Thursday

24th Sep 2020

EU sanctions on Russia in limbo

EU countries have adopted a new round of sanctions against Russia, but cannot agree when or whether to implement them.

A statement by EU Council chief Herman Van Rompuy on Monday (8 September) said the measures are due to “the aggression by Russian armed forces on Ukrainian soil” after several thousand Russian soldiers and hundreds of armoured vehicles joined rebel forces in east Ukraine last week.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

  • Poroshenko in Mariupol on Monday. The US said the ceasefire is 'mostly holding' (Photo: president.gov.ua)

He noted that their entry into life “will take place in the next few days”.

He added, however: “This will leave time for an assessment of the implementation of the [Ukraine] ceasefire agreement and the peace plan. Depending on the situation on the ground, the EU stands ready to review the agreed sanctions in whole or in part”.

The statement comes after four days of internal talks.

Last Friday, while EU leaders criticised Russia at a Nato summit in the UK, their ambassadors in Brussels were busy carving out restrictions on companies or products that would harm their country’s economies.

EU officials over the weekend introduced the changes into legal documents, with plans for adoption on Monday and implementation on Tuesday.

But on Monday a handful of EU countries refused to agree, prompting an emergency ambassadors’ meeting from 6pm to 9.30pm which came up with the Van Rompuy solution.

Diplomatic sources told EUobserver the anti-sanctions group includes Finland and Italy, which have strong business ties with Russia. But it does not include Slovakia, also a sanctions sceptic, which secured the opt outs it wanted on Friday.

Despite Van Rompuy’s promise that implementation “will take place”, one EU diplomat said nothing is guaranteed. “Ambassadors might come back to evaluate the situation on Wednesday. So everything remains fragile”, the contact noted.

Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko agreed the ceasefire last week.

The US State Department said on Monday it "is mostly holding, although there are reports of mortar attacks and small arms fire around Mariupol and the Donetsk airport" in east Ukraine.

Poroshenko, who visited Mariupol the same day, added that he and Russian leader Vladimir Putin “continued co-ordination to support the ceasefire” in a phone call.

But for their part, pro-Russia rebels in Donetsk said they still want independence.

The new EU sanctions are to further tighten Russian banks, energy, and defence firms’ access to EU capital markets. They are to target a subsidiary of Gazprom, Gazprom Neft, oil companies Rosneft and Transneft, and nine defence firms.

They are also to extend a list of dual-use products and oil-drilling items under an export embargo and to add 24 names to an EU visa ban and asset freeze list.

Russia has already retaliated with a trade ban on EU food.

Its prime minister, Dmitry Medvedev, told the Vedomosti newspaper on Monday: “Sanctions are always a stupid idea. They backfire and you end up hurting yourself”.

He noted the food embargo is “supported by the vast majority of Russians”, but indicated Russia might introduce more exemptions on goods which it cannot replace from other sources.

He also threatened to “bankrupt” EU airlines if the bloc imposed new sanctions by introducing an “asymmetrical” ban on Russia overflights by Asia-bound planes.

“We’ll have to respond to any restrictions imposed on us. If Western carriers have to bypass our airspace, this could drive many struggling airlines into bankruptcy”, he said.

Finland most vulnerable to Russian gas cut-off

Finland would experience gas shortages if Russia cuts off exports for one month, while other EU countries would last between three to nine months without Russian gas, according to a German study.

Opinion

Who won the Russia-Ukraine war?

If the Ukraine ceasefire sticks and the Russia war ends here, it poses the question: who won?

News in Brief

  1. Belgium: masks no longer mandatory from October
  2. Report: China built 380 Muslim internment camps
  3. Belgian government formation in final phase
  4. Lukashenko sworn in at secret ceremony
  5. Study: No-deal Brexit more costly than corona for UK
  6. Polish miners in underground protest against energy plan
  7. EU animal farming emits more CO2 than cars
  8. Navalny leaves Berlin hospital after poisoning attempt

Feature

The Hagia Sophia and the global battle of symbols

The Turkish president's decision to restart Islamic worship services in Istanbul's Hagia Sophia last Friday is not innocent. So how should we react? By doing the opposite - and make Cordoba's famous Mosque/Cathedral in Cordoba a museum.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council meets Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tichanovskaja
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to invest DKK 250 million in green digitalised business sector
  3. UNESDAReducing packaging waste – a huge opportunity for circularity
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCOVID-19 halts the 72nd Session of the Nordic Council in Iceland
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersCivil society a key player in integration
  6. UNESDANext generation Europe should be green and circular

Latest News

  1. EU migration pact to deter asylum
  2. 'Era of EU naivety ends', MEP pledges on foreign meddling
  3. Anti-mask protesters pose challenge for EU authorities
  4. EU 'failed' to safeguard civic freedoms during pandemic
  5. The corruption fuelling the Bulgaria protests
  6. EU countries stuck on rule of law-budget link
  7. EU states struggle to better sync Covid-19 measures
  8. EP groups drop homophobe from Sakharov prize

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNEW REPORT: Eight in ten people are concerned about climate change
  2. UNESDAHow reducing sugar and calories in soft drinks makes the healthier choice the easy choice
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersGreen energy to power Nordic start after Covid-19
  4. European Sustainable Energy WeekThis year’s EU Sustainable Energy Week (EUSEW) will be held digitally!
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic states are fighting to protect gender equality during corona crisis
  6. UNESDACircularity works, let’s all give it a chance

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us