Tuesday

26th Mar 2019

EU sanctions add to Putin's Crimea headache

  • Almost 6 million tourist came to Crimea in 2013, compared to 2 million (80% of them Russian) this year (Photo: Michael Schwab)

The EU will, from Saturday (20 December), ban almost all forms of business co-operation with Crimea in a further blow to the Russian economy.

The new law - agreed on Thursday and seen by EUobserver - is designed to give teeth to EU non-recognition of Russia’s annexation of the Ukrainian region.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

It stops European entities from buying real estate, acquiring shares in Crimean firms, and providing loans or financial services.

It prohibits them “to sell, supply, transfer, or export goods and technology” in the transport, telecommunications, energy, and oil and gas exploration sectors.

It prevents provision of any EU services “directly relating to infrastructure … [and] tourism activities”, listing seven ports where EU cruise ships cannot call: Chernomorsk; Evpatoria; Kamysh-Burun; Kerch; Sevastopol; Theodosia; and Yalta.

It also lists 165 goods and products under embargo, hitting both industry and private consumers.

They include: salt; sulphur; iron; nickel; rock-drilling tools; steam turbines; fridges; washing machines; fork-lift trucks; machine parts; and office equipment.

They also include: radio and TV broadcasting equipment; light bulbs; trucks and vans; motorcycles; and liquid crystal devices.

The law contains exemptions to “minimise the effect … on the civilian population” and on EU businesses.

It doesn’t apply to contracts signed three months or more before 20 December or to Crimea-based firms’ operations outside the region.

Cruise ships can keep calling until 20 March.

Derogations also cover supplies to foreign consular missions, hospitals, and schools, as well as work to maintain “safety of existing infrastructure” or to protect “human health and safety … or the environment”.

The ban goes much further than previous Crimea sanctions in June and July.

Given Russia’s financial crisis and that it has to supply Crimea by sea, it's likely to make the region, which used to live on Ukrainian subsidies, into even more of an economic headache.

With Crimea’s maritime zone said to hold gas reserves, the ban on gas exploration technology will slow down efforts to cash in.

EU sources say France, which has the biggest commercial interests in Crimea, tried to water down the measures.

It said the ban should apply only to firms which are legally domiciled in the region. But the final text also embargoes “subsidiaries or affiliates under … control in Crimea”.

Against the grain

The new measures go against the grain of current EU thinking on the crisis.

EU leaders will take stock of Russia relations at a summit on Thursday.

Draft conclusions say if Russia continues to flout ceasefire accords “the EU will stay the course; the European Council is ready to take further steps”.

But German, French, Russian, and Ukrainian leaders in a phone call on Wednesday spoke of diplomatic solutions.

German chancellor Angela Merkel’s press release said she wants “good and co-operative relations” and "closer" trade ties with Moscow.

A senior EU diplomat told EUobserver “the mood has shifted” since she met Russian leader Vladimir Putin at a G20 event in Australia last month.

“I don’t have the feeling that there'll be a new wave of economic sanctions”, he said, referring to measures beyond Thursday’s Crimea decision.

Smallprint, big meaning

For her part, EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini has called for a review of Russia sanctions in early 2015.

She has little power to shape policy. But the vocabulary of EU statements has changed since she arrived on 1 November.

Pre-Mogherini ones referred to Russian forces in Ukraine, but post-Mogherini ones call them “foreign forces” or “illegal forces” without naming Russia.

Ukraine’s ambassador to the EU, Kostiantyn Yelisieiev, recently urged EU states to call a spade a spade.

He wrote in a letter to EU ambassadors ahead of a Ukraine meeting on 15 December that the event “should not be an occasion for twisting language”.

He said “the word ‘aggression’ should not be avoided as it is an unfortunate reality" and that the EU should keep repeating that Crimea is “occupied” or “annexed" by Russia.

Mogherini’s 15 December statement mentioned the “illegal annexation of Crimea by the Russian Federation”.

But it didn't use the word “aggression” and spoke of “infiltration of illegal forces … from the territory of” Russia.

Opinion

Why does Putin want Crimea anyway?

Why is a world leader prepared to risk opprobrium and, possibly, crippling economic sanctions for an obscure piece of land?

News in Brief

  1. EU tables plan for joint approach to 5G security
  2. MEPs agree to scrap summer time clock changes by 2021
  3. European Parliament votes on reform of copyright
  4. New French-German parliament meets for first time
  5. EU parliament reduces polling ahead of elections
  6. UK parliament votes to take control of Brexit process
  7. EU publishes no-deal Brexit contingency plans
  8. EU urges Israel and Gaza to re-establish calm

EU migrants sneaking into US from Mexico

Almost 1,000 Romanian nationals were caught trying to sneak into the United States in 2017, of which around half attempted to cross via Mexico. Nationals from countries like Hungary and the UK were also intercepted.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  4. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  5. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  8. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID

Latest News

  1. EU lawmakers pass contentious copyright law
  2. France takes Chinese billions despite EU concerns
  3. Europe before the elections - heading back to the past?
  4. Romania presidency shatters EU line on Jerusalem
  5. The Spitzen process - a coup that was never accepted
  6. Russia and money laundering in Europe
  7. Italy takes China's new Silk Road to the heart of Europe
  8. What EU leaders agreed on climate - and what they mean

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership
  2. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson
  3. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law
  4. UNESDASoft Drinks Europe welcomes Tim Brett as its new president
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers take the lead in combatting climate change
  6. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament takes incoherent steps on climate in future EU investments
  7. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersSeminar on disability and user involvement
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersInternational appetite for Nordic food policies
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Nordic Innovation House in Hong Kong
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region has chance to become world leader when it comes to start-ups
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us