As the European Union gears up for imposing sanctions on Belarus for orchestrating migrant trafficking to the EU, Brussels is ready for even more restrictions if Minsk's behaviour does not change, Lithuania's Vice Foreign Minister Arnoldas Pranckevičius says.
“There's the principle that unless the Lukashenko regime changes its criminal behaviour, sanctions will be further expanded and imposed gradually. Naturally, agreement will have to be reached on every solution again, but, with no doubt, the risk of tougher sanctions that could have an impact on the Belarusian economy or its access to financial markets – it exists and that is an additional measure of pressure on the Belarusian regime,” Pranckevičius told LRT RADIO on Monday.
Read more: Migration crisis in Baltics and Poland
EU foreign ministers are set on Monday to decide on new sanctions for Belarus for fueling the migrant crisis near its borders with Poland, Lithuania and Latvia. Minister are expected to approve sanctions for airlines, travel agencies and officers linked to migrant trafficking to Belarus, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said on the eve of the meeting.
Pranckevičius says there are “around 30 subjects” on the initial list ministers are set to discuss on Monday, and sanctions could come into force over this week.
The vice minister also underlined that the decisions by Iraqi and Turkish airlines to cancel flights to Minsk or not to sell tickets to Iraqis and Yemenis were important and “a proof that sanctions are starting to work and airlines are starting to change their actions for fear of consequences”.
Tensions in EU member states bordering Belarus rose further last week when several thousand migrants massed the Belarusian-Polish border and some of them tried to force their way into Poland.
Fearing a similar scenario, Lithuanian has declared a state of emergency at the Belarusian border and in its migrant camps.
Over 4,200 irregular migrants have come to Lithuanian so far this year. Lithuania and other EU countries say Belarus is fueling the migrant inflow in retaliation for earlier sanctions.