Restrictive measures against Belarus: Fifth package of sanctions adopted by the Council of the European Union

On November 15, 2021, the Council of the European Union amended its sanctions regime in view of the situation at the EU border with Belarus to respond to the instrumentalization of human beings carried out by the Belarus regime for political purposes. As a result, the EU adopted Regulations (EU) 2021/1985 and 2021/1986, amending Regulation (EC) 765/2006 concerning restrictive measures against Belarus.

Regulation (EC) 765/2006 affects the sanctions framework of restrictive measures against Belarus; the framework was expanded in 2020 and 2021 in light of the fraudulent presidential elections in August 2020 and the hijacking of an intra-EU Ryanair flight to Minsk, Belarus, in May 2021. The sanctions regime was amended by way of a Council decision and a Council regulation, broadening the listing criteria on which specific designations can be based to target individuals and entities organizing or contributing to activities by the Lukashenko regime that facilitate illegal crossing of the EU’s external borders.

These new sanctions come shortly after another package of sector-based economic sanctions entered into force on June 25, 2021, with Council Regulation (EU) 2021/1030. Those target a broad range of technology and software, dual-use goods and technology, tobacco, petroleum, and potash products, and financial services.

The restrictive measures set out in the original Regulation (EC) 765/2006 include product restrictions, including a ban on the export of arms and equipment used for internal repression, as well as bans affecting the tobacco, petroleum product, and potash product sectors. Subjective restrictive measures are in the pipeline, including freezing assets and a ban on making funds or economic resources available to listed persons and entities. The regulation also provides financial restrictions, including prohibitions on financing and on the purchase, sale, and provision of investment services and assistance in the issuance of securities, as well as a prohibition on any insurance and reinsurance activities for Belarusian public entities.

In the context of these recently introduced new measures, Regulation (EU) 2021/1985 amends Article 2 of Regulation (EC) 765/2006, introducing new designation criteria with respect to individuals or entities facilitating illegal crossing of the external borders of the EU and illegal transfer of goods within the territory of the EU, as well as with respect to legal persons, entities, and bodies related to or controlled by the aforementioned persons, entities, and bodies. Additionally, Regulation (EU) 2021/1986, provides further restrictions on the provision of insurance and reinsurance services to the government of Belarus and its bodies, with some exceptions.

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