For Comprehensive Approach Against Belarus
The minister answered in the affirmative when asked whether Slovenia would be willing to endorse a list of businessmen and companies whose assets would be frozen by the EU and who would be banned from travelling to the EU, if the list would include other businessmen apart from Yuri Chizh.
"Indeed, we would accept the list then because this would mean a comprehensive approach to the implementation of economic sanctions, in which case we will have no scruples about supporting any such economic sanctions, for we are aware of the need to continue to exert pressure on the Belarus regime, and economic sanctions are certainly a possible means of pressure," the minister said.
Reports have suggested that Slovenia has been blocking new sanctions planned by the EU against Lukashenko's regime because of the inclusion of Chizh, the owner of a company that is to provide a half of the funding for a EUR 100m construction project in Minsk the contract for which has been won by Slovenian company Riko.
Sanctions against Lukashenko's regime were discussed by EU foreign ministers today in what Erjavec described as "lively" and "tiring" debate.
European diplomatic sources say that the Slovenian minister came under fire from some of his counterparts. They say Chizh's blacklisting was advocated foremost by Poland and Sweden.
British Foreign Secretary William Hague answered in the positive when asked by a reporter whether he was concerned about one EU member blocking one name on the list of people to be slapped with sanctions. He said it was important to increase the pressure and adopt sanctions.
Asked about the pressure on him, Erjavec said that it was just "normal diplomatic dialogue at the level of foreign ministers", adding that it was right for him as Slovenian foreign minister to advocate Slovenia's foreign policy interests.
EU member states decided in January to widen the reach of sanctions against Lukashenko's regime by extending the list of persons and companies punished with asset freeze and travel ban.
The sanctions were to be endorsed by the foreign ministers today, but this was prevented by Slovenia, which opposed the inclusion of oligarch Chizh in the list of persons to be affected by the sanctions.
"This does not mean Slovenia does not support sanctions, we support them, we believe human rights violations must be prevented, but we also advocate a comprehensive approach and that economic sanctions should be effective," Erjavec said.
The ministers did not confirm the original list that also included Chizh today, settling instead on a compromise to formally adopt sanctions against 21 judicial and police officials on Tuesday, and to decide on a list of businessmen and companies to be slapped with sanctions in March.
Asked why Chizh was the only businessman on the list, Erjavec said he too had been wondering about this interesting question. "The ministers were unable to answer when I put the question."
The minister said that Latvia had sided with Slovenia, but that he had expected stronger support from the country at a certain point.
Asked whether the endorsement of sanctions against Chizh in March would spell troubles for Riko's deal in Minsk, Erjavec said that he had learnt about the project from the papers, but that "this is not the point".
He said the point was rather in preventing unfair implementation of economic sanctions as there were several persons that would deserve to be placed on the list for sanctions. "If we want economic sanctions to be efficient, they need to affect all the persons who support such a regime."