EU ambassadors will soon discuss the extension of the embargo on selling weapons to Belarus. The matter has been reviewed annually since 2011, and requires the consent of all 28 EU member-states.
However, this year there is reason to believe that the extension of the embargo may be blocked by Hungary, which has already exempt biathlon rifles and other sport weapons from the embargo.
Diplomatic sources told Radio Liberty that Hungary has already warned that, before supporting the arms embargo, it would like to see the partnership document adopted by the EU on its future relations with Minsk.
The document, titled “Priorities of the Belarusian Partnership”, has been discussed for two years by Brussels and Minsk, and includes topics such as contact between people, environmental issues, economic collaboration and human rights.
It was supposed to be ready for signing in 2018, but Lithuania has insisted on including several guarantees concerning the nuclear power stations that are being build with Russian financing in Belarus before it will approve the text.
The EU imposed an embargo on arms shipments to Belarus in 2011, and banned visas and froze the assets of four Belarusian companies and 174 people, including President Alexander Lukashenko himself, following the brutal repression of protesters after the December 2010 presidential elections.
In January this year, EU officials have discussed the matter of extending the embargo on several occasions. Apart from Hungry, all the other EU member-states want to keep the question of its extension separate from the confirmation of the Priorities of the Belarusian Partnership document.
The matter will be taken up by EU ambassadors early in February, and the deadline for discussing the embargo is 28 February.
In February 2016, the EU removed the four companies and 170 people from the sanctions list, citing the improved human rights situation in the former Soviet republic.
The four people who remained under sanctions are believed to have played a key role in the unresolved disappearance of four Belarusians between 1999 and 2000, and are expected to remain on the list regardless of what happens with the arms embargo.
The sources remarked that Hungary has never before spoken out so openly about the sanctions imposed by the EU on Russia and its satellites.