Europe's week: Failed sanctions and a rebooted migration policy

An elderly woman reacts as police officers detain women during an opposition rally to protest the official presidential election results in Minsk, Belarus, Saturday, Sept. 19,
An elderly woman reacts as police officers detain women during an opposition rally to protest the official presidential election results in Minsk, Belarus, Saturday, Sept. 19, Copyright AP/
Copyright AP/
By Stefan Grobe
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Sanctions against Belarusian strongman, Alexander Lukashenko, failed to materialise this week, as the EU launched its much anticipated and revamped migration pact.


Alexander Lukashenko had perhaps a better week than previous ones, as he was sworn in as president in a very low-key ceremony.

After claiming victory in a disputed election that the opposition has described as rigged, he hastily held his presidential inauguration in secret.

No people, no protests. Just clean and empty streets. That all changed later when thousands hit the streets to demonstrate.


Diplomatically Lukashenko could relax as well.

EU foreign ministers were unable to agree on sanctions against him, referring the matter to the heads of state and government.

But their summit meeting this week was cancelled because European Council president Charles Michel had to self-quarantine after being in contact with a COVID-infected aide.

Which meant that there were no sanctions yet – despite Belarus opposition leader Svetlana Tsikhanouskaya visiting Brussels this week and pleading with the EU to get tough on Lukashenko.

"We expect them not to recognise Lukashenko as the legitimate president of our country. Just to impose sanctions to everybody who is involved in violations in our country," Tsikhanouskaya said.

And it was Cyprus who were the ones holding up the sanctions, arguing that parallel measures against Turkey be enforced, for their provocative actions in the East Mediterranean.

Not that this has anything to do with Belarus, rather much with Cyprus' national interests.

Cyprus and Greece have been at odds for years over maritime boundaries for commercial exploitation and now want to punish Turkey – something that is highly controversial within the EU.


This is not the only home-made diplomatic crisis the EU is facing.

This week, the European Commission presented a proposal for a new migration pact, easily the most divisive topic inside Europe.

Ursula von der Leyen is hoping for everyone's support, yet long-time nemesis Hungary is already making clear that there will only be a new policy if it is exactly like the old policy, which Fidesz MEP, Balazs Hidveghi explained.

"The position of Hungary has been crystal clear. Since 2015 we said no to illegal migration. We say no to the relocation and quotas, nothing has changed in that sense, so we reject these notions.”

Dinner in the sky

It's true, European diplomats had a hard time this week. And they probably are longing for a moment to leave it all behind.

But in Brussels, they can now leave everything 50 metres behind and have a good time.

It's the “Dinner in the Sky” that will help you forget all diplomatic trouble, as you will probably experience new fear and frictions.


The diners are tied to their seats and to a table and then suspended above the ground using a crane.

Responding to social distancing rules, the restaurant hosts eight tables around a central kitchen.

The gastronomic platform in central Brussels is open until October 2nd.

Perhaps a good diplomatic crisis might be preferable to this dizzying dinner though.

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