On 27 February 2017, the Council decided to prolong the restrictive measures against Belarus for one year, until 28 February 2018. These measures include an arms embargo and an asset freeze and a travel ban against four people listed in connection with the unresolved disappearances of two opposition politicians, one businessman and one journalist in 1999 and in 2000. The Council also introduced an exemption to the restrictive measures to allow export of biathlon equipment to Belarus, which will remain subject to prior authorisation by national competent authorities on a case by case basis.
Tangible steps taken by Belarus to respect universal fundamental freedoms, rule of law and human rights will remain key for the shaping of the EU’s future policy towards Belarus, as stated in Council conclusions of 15 February 2016.
The restrictive measures against Belarus were first introduced in 2004 in response to the disappearance of the four persons referred to above The Council later adopted further restrictive measures against those involved in the violation of international electoral standards and international human rights law, as well as in the crackdown on civil society and democratic opposition. The arms embargo was introduced in 2011. On 15 February 2016, the Council decided to lift the restrictive measures against 170 individuals and three companies, while maintaining the arms embargo and the sanctions against the four persons. This decision was taken while acknowledging the steps taken by Belarus that have contributed to improving EU-Belarus relations.