The European Union has suspended visa facilitation arrangements for Belarusian government officials in response to Minsk's hostile actions using migrants, the Council of the EU announced on Tuesday.
“The Council today adopted a decision partially suspending the application of the EU-Belarus visa facilitation agreement,” the institution representing EU member states said in a press statement.
The decision means that Belarusian government officials will not be able to apply for EU visas using simplified procedures reducing the number of required documents and the administration fee.
The statement also notes that the sanctions do not concern ordinary citizens, as can still “enjoy the same benefits under the visa facilitation agreement” in place since July 2020.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on Monday called for new sanctions on Belarus in response to a growing migration crisis at its border with Poland.
“The EU will in particular explore how to sanction, including through blacklisting, third country airlines that are active in human trafficking,” she added.
The European Union accuses Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko of seeking revenge for EU sanctions on his regime by inviting “tourists” from countries that are the main sources of migration to the bloc.
The EU has imposed sanctions against 166 individuals and 15 entities from Belarus over human rights violations related to a crackdown on protests against the August 2020 rigged elections.
In June, the bloc banned overflights through EU airspace and access to EU airports for all Belarusian aircraft after the forced diversion of a Ryanair flight to the capital Minsk and the detention of Belarusian journalist Raman Pratasevich and his partner.
EU countries bordering Belarus – Lithuania, Latvia and Poland – have been reporting a dramatically growing number of irregular crossings since August.
According to the latest estimates from last month, over 6,000 migrants, mostly from Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria, tried to enter the bloc via the Belarus-EU border, a sharp rise from last year’s 150.