Josep Borrell, the EU’s top diplomat | Mohamed el-Shahed/AFP via Getty Images

By JACOPO BARIGAZZI 

Josep Borrell says any sanctions ‘should be adopted before the European Council if we want to keep European credibility.’

The EU does not recognize Alexander Lukashenko as the president of Belarus, the bloc’s top diplomat said Tuesday.

“We are using all the tools that we have at our disposal to contribute to the end of the violent repression that has been developing in Belarus after the elections, which we do not consider to have legitimately elected Lukashenko,” Josep Borrell, the EU’s high representative for foreign affairs and security policy, told MEPs.

Lukashenko, who has been in power for 26 years, claimed victory after the contested August 9 presidential election, triggering mass protests that have been met with brutality, arrests and violence.

After the election, the EU said the result was “neither free nor fair” and urged the Belarus leadership to open dialogue with the opposition with the mediation of the Vienna-based Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). It also called for an end to the violence and opted for what it described as a “gradual” approach on Minsk.

EU leaders decided at a meeting last month to impose sanctions on “a substantial number” of people responsible for violence, repression and the falsification of the election result, and said that the EU does not recognize the electoral result. But they stopped short of explicitly calling for new elections and hitting Lukashenko with sanctions, as requested by Lithuania and Estonia. 

At the end of last month, Borrell called for a re-run of the election under the OSCE’s supervision and, speaking in front of the European Parliament on Tuesday, he added that sanctions “should be adopted before the European Council if we want to keep European credibility,” referring to a meeting of EU leaders next week.

So far the list of Belarus officials facing sanctions has reached more than 30 names, according to two diplomats, and includes the interior minister. EU ambassadors are expected to discuss Belarus sanctions on Wednesday, but diplomats were cautious about saying that Borrell’s words mean that Lukashenko could be put back on the EU sanctions list (he was under EU sanctions until 2016, when Belarus released a number of political prisoners).