EU leaders agree new Russia sanctions
EU leaders have reacted to Russia's annexation of Crimea by blacklisting 12 new names and by agreeing to send EU peace monitors if need be.
"We have 12 names and I can assure you that some of them are really high-ranking,” EU Council chief Herman Van Rompuy told press after a summit in Brussels on Thursday (20 March).
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The list will be made public at around 4.30pm local time on Friday.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said it is “close" to one adopted by the US earlier the same day.
But she hinted there are no oligarchs on the EU list, because of the "different legal basis" for sanctions in the EU and US. She also said the EU names "have to be linked to Crimea" and to Russia's illegal decision to annex the Ukrainian region.
The British PM, David Cameron, deflected suggestions the EU response is weaker than the US.
“We have made progress and the world will see that,” he told media.
In another step, EU leaders agreed that if the OSCE, an intergovernmental club, does not send peace monitors to Ukraine in the "next few days," the Union will send its own mission, as it did to Georgia.
With the OSCE being blocked by Russia, Van Rompuy noted that planning for the EU mission is already under way.
“We are not starting from scratch. We are looking to an EU contribution to an OSCE mission or to an own EU mission and here also the preparations are ongoing," he said.
French President Francois Hollande pledged to contribute personnel to either model.
He said an EU mission would monitor demonstrations and help ensure free and fair presidential elections in May.
The leaders also cancelled the EU-Russia summit in June and high-level bilateral meetings.
German-Russian government consultations have been scrapped, while Hollande said his foreign and defence ministers will no longer travel to Moscow next Tuesday.
Amid fears that Russia might invade other parts of Ukraine, EU countries tasked the European Commission to draft proposals for EU sanctions on Russia’s energy, financial, and defence sectors.
The package is to be made ready “for rapid implementation.”
Hollande said another EU summit would be needed to take the step.
"We are at the beginning of a process, if there is no dialogue and a further escalation, then we will trigger economic sanctions. Nobody imagines a military option, dissuasion can only be economic," he said.
Merkel indicated the so-called third step in the "sanctions progression" would go ahead if Russia invades eastern or southern Ukraine.
Van Rompuy noted: “We will assess each new incident by itself … We will not put all our cards on the table - that’s for us to decide when to trigger all this.”
On Friday, the EU will also sign the political part of an association agreement with Ukraine. The trade part of the EU accord, the bulk of the treaty, is to be signed after May.
Similar deals with Moldova and Georgia - both of which contain Russian-backed “frozen conflicts” - are to be signed in June, two months earlier than planned.
Amid the show of solidarity on Ukraine, France’s Hollande struck an awkward note.
He highlighted that Crimea has important cultural and historical links to Russia and voiced hostility to Ukraine’s EU membership prospects.
“We are now at the stage of association and the signature is only a partial one. I always thought Ukraine should be associated with the European Union but should not demand to be a member of the European Union,” he said.
Update: This article was updated at noon Brussels time on 21 March to note the EU will publish the 12 names later than expected, now at 4.30pm