“The EU economic and investment package for Belarus worth EUR 3 bn, which was ready for launch, has been frozen,” Ursula von der Leyen, the head of the European Commission announced on Monday before the European Council summit in Brussels.
“The economic and investment package for Belarus worth EUR 3 bn, which was ready to be launched, has been frozen until Belarus becomes democratic,” Ms von der Leyen said. This is a reaction to the Ryanair aeroplane being forced to land in Minsk.
This plan, an initiative of the prime ministers of the Visegrad Group countries, was approved at the European Council summit in October last year. It assumed, inter alia, creating a stabilisation fund, supporting small and medium-sized enterprises, opening the EU single market to entrepreneurs from Belarus and visa facilitation.
“We will focus very much on the hijacking of the Ryanair flight by the Belarusian authorities. There will be a very strong response. This scandalous behavior and the regime of Alexander Lukashenko must understand that it will have severe consequences. Today, we will discuss the possibility of sanctions against individual persons who were involved in this hijacking as well as sanctions against companies and economic entities that finance this regime. We are also considering sanctions against the Belarusian aviation sector,” the head of the EC stressed.
A Ryanair aeroplane flying from Athens to Vilnius was forced to land in Minsk on Sunday after information about a bomb on board. The airline announced that it had received a landing order from air traffic controllers at the Belarusian airport. A fighter of the Belarusian air forces was scrambled to put pressure.
The information about a bomb on board was not confirmed. After landing in Minsk, the Belarusian militia detained the opposition journalist and blogger Raman Protasevich, who was on board. The Belarusian authorities were searching for him with an arrest warrant.