Monday

21st Jan 2019

France and Germany back Dutch on human rights sanctions

  • Dutch foreign minister Stef Blok (r) will ask EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini (l) to start work on the new measures (Photo: consilium.europa.eu)

EU officials will shortly start drawing up new human rights sanctions, if foreign ministers give the nod to a Dutch plan at talks in Brussels on Monday (10 December).

The visa bans and asset freezes are meant to end impunity for individual abusers no matter where they come from.

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

  • Sergei Magnitsky: The Russian case was a "worldwide ... symbol of impunity", politicians said (Photo: Dmitry Rozhkov)

They are also meant to snap into place more quickly than old-fashioned, country-based EU sanctions.

Britain, France, and Germany back the Dutch idea, EU diplomats told EUobserver on the eve of today's meeting.

Most other EU states also signalled assent in recent talks in The Hague, despite concern that one or other Russia-friendly capital, such as Rome, might block the project.

The weight of support and the timing will make it hard for EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini to say no to Dutch foreign minister Stef Blok when he asks for action on Monday, the diplomats noted.

"Who can speak out against human rights on World Human Rights Day?", one EU source said, referring to the 70th anniversary of the UN's Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which falls on the same day.

NGOs, MPs, and MEPs from all over Europe put additional wind in Blok's sails with letters of endorsement last week.

The expectation is that Mogherini will task an EU Council 'working group' to start drafting the new sanctions blueprint.

The Dutch hope to have the new measures in place before next year's European Parliament elections in May.

Horse-trading

The proposal could still get caught up in EU horse-trading ahead of a summit later this week, one diplomat warned, however.

"No one is likely to stand up and voice strong opposition on Monday, but let's see how it comes out. There are different elements at play, some of which could be linked to each other," he said.

He spoke amid EU leaders' plans to extend the life of economic sanctions imposed on Russia over its invasion of Ukraine.

They plan to blacklist extra names over "illegal" elections in Russia-occupied east Ukraine and Russia's use of a chemical weapon to try to assassinate a former spy in the UK.

They also need a deal with Italy on its plan to overspend on EU fiscal rules in its national budget.

But final decisions on most of these items will be made at the EU summit on Thursday, not by foreign ministers, the EU diplomat said, with the Dutch project at risk of getting dragged into the wider bargaining.

'Magnitsky' debate

For its part, the Netherlands has gone to some lengths to avoid linking its proposal to Russia or anything other than "values".

It has called it an "EU Human Rights Sanctions Regime", instead of an "EU Magnitsky Act".

Magnitsky Acts are similar sanctions already in place in the US, Canada, and in a handful of EU states in the name of Sergei Magnitsky, a Russian anti-corruption activist who died in prison.

The Netherlands spoke of abuses more readily associated with Africa, such as "sexual violence", than with Russia-type regimes, in its internal EU papers.

It named Congo and Myanmar and highlighted US listings of abusers in Asia and Latin America, instead of ones in Russia.

But for some, Magnitsky's name, which brands a criminal stamp on the Kremlin's forehead, is an important part of ending the impunity the sanctions are designed to curtail.

"Sometime a name means everything," almost 100 MPs and MEPs from 18 EU states said in an open letter over the weekend.

"The way in which the Russian government tried to cover up his [Magnitsky's] murder and exonerate the people involved became a symbol of impunity ... worldwide," they added.

"Whatever the negotiations lead to, we will always call it the 'Magnitsky Act'," the European politicians said.

EU warns tech giants on Russian fake news

Social media platforms are told to tackle fake accounts and the spread of fake news more effectively before the European elections next May - or face regulation.

Germany led way on EU rights protection

Germany led the way on protection of human rights this year, but Hungary, Italy, and Poland "undermined the EU's moral standing" on the world stage, a leading NGO said.

News in Brief

  1. EU trade commissioner asks for green light for US talks
  2. Slovakia's commissioner takes unpaid leave to run for presidency
  3. Minority elects Lofven as prime minister of Sweden
  4. Putin opposes EU prospects of Serbia and Kosovo
  5. Tsipras launches campaign to ratify Macedonia deal
  6. US-EU meeting in doubt after Trump cancels plane
  7. Germany and China to sign pact on finance cooperation
  8. Labour divided on second Brexit vote plan

Analysis

China's 2019 growth outlook

As China's growth seems to be slowing, some observers see the country amid what the New York Times called a "severe downturn". As they mistake China's secular deceleration with cyclical fluctuations, they miss the rapid increase in Chinese living standards.

Opinion

The Azov crisis will backfire

Vladimir Putin's nightmare of Petro Poroshenko's re-election will be even certain as Ukrainians rally around the flag. Next March's election is not just to elect a new president but also a commander-in-chief to deal with five more years of Putin.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersSeminar on disability and user involvement
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersInternational appetite for Nordic food policies
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Nordic Innovation House in Hong Kong
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region has chance to become world leader when it comes to start-ups
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  8. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General

Latest News

  1. Salvini and Kaczynski - the new 'axis' powers?
  2. Seven member states miss climate plan deadline
  3. Aachen treaty and Brexit endgame This WEEK
  4. Germany led way on EU rights protection
  5. How to troll the European Parliament elections
  6. MEPs in Strasbourg: everywhere but the plenary
  7. Brexit delay 'reasonable', as May tries cross-party talks
  8. MEPs allow Draghi's membership of secretive bank group

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs
  2. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  3. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  4. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  5. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs
  6. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  8. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  10. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  12. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us