Since October 2020, the EU has progressively imposed restrictive measures against Belarus. The measures were adopted in response to the fraudulent nature of the August 2020 presidential elections in Belarus, and the intimidation and violent repression of peaceful protesters, opposition members and journalists.
The democratic opposition, including the opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, was awarded the 2020 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought.
In May 2021 the EU leaders dealt with the forced landing of a Ryanair flight in Minsk and subsequent arrest of anti-government activist and journalist Raman Pratasevich. In a resolution adopted by the EP in June, MEPs strongly condemned the “Ryanair hijacking” as an act of ‘state terrorism’, and called for Raman Pratasevich and his girlfriend Sofia Sapega, as well as all other political prisoners in Belarus, to be immediately and unconditionally released.
The Council decided in June to reinforce restrictions on Belarus by introducing a ban on flights over EU airspace and on access to EU airports by Belarusian carriers of all kinds. A total of 183 individuals and 26 entities are now designated under the sanctions regime on Belarus. These include Belarusian President, Alexandr Lukashenko and his son and National Security Adviser, Viktor Lukashenko, as well as other key figures of the political leadership and of the government, high-level members of the judicial system and several prominent economic actors.
In a resolution adopted in October, Parliament expressed strong solidarity with Lithuania, Poland and Latvia, as well as other EU countries recently targeted by the Belarusian regime’s attempts to direct a substantial number of migrants and refugees towards the EU’s external borders - with hundreds of people detained after crossing over into the EU illegally and even some deaths. Parliament also stressed the need to consider bringing the case of Belarus to the International Court of Justice over crimes committed on a massive scale against the country’s citizens by the regime.
In November President of the EC Ursula von der Leyen called "the instrumentalisation of migrants for political purposes by Belarus" unacceptable. The EU must stand united in its response to the Belarusian regime’s inhuman instrumentalisation of migrants, MEPs repeated during the plenary debate and expressed their deep worries over the dramatic crisis unfolding at the Polish-Belarusian border.
On 7 february the Civil Liberties Committee discussed the situation of migrants in Poland and at the border with Belarus, with Poland’s Deputy Commissioner for Human Rights Hanna Machińska.