Austria has lifted its block on attempts by the EU to slap fresh sanctions on the Belarusian banking sector, apparently moving away from its previous position that sanctions would push Minsk closer to Russia.
“Glad we found an agreement on Belarus sanctions that are robust & targeted,” tweeted Austrian Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg following the agreement on Friday (18 June).
“With this agreement, the EU is setting a clear sign against the unbearable repressions of the Belarus regime,” the foreign ministry added in a statement.
Austria was the only member state that has been blocking fresh EU sanctions against Belarusian banks. The country is the second-biggest investor in Belarus after Russia and Austrian banks are a dominant force in the Belarusian banking sector.
“It looks like Austria is putting commercial interests above human rights,” said Pavel Latushko, one of the leading opposition figures in Belarus, criticising the blockade.
Austria’s official position was that Vienna was blocking sanctions to avoid pushing Minsk closer to Russia and avoid harming the local population.
“It is in our common interest that Belarus is not pushed even further into the sphere of influence of Russia,” the foreign ministry said. (Oliver Noyan | EURACTIV.de)