Faced with Moscow, the EU draws minimum sanctions

The Europeans have also warned the Burmese army and called for “de-escalation”.

Correspondent in Brussels

Has the disastrous trip by the head of European diplomacy, Josep Borrell, finally made it possible to unite Europeans in the face of the Russian question? After all, through the High Representative, it was the EU that was ridiculed at the beginning of February by the head of Russian diplomacy, Sergei Lavrov, during this memorable press conference in Moscow, concomitant with the expulsion of three European diplomats.

Meeting on Monday in Brussels, the Union’s foreign ministers have, in any case, agreed on the principle of new sanctions in reaction to the imprisonment of Alexeï Navalny, the main opponent of Vladimir Putin, whose the sentence of two and a half years in prison was confirmed at the end of last week. For the first time ever, these new sanctions are part of the regime on attacks on human rights adopted by the EU at the end of 2020 and which aims to sanction “Genocides, crimes against humanity and other serious forms of human rights violations or violations of these rights”. This transversal framework now allows the bloc, as the Americans are doing with the Magnitsky law, to react more quickly, without going through the long and tedious creation of an ad hoc sanctions regime for a given country.

We must not sanction people because they do not please us but because they are linked to the charges

Josep Borrell, Head of European Diplomacy

In this case, however, the sanctions against Russia are very symbolic. They will only target four senior Russian officials who, according to a diplomat, intervened in “Arrest, trial and imprisonment” by Alexeï Navalny. The high representative, who was instructed by ministers to draw up a list of names, said on Monday that the procedures would be completed within a week. The supporters of Alexei Navalny said they were disappointed, while they have been calling for many months to sanction Russian oligarchs close to Vladimir Putin. For its part, the Russian Foreign Ministry said it regretted this decision “Disappointing”, denouncing sanctions “Illegal and unilateral” taken “Under a convoluted pretext”. “We must not sanction people because they do not please us but because they are linked to the alleged facts”, Josep Borrell argued.

The ministers also decided on Monday to pave the way for sanctions against the military responsible for the coup in Burma.. They will pass, as usual, through travel bans in the EU and the freezing of assets for the people concerned. On the other hand, no question of touching the trade arrangements made between the EU and Myanmar, except to agree to weaken the Burmese textile workers. And, because it was decidedly the time for sanctions, Monday in Brussels, the EU also released the list of 19 senior officials of Nicolas Maduro’s regime now pinned. This brings the total number of Venezuelan government officials and senior officials sanctioned by Europe to 55.

“To mark the hit”

However, the effectiveness of the sanctions remains to be demonstrated. “They are politically necessary. They make it possible to mark the occasion, not to leave regimes in impunity and to support victims who say to themselves that there is justice somewhere. But they are not a policy. They don’t change a diet. We must have other means of action ”, analyzes a diplomat. It is to these “other means” or levers vis-à-vis Russia that the European foreign ministers devoted two hours of their meeting on Monday. While EU-Russia relations will be on the agenda of the meeting of the Twenty-Seven scheduled for the end of March and that the Twenty-Seven are far from being aligned against Moscow, Josep Borrell saw it “The desire for a more structured approach” with respect to “This neighbor who is moving away from Europe”. “Everyone agreed that we had interests in relation to Russia and that we therefore needed contacts with Moscow”, rejoiced a European diplomat. Paris and Berlin, in any case, are on this line. “We have to look for ways to dialogue, we need the help of Russia in many international conflicts”, had argued the head of German diplomacy, Heiko Maas, upon his arrival in Brussels.


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