Belarus: Expert discusses EU response following interception
The EU Commission President was sent a letter by a group of MEPs from the EPP, the S&D, Renew Europe and the Greens warning “a lack of action by the Commission by 1 June 2021, will be considered a ‘failure to act’, under which the European Parliament will bring legal action against the Commission.”
They added: “With the deadline of 1 June 2021 in sight, we call on the Commission to take the first steps.
“Any other course of action will leave no other choice but to push for legal action.”
Katarina Barley, Birgit Sippel, Róża Thun, Sophie in’t Veld, Katalin Cseh, and Daniel Freund signed a draft joint statement, seen by Politico.
The statement cites EU regulations aimed at ensuring the accountability of the European Commission and the European Council and the opportunity for EU institutions to issue legal proceedings against one another should they fall short of their duties to EU citizens.
The ultimatum was issued on Monday evening after EU leaders called for Belarusian airlines to be banned from the 27-nation bloc’s airspace and urged EU-based carriers to avoid flying over the former Soviet republic.
Ursula von der Leyen urged to act by June 1 against Belarus or face legal action
Belarus Ryanair flight: Roman Protasevich was arrested after the hijack
Belarus scrambled a warplane to intercept a Ryanair aircraft and arrest a dissident journalist, an act one official denounced as “state piracy”.
In a video posted online, the detained blogger, Roman Protasevich, 26, said he was in good health, being held in a pretrial detention facility in Minsk, and acknowledged having played a role in organising mass disturbances in the capital last year.
In the video on the Telegram messaging app, he wore a dark sweatshirt and clasped his hands tightly in front of him. The comments were immediately dismissed by his allies, including his father, as having been made under duress.
A Polish deputy foreign minister, Pawel Jablonski, told private broadcaster TVN24 his government had heard from Mr Protasevich’s mother about his being in poor health, but provided no details.
READ MORE: Ryanair blasts Belarus for aviation ‘piracy’ – statement IN FULL
Belarus’ Interior Ministry said Mr Protasevich was being held in jail and had not complained of ill health.
EU leaders also agreed to widen the list of Belarusian individuals they already sanction and called on the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) to urgently investigate Belarus forcing a Ryanair plane to land in Minsk on a Greece-Lithuania flight on Sunday.
Belgian Prime Minister Alexander de Croo told journalists ahead of the EU summit: “The reaction should be swift and be severe.”
Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney, using language that was echoed by a number of other EU countries, said: “This was effectively aviation piracy, state-sponsored.”
The EU and other Western countries also called for the release of Mr Protasevich, who was detained when the plane landed.
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Belarus: The EU and the United States imposed several rounds of financial sanctions against Minsk
Some airlines and countries did not wait for guidance on how to respond to the diversion of the Ryanair flight.
Britain said it was instructing British airlines to cease flights over Belarus and it would suspend the air permit for Belarus’s national carrier, Belavia, with immediate effect.
KLM, the Dutch arm of carrier Air France KLM, will temporarily halt flights, Dutch news agency ANP reported.
The EU and the United States imposed several rounds of financial sanctions against Minsk last year, which had no effect on the behaviour of authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko, who withstood mass demonstrations against his rule after a disputed election.
Lukashenko denies election fraud. Since the disputed vote, authorities rounded up thousands of his opponents, with all major opposition figures now in jail or exile.
Belarus says it acted in response to a false bomb threat written in the name of the Palestinian militant group Hamas.
Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum denied his group had any knowledge or connection to the matter.
Belarus said its ground controllers had given guidance to the flight but had not ordered it to land. State media said the intervention was ordered personally by Lukashenko.
Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary, who referred to the incident as a state-sponsored hijacking, said he believed security agents had been on the flight.
Lithuanian authorities said five passengers never arrived, suggesting three others besides detainees Protasevich and Sapega had disembarked in Minsk.
Russia, which has provided security, diplomatic and financial backing to Lukashenko, accused the West of hypocrisy.