“I will call a meeting of the members of the European Council this Wednesday at 12 noon to discuss the situation in Belarus,” the president of the Council, Charles Michel, said on Twitter on Monday.
The European Council is an EU institution that sets out the bloc’s priorities. It consists of the heads of state or government of member countries, together with its president and the head of the European Commission.
“The people of Belarus have the right to decide on their future and freely elect their leader,” Michel said in his tweet.
He added: “Violence against protesters is unacceptable and cannot be allowed."
The announcement came as the EU is preparing to impose new sanctions on Belarus in response to a violent crackdown on anti-government protesters in that country.
According to the Reuters news agency, the 27 EU leaders are likely to discuss what other support they can extend to Belarus, with initial ideas including starting a fund for victims of repression and funding projects to support media pluralism there.
Other support could include providing advice on police reform, enhancing student exchanges with the EU and granting easier access to the bloc's labour market for Belarusian workers, Reuters reported.
Poland, the Czech Republic, the three Baltic states and
Denmark have also called for EU mediation between the Belarusian government and the opposition, according to Reuters.
Tens of thousands of protesters have taken to the streets of Minsk and other cities in Belarus in recent days to contest the widely-disputed re-election victory of the country’s strongman president, Alexander Lukashenko.
The EU’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said in a statement last week that the contested Belarus presidential vote on Sunday, August 9, was "neither free nor fair."
On Friday, EU foreign ministers agreed that the bloc should start working on sanctions against those held responsible for violence in Belarus and those accused of rigging the country’s presidential election, Poland’s PAP news agency reported.
Polish lawmakers on Friday condemned the use of "brutal violence and mass repression" by authorities in neighbouring Belarus against protesters refusing to accept the results of the contested presidential election.
Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki last week called for a special summit of EU leaders to focus on Belarus.
Polish government spokesman Piotr Müller tweeted on Sunday that Morawiecki was keeping in close touch with other European leaders as they monitored the situation in Belarus amid growing post-election tensions in that country.
Polish Deputy Defence Minister Wojciech Skurkiewicz said on Monday that Poland was closely monitoring the situation on its border with Belarus amid plans for Belarusian military drills this week in the Grodno region bordering Poland and Lithuania.
Source: IAR, PAP, Reuters