European Union leaders agreed to impose more sanctions on Belarus, including economic ones, called on their airlines to avoid the former Soviet republic’s airspace and authorised work to ban Belarusian airlines from European skies and airports.
“It is a threat against civil aviation safety. It is a threat against international security,” European Council President Charles Michel told a news conference after the meeting.
Meeting in Brussels, the 27 national leaders of the bloc demanded an immediate release of dissident journalist Roman Protasevich, as well as an investigation by the International Organization for Civilian Aviation into a Sunday incident during which Belarus forced a Ryanair flight to land in Minsk.
“Belarus used its control over its airspace in order to perpetrate a state hijacking, therefore the safety and security of flights through Belarus airspace can no longer be trusted, “said the head of the bloc’s executive, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.
The EU currently has a travel ban and an asset freeze in place on 88 Belarusians, including Alexander Lukashenko, and 7 companies, over Minsk’s crackdown on protests following a contested presidential election last year.
Von der Leyen also said the European Union’s tensions with former member Britain were not due to problems with the Northern Ireland protocol agreed by both sides, but Brexit itself.
The former German defence minister added there could be no alternative to a full and correct implementation of the protocol.
“The protocol is the only possible solution to ensure peace and stability in Northern Ireland while protecting the integrity of the European Union single market,” she said.