Polish FM initiative on Belarus backed by Latvia, Estonia and Finland

An initiative by Polish Foreign Minister Jacek Czaputowicz to organise a meeting of EU foreign ministers on the elections in Belarus was supported on Tuesday by his counterparts from Latvia, Estonia and Finland at a conference in the Latvian capital of Riga.

Czaputowicz, on a one-day visit to Riga, has taken part in events marking the 100th anniversary of the Latvian–Soviet Peace Treaty and met with his Latvian counterpart Edgars Rinkevics. He also attended a discussion panel with the ministers of foreign affairs of Lithuania, Estonia and Finland, Linas Linkevicius, Urmas Reinsalu and Pekka Haavisto, respectively.

The meeting of foreign leaders focused on the clashes in Minsk, which erupted following the announcement of presidential exit polls according to which Alexander Lukashenko was re-elected president having allegedly acquired 80 percent of the vote in the elections of August 9. His main contender Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya ostensibly garnered 9.9 percent of the vote.

The ministers supported Czaputowicz's proposal to the EU High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell to organise talks between the heads of the EU's foreign ministries.

Minister Czaputowicz described the current situation in Belarus as the greatest challenge for Europe. He recalled the conditions that Poland also submitted to the Belarusian authorities, including the release of political prisoners and an end to the use of force against peaceful protesters.

Regarding Belarusian refugees, Czaputowicz assessed that Belarusians should have the right to visit EU countries, and in particular, as he noted, this applies to young people who can learn about European standards and values.

"We do not expect a high number of refugees from Belarus, if this happens, we will try to meet the requirements and not leave them without support," he said.

The Polish FM and his counterparts did not rule out the possibility of introducing EU sanctions against the Minsk authorities, but declared he still believes in a peaceful solution to the conflict in Belarus.

According to Haavisto, the elections in Belarus were not democratic and Europe should do more for the country. "I fully support the Polish initiative for the EU foreign ministers to meet as soon as possible," he said.