Friday

18th Sep 2020

Borrell: EU should shame Russia with 'Navalny Act'

  • "This could be a good way of taking stock of what has happened" EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell said (Photo: European Union)

New EU human rights sanctions should be named after poisoned Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, Europe's foreign affairs chief has proposed.

"In the same way that the Americans call it the 'Magnitsky Act', we could call it the 'Navalny sanctions regime'," Borrell told MEPs at the European Parliament (EP) in Brussels on Tuesday (15 September).

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"This could be a good way of taking stock of what has happened and keep in the records for the future the name of Mr Navalny associated to a sanctions regime for people who violated human rights," Borrell went on.

The EU human rights sanctions are to impose visa-bans and asset-freezes on individuals worldwide guilty of crimes such as torture and genocide.

The EU is preparing to adopt them in autumn on the model of US measures, which were named after Sergei Magnitsky, a Russian anti-corruption activist who died in prison.

Russia, last month, tried to assassinate Navalny using a chemical weapon, the EU has said.

The attack has prompted calls for extra Russia sanctions, including to scrap Russia's Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline to Germany.

But Borrell's remarks indicated that targeted blacklists were a more likely outcome.

The EU institutions were "sceptical" about Nord Stream 2 because it increased dependency on Russian fossil fuels, Borrell said.

But the pipeline's fate was for Germany to decide, he said.

"It is something that is up to the member states that have been pushing for this infrastructure to be built," Borrell noted.

When asked by EUobserver if he would follow up on his Navalny Act idea, Borrell's spokeswoman said: "On the name, this was a suggestion by the HRVP [high representative and vice-president]. It will be for member states to decide in the context of discussions on the legal acts".

But one EU source told this website Borrell's idea was highly unusual, as "the EU has never named legislation or other sanctions after individual victims of repression" in the past.

The EU foreign service is also drafting new blacklists on Belarus and Turkey.

The Belarus one is to come after its regime jailed 7,500 pro-democracy protesters in the past six weeks, with some "500 cases of torture [that] have been recorded and documented," Borrell said.

The Turkey sanctions are linked to its naval incursions into Cypriot waters in recent months.

But Cyprus has blocked the Belarus move unless it gets EU agreement on far-reaching Turkey measures, diplomats told EUobserver last week.

"The situation is still blocked," an EU source said on Tuesday.

And Borrell confirmed to MEPs that that was the case.

"We are still discussing sanctions on Belarus ... with a view to adoption as soon as possible," he said in the EP.

"They should be adopted before the European Council if we want to keep European credibility," he added, referring to an upcoming EU summit at the end of the month.

Borrell noted that "it has been impossible for us to reach out to the Belarusian authorities on this issue at any level".

"It seems from this meeting that the support of Russia to Belarus - to Lukashenko - continues," he added, referring to talks between Russian president Vladimir Putin and Belarusian president Alexander Lukashenko on Monday.

Navalny selfie

For his part, Navalny, who is recovering in a German clinic, posted a photo of himself and his family on Instagram on Tuesday and has vowed to return to Russia to resume activism.

The EU has urged Russia to let international monitors conduct an investigation into what happened.

But Russia has rejected the initiative.

And its EU embassy, also on Tuesday, sent an email to journalists in Brussels casting doubt on the accusations, while giving credence to conspiracy theories that Germany poisoned Navalny in a false-flag operation.

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