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EU set to tighten sanctions on Belarus - Breton

FILE PHOTO: European Union Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton holds a video news conference, to present a "White Paper" to better arm the EU against unfair competition from heavily subsidised foreign companies, at the European Commission in Brussels, Belgium June 17, 2020. Kenzo Tribouillard/Pool via REUTERS

PARIS (Reuters) - European Union leaders are set to tighten sanctions against Belarus at an emergency video conference on the crisis on Wednesday, EU Industry Commissioner Thierry Breton said.

“It is clear that (the outcome of the Belarus presidential election) is not in line with the wish of the people, there has been unacceptable violence, and the rule of law is not respected. Sanctions have already been taken and will no doubt be reinforced this afternoon,” Breton told Europe 1 radio.

He added that talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin would take into account the nature of Belarus’ relationship with Russia.

“Belarus is not Europe, it is on border of Europe, between Europe and Russia, and the situation is not comparable to Ukraine or Georgia. Belarus is really strongly connected with Russia and the majority of the population is favourable to close links with Russia,” he said.

Breton also said that aid within a 750 billion euro European coronavirus recovery package would be conditioned on respect for the rule of law in member states.

“Every six months we verify whether countries respect a certain number of criteria, notably the rule of law. The decision to provide funds (as part of the recovery plan) will be conditioned on respect for these criteria,” he said.

He added that talks about this issue are ongoing with a number of countries, including Hungary.

Breton also said that following the military coup in Mali, the European Union would push for a democratic process that respected the constitution, adding that there must be elections within a reasonable timeframe.

Reporting by Geert De Clercq; Editing by Toby Chopra