EU leaders to discuss possible sanctions on forced landing of Ryanair in Minsk

Foreign policy matters, Covid-19, vaccines and climate are also on the agenda of the special meeting of the European Council

Photo: EU Charles Michel.

On Monday evening, EU leaders will meet in Brussels at a special two-day meeting of the European Council to exchange views on the fight against Covid-19 and to hold a strategic debate on EU-Russia relationship, on EU-UK relations, as well as on climate change. As an additional item on the agenda, they will discuss possible sanctions on forced landing of Ryanair in Minsk.

“I condemn in the strongest possible terms the forced landing of a Ryanair flight in Minsk, Belarus, on 23 May 2021 and the reported detention by Belarusian authorities of journalist Raman Pratasevich,” EUCO President Charles Michel  said in a Communiqué on Sunday.

I call on Belarus authorities to immediately release the detained passenger and to fully guarantee his rights, he also stressed adding that EU leaders will discuss this unprecedented incident during the European Council. He made it clear that this incident “will not remain without consequences”.

In a tweet, EC President Ursula von der Leyen also said that “the outrageous and illegal behaviour of the regime in Belarus will have consequences”, noting that “those responsible for the Ryanair hijacking must be sanctioned”.  She also wrote that journalist Roman Protasevich must be released immediately. “EUCO will discuss tomorrow action to take," von der Leyen stressed.

During the dinner on Monday the EU leaders will hold a strategic debate on Russia and will discuss EU-UK relations. It is expected the incident in Minsk will be discussed during the dinner as well.

The EUCO will briefly address the situation in the Middle East as well as preparations for the upcoming EU-US institutional Summit mid-June in which will take part US President Joe Biden.

On Tuesday, leaders will focus on the state of play of the coordination of the EU's response to Covid-19. With the pace of vaccinations increasing across the EU and entering a new phase of the pandemic response, the leaders will seek to prepare for a reopening ahead of the summer.

The recent agreement on the Digital Covid Certificates is a welcome step, Michel said in his invitation letter to the leaders. He underlined the need to continue EU coordinated approach to facilitate free movement throughout the EU. “It is nevertheless of utmost importance that we maintain our vigilance regarding new variants and that we are prepared to take action as necessary,” he added.

The leaders will also discuss international solidarity in fighting the pandemic. Saying that the EU is a leading vaccine producer, exporter and contributor to COVAX, Michel stressed that the leaders will address how, and to what extent, the EU can further step up its sharing of vaccines with the rest of the world.

On climate agenda, leaders will again touch upon the EU’s climate ambition for 2030 before the Commission's Fit‑For-55 package proposal. “This will be a good occasion for everybody to state their key priorities and concerns in this respect,” Michel explained.

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