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EU plans to introduce its third package of sanctions in December; the National Bank claims that even disconnecting the country from SWIFT will not cause serious harm. Belarus, December 4, 2020

Economic sanctions, planned in the third package of sanctions from the European Union against the official Minsk, will come into force in December. The National Bank presented arguments to prove the harmlessness of disconnecting the country from SWIFT, which has been much discussed lately as an extreme measure of pressure on Belarusian authorities. A well-known buyer of Belarusian oil will pay more than $ 160million in fines for bribes in Latin America. Foreign tourists are afraid of legal contradictions when entering Belarus.

The third package of EU sanctions against Belarus will be introduced in mid-December

The EU countries plan to launch the third package of sanctions against Belarus in mid-December. A source in EU institutions told TASS about it.

«The EU countries are preparing a new package of sanctions on Belarus by mid-December,» the source said.

With the third package of sanctions, the EU is expanding pressure on the Belarusian authorities. If earlier it was about personal sanctions against officials, now it has been decided to extend them to companies that «finance President Alexander Lukashenko.» This means that many state-owned companies and businesses of entrepreneurs close to the head of state may be subject to restrictions.

Seven non-EU countries have also joined the new package of sanctions against the official Minsk. In particular, the EU’s restrictive measures were supported by candidates for EU membership North Macedonia, Montenegro and Albania. In addition to them, the countries of the European Economic Area Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway, as well as Ukraine, joined the decision of the EU Council on the third package of sanctions against Belarus.

These states expressed solidarity with the position of the EU, which condemned «election fraud and violation of human rights» in Belarus.

The European Union intends to continue to consistently increase pressure on Alexander Lukashenko until he agrees to a dialogue with the opposition.

National Bank does not consider a threat of disconnecting Belarusian banks from SWIFT as serious

The National Bank does not see any objective reasons for revising the existing format of relations between Belarusian banks and the SWIFT system and does not consider the likelihood of this risk materializing as high. This statement was made by the Belarusian regulator today.

The official statement says that some countries of the world use SWIFT to transfer financial messages both for cross-border payments and for domestic ones, while the internal system for transferring financial information of the National Bank has been operating in Belarus since 1999. A similar system operates in the Russian Federation.

All payments of legal entities in the country (including the calculation of salaries and pensions) are provided either within one bank or using the automated interbank settlement system of the National Bank. This means that payments of legal entities in the country do not depend on SWIFT, the National Bank emphasizes.

As for the functioning of the non-cash settlement system for retail payments, the operation of these systems is also not related to SWIFT. They will function normally even if certain problems arise in the interaction of Belarusian banks with the SWIFT system. This also applies to bank payment cards issued for accounts in currencies different from the Belarusian ruble.

It should be noted that outside the country, Belarusians can pay with bank payment cards of international payment systems in Belarusian rubles. They can also use cards of the BELKART payment system in the countries where the Mir payment system is present, and these are Russia, Abkhazia, Uzbekistan, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Turkey, Great Britain, the United Arab Emirates, Thailand, South Ossetia.

In addition, the integration of the Belarusian and Russian systems can ensure the exchange of financial messages on the territory of the two countries, similar to SWIFT. A number of Belarusian banks are already connected to the Russian system, the rest are in the process of being connected. The SWIFT system and the integration work autonomously from each other, so banks can be connected to two systems at the same time.

These explanations of the National Bank followed amid discussions by the opposition on the application of disconnecting the country from SWIFT as a sanction measure against the Belarusian authorities.

Well-known buyer of Belarusian oil will pay over $160 million in fine for bribes

Large oil trader Vitol, which is a buyer of Belarusian oil, will pay a large fine for bribes in Latin America. This was reported by the US Department of Justice.

Subsidiary Vitol Group agreed to pay $164 million to settle the U.S. government’s bribery investigation. This concerns bribes in Brazil and other Latin American countries for favorable decisions on the development of the company’s oil business. In addition, the company agreed to improve internal reporting under a three-year deferred prosecution agreement.

According to the case file, Vitol paid bribes to officials in Brazil, Ecuador and Mexico to gain lucrative contracts and competitive advantages.

The case concerns an investigation into corruption schemes in Brazil involving bribes to conclude contracts with the state oil company Petrobras. The case involves bribes in the amount of $8 million between 2005 and 2014.

According to the US Department of Justice, Vitol also admitted to bribery and agreed to pay more than $2 million to the authorities in Ecuador and Mexico. The bribes were received by employees of the Mexican state company Pemex and the Ecuadorian Petroecuador.

Vitol is the world’s largest independent oil trader with a daily trading volume of around 8 million barrels of oil.

Foreign tourists fear legal contradictions when entering Belarus

Travel companies are making optimistic plans for the 2021 spring and summer season. However, they will not come true if the legal framework for the entry of foreign tourists to Belarus is not regulated. This opinion was expressed in the comments to OL by the chairman of the Republican Union of Travel Industry Philip Guly.

The expert considers the complete lack of clarity of information for foreigners on transit, red zones and days of isolation as significant barriers for the tourism industry.

Because of this, many who could come or use the transit corridor, investing their dollars in the country’s economy, don’t come; they are afraid and don’t understand the indicated contradictions. There’s a dialogue between the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Sports on how to bring the information field to clarity and order, however, it is not clear how it will end and whether it leads to a result.

According to Guly, the number of Russians in Belarusian sanatoriums has dropped by almost twenty times. Russian controllers at the border even demand from tourists a certificate from the Russian Ministry of Health about the need for treatment in Belarus.

«Can Russian tourists visit the Belarusian sanatorium or not? And if so, what is the algorithm and set of documents?» This should be settled by the officials of the Ministry of Sports with their Russian colleagues, the expert believes. Legal certainty will give impetus to the tourism industry.

In this section you will find information about Belarus. Professional journalists from the independent non-state publication (location - Minsk) tell about what is really happening in Belarus. No political accents or ideological attitudes. Only the most important facts so that you understand the essence of what is happening in this corner of Europe.