 15 April in Brussels, the Minister of Foreign Affairs Gabrielius Landsbergis attended the Foreign Affairs Council meeting. Foreign affairs ministers expressed the unanimous support of EU member states for the countries facing crisis at their state borders - Lithuania, Poland and Latvia - and took a decision on the application of broader sanctions against the Belarusian regime that had orchestrated a flow of irregular migrants to the EU countries.
“Today’s decision opens the way and provides a legal framework for sanctioning companies and actors, that are organising the smuggling of irregular migrants — such as tourism agencies, Belarusian airports or companies providing services for aircraft on land. The main flights to Minsk National Airport were suspended. But if new routes emerge and airports continue to participate in migrant smuggling schemes, the EU will benefit from the legal framework, which was created today. We already heard today about intentions to launch flights from some other capitals to Minsk. That is why we need the instruments that were created today. And, I believe, we will have enough will to use them", said Landsbergis.
The Council supported the application of broader sanctions against Alexander Lukashenko's regime, which was orchestrating a flow of irregular migrants and the illegal smuggling of prohibited or restricted goods into the territory of EU member states. This was necessary in order to sanction persons and entities responsible for or contributing to the organisation of irregular migration and smuggling.
EU foreign affairs ministers also endorsed a scope of the fifth package of sanctions against the Belarusian regime, and defined categories of persons to be sanctioned. The implementation and application of sanctions will be adopted by the working groups of the Council in the coming weeks.
“Actions by the Belarusian regime are becoming more and more unpredictable. The use of migrants in this hybrid attack has undermined the international law and all humanitarian principles. If we do not take decisive action now, Lukashenko’s provocations will continue and the ongoing hybrid attack against the EU will only intensify. Europe must act swiftly and clearly to suspend all flights to Minsk immediately and to ensure necessary assistance to the migrants stranded along the EU-Belarus border, including the possibility of their repatriation," said Lithuania’s Foreign Minister. Landsbergis also added that Lithuania was ready to provide technical assistance to Belarus regarding the return of the migrants to their countries of origin.
According to Landsbergis, positive messages are sent by EU partners, who decided not to operate flights to Minsk or to stop selling tickets to potential migrants. Lithuania’s Foreign Minister stressed the need for further discussions with the countries of origin and transit not only about the suspension of flights, but also about the repatriation of persons stranded at the borders.
“We also need to cooperate with international organisations — the United Nations and its specialised institutions, the International Organisation for Migration, the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe — to prevent the regime from exploiting vulnerable people and from weaponising them in the context of its attack against the EU. It is also important to exert pressure on the Belarusian regime to obtain a permission for these organisations to provide humanitarian assistance to the migrants that are stranded along the borders, and to work together to facilitate a humanitarian corridor and safe return of the stranded migrants to their countries of origin,” said Landsbergis.