On 23 November, the European Commission proposed a new legal framework allowing the EU to adopt targeted measures against transport operators. This will help ensure that the EU has the appropriate tools in place to response to state-sponsored instrumentalisation of people at the EU’s external border with Belarus.
This proposal concerns operators of any mode of transport (land, air, inland waterways, and sea), that engage in or facilitate smuggling or trafficking of people into the European Union. Measures would be proportionate and determined on a case-by-case basis.
The type of measures could include the limitation of operations in the Union market, the suspension of licences or authorisations, the suspension of the rights to refuel or carry out maintenance within the EU, and the prohibition to transit or fly over the EU, make technical stops or call into EU ports.
Commenting on this proposal, the president of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen said that the cynical blackmail by the Lukashenko regime has had the opposite effect: “…The whole of Europe stands united in solidarity with Lithuania, Poland and Latvia on this issue. And Europe is acting on four tracks: humanitarian support; diplomatic outreach to countries of origin; sanctions against people and entities in Belarus and sanctions against transport operators facilitating human trafficking and smuggling; protection of the border:” She added that the EU is the process of coordinating its sanctions with the United States, Canada, and the UK.
Josep Borrell, High Representative of the European Union, also commented on the situation: “If Lukashenko wanted to put pressure on us in order to make us to cancel the sanctions, I think that he has missed the game, because what he has got is a new round of sanctions. And now he will have to contribute and to take care of these people who are on their territory in order to make them have a dignified treatment and, when possible, a return to their homes.”
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