I am happy to see you [journalists] here physically, in person.
Today, at this meeting in Luxembourg, the first thing is to talk about Belarus. We are first going to have a meeting with the Belarus opposition leader, Ms [Sviatlana] Tsikhanouskaya. She will explain the situation in the country; there will be a debate; and then we will approve the package of new sanctions, which is a wide package. I think it is about 86 people or entities. Not only people, but also entities.
Then we will also discuss about the economic sanctions, which will be presented to the European Council at its next meeting. The European Council, as you know, does not take decisions, but gives political guidelines. The economic sanctions, which affect the economy of Belarus, are going to be discussed here today and will be approved after consideration by the European Council.
Then we are going to have a meeting also with the Foreign Affairs Minister of Iraq, in a lunch with him. The situation in Iraq is also worrisome and we will see what we can do in order to help this country.
Latin America will be the third issue. Since I am here [in the position of High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy], I have been trying to make people understand that Latin America is not on our political agenda enough. The COVID-19 situation in Latin America is really appalling. Frankly speaking, it is decreasing everywhere in the world, but not in Latin America where it continues to increase. And we have to do more for Latin America. There are two Association Agreements on the way and we have to accelerate them. And then, for sure, there is the issue of Mercosur. We are going to take stock of the whole relationship with Latin America.
There are many other issues on which we have to put our attention: Ethiopia, Turkey. I am coming back from Turkey and Lebanon. In Lebanon, I sent a clear message about the need for the political class to be able to agree on a government, because the country cannot stay without a government in such a difficult situation.
We will have an overview of the situation in the world, but the main issues are Belarus, Iraq and Latin America.
Q. On Belarus what economic sanctions do you expect?
I do not expect, I am working on it. Economic sanctions will affect economic sectors of the Belarusian economy.
Follow-up: Which sectors?
Sorry I cannot explain it to you before presenting it to the European Council.
Q. The sanctions were already discussed at COREPER on Friday, what are we talking about?
Yes, it has been discussed in the working groups, it has been discussed at the level of COREPER, and no decision will be taken until having the political agreement of the European Council. But it will affect the sectors of the Belarusian economy which are directly linked to exports and [you can] imagine which.
Q. What do you hope to achieve with these economic sanctions?
Sanctions are a way of putting pressure on the government of Belarus. And these [sanctions] are going to hurt the economy of Belarus, heavily. What do you expect when you punish something? To change their behaviour.
Q. Are you telling us that it is not yet agreed what kind of economic sanctions the Council will agree?
It will not be decided until the discussions at the European Council.
Q. Est-ce que vous êtes satisfaits qu’ils aient mis aussi peu de temps pour se mettre d’accord sur des sanctions économiques ? Est-ce qu’enfin vous avez l’impression que l’Union européenne commence à apprendre le langage du pouvoir et de la puissance?
Nous nous sommes décidés à prendre des mesures économiques ; c’est un pas important. Normalement on reste dans les mesures qui affectent des individus, et on comprend pourquoi, parce que quand on touche l’économie d’un pays on touche les gens et nous. Nous essayons de ne pas toucher les gens qui n’y sont pour rien, qui ne sont pas coupables.
Mais à un certain moment il faut prendre des mesures beaucoup plus fortes, qui vont toucher le secteur économique plus en profondeur. Désolé cela va toucher l’économie donc les gens ; mais le gouvernement ne change pas son attitude. Il y a plus de 500 prisonniers politiques, nous avons assisté au spectacle horrible d’un journaliste [Raman Pratasevich] qui a été kidnappé, en faisant une sorte de confession style Maoïste en disant ‘Oui, je suis coupable’ devant les caméras de télévision. Donc il faut utiliser tous les moyens que nous pouvons mobiliser. Et les sanctions économiques sont là pour cela.
Q. Do you expect the Minister to be united on the economic sanctions?
I think the Ministers will agree.
Follow-up: Because there was a disagreement with Austria.
You know more than I do.
Q. What is your reaction to the Iranian elections?
We hope that the Iranian elections and the new President [Ebrahim Raisi] will not affect the ongoing negotiations in Vienna about how to go back to the JCPOA [Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the Iran nuclear] deal. That is for us the most important issue.
Follow-up: Is an agreement within reach in Vienna or it is still difficult to get to the agreement?
It is still difficult but we are still discussing, and we expect that the change of leadership in Iran will not affect the possibilities of reaching a deal.
Q. On Lebanon: [inaudible]
It is not going to be easy, it is not easy. We have been waiting for nine months for a government to be formed. Lebanon cannot wait anymore because they are on the brink of a big financial crisis, and the country needs someone in the driving seat, they need a government. We are going to push for them to agree on that.
Follow-up: Is the European Union ready to take restrictive measures?
Let us see.
Link to the video: https://audiovisual.ec.europa.eu/en/video/I-208011