Partial sanctions of the European Union against the Burmese putschist military

Buddhist monks show a disfigured image of the Burmese army commander-in-chief General Min Aung Hlaing during a street march against the military coup in Mandalay, Burma, Friday February 12, 2021.

Three weeks after the military coup in Burma, and as repression hardens, the European Union clearly no longer has any hope that its calls for a return to democracy will be heard. Meeting in Brussels, the 27 foreign ministers therefore adopted a project of “targeted measures” targeting those responsible for the coup of 1is February and the resulting violence. The European measures will strike their interests, because “In this country, the military are entrepreneurs and they own parts of the economy”, indicated, Monday February 22, the High Representative, Josep Borrell.

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The American President, Joe Biden, had him, anticipated the Europeans by announcing, on February 11, a first plan of measures targeting the putschist generals.

In a final text, European ministers call for de-escalation, the restoration of the legitimate government, the installation of the new elected Parliament, as well as the release of Aung San Suu Kyi, President Win Myint and arrested opponents . They also indicate their willingness to review trade relations and cooperation policy with the country.

Their willingness to respond will, however, have to be clarified in the coming days: no names of officials to be sanctioned were put forward on Monday evening and statements made Monday morning by the German Foreign Minister, Heiko Maas, on restrictive measures against adopt ” last resort “ had caused trouble. On Monday, the high representative pleaded strongly for measures, but indicated that he would refuse that they directly hit the Burmese population.

“Schizophrenia” from European countries

Questions asked at the end of the ministerial meeting on Monday on the scope of the sanctions to be adopted – will they also be of economic significance, will they target European investments in the country? – went unanswered. What revive the questions about the possible effect of the European initiative, while previous sanctions, which had targeted Burma for more than fifteen years, had already raised a lot of doubts.

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It was in April 2012 that the European restrictive measures, put in place in 1996, were lifted, apart from the arms embargo. They were massive and struck nearly 500 personalities and 800 companies linked to the military regime of the time. Trade and investment were not stopped, however, which notably benefited the French oil company Total and Lloyd’s, the British insurance giant. For many observers, the sanctions had, in fact, failed to isolate the leaders of the military junta. The British think tank Burma Independence Advocates underlined, in 2011, the “Schizophrenia” European countries which, British and French in the lead, had even become, between 1995 and 2005, the biggest investors in the country. “In other words, the EU has imposed sanctions in such a way that they limit the damage to its economic interests”, noted, in 2013, a study by Konstanty Gebert for the European Council on Foreign Relations.

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