Thursday

20th Sep 2018

MEPs ponder parliament-level Russia sanctions

  • If it goes ahead, it would mark the boldest ever attempt by MEPs to conduct EU foreign policy (Photo: europarl.europa.eu)

It is early days, they have no majority and it has never been done before, but MEPs in the Liberal group are pondering the creation of a European-Parliament-level travel ban on Russian officials.

Group leader and former Belgian PM Guy Verhofstadt floated the idea in a statement on Thursday (2 May).

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

"I fully believe that the European Union should follow the US Congress and Senate in adopting a sanctions list. If the European Council fails to act in this regard, then the European Parliament should establish its own list based on the US Congress visa ban list," he said.

Verhofstadt was referring to a US ban on 18 Russian officials said to be involved in the murder of Russian whistleblower Sergei Magnitsky.

The 37-year-old accountant died in suspicious circumstances in prison in 2009 after exposing corruption by high-level officials in the interior ministry.

The US Congress forced a reluctant State Department to put his alleged killers on a blacklist by threatening to block a US-Russia trade treaty if US diplomats did not act.

Under EU rules, the European Parliament has no powers on sanctions.

The European External Action Service (EEAS) can propose them and EU countries decide by unanimity whether or not to go ahead.

But a Liberal group contact said one option is the US model - threatening to block other legislation where MEPs do have jurisdiction unless EU diplomats act.

He said another option is "moral authority" - confronting EU countries to see if they are willing to ignore the EU assembly by letting the Magnitsky suspects travel anyway.

If the list happens, it would mark a bold attempt by MEPs to conduct EU foreign relations.

The parliament has already passed three resolutions urging EU-level action on Magnitsky to no avail.

But at the same time, MEPs are showing ever more willingness to assert their authority.

In 2010, they knocked down a major EU-US treaty on exchange of bank data - the Swift agreement. Last year, they killed an international pact on intellectual property - the Acta treaty.

Verhofstadt's remarks came after Irish MPs in Dublin on Wednesday (1 May) dropped a resolution calling for EU-level Magnitsky sanctions.

They did it when Russia threatened to ban Irish families from adopting Russian children.

The Irish MP who led efforts to quash the text - Bernard Durkan from the ruling Fine Gael party - said it had nothing to do with the Russian threat.

He told EUobserver he did it because the original draft was "intemperate and undiplomatic."

The final Irish resolution called instead for "a full and final report into the circumstances of the case."

The EEAS shares Durkan's point of view.

"The EU continues to call for a proper and thorough investigation … [EU] member states have agreed to this approach and this message is conveyed at all levels of our relationship with the Russian federation," its spokeswoman, Maja Kocijancic, said.

But Russia has already closed its investigation.

It said its officials did nothing wrong. Instead, it is accusing Magnitsky - in a posthumous trial - of tax fraud.

For his part, Bill Browder, Magnitsky's former employer, believes the EEAS should have spoken out against Russia's "blackmail" of Ireland.

"The value of the European Union is to stand together in these times," he said.

For Verhofstadt, the Russian adoption threat is proof that sanctions are the right approach.

"The pressure exerted recently by Russian authorities on EU legislators is evidence that sanctions would hit their target. How far is Russia willing to go and how far is the EU willing to be pushed on this issue?" he said.

EU parliament will not budge on office expenses

Hungarian centre-right MEP Livia Jaroka sticks to earlier decision: documents related to the minor reform of the expenses system, requested by EUobserver, should remain secret.

Sefcovic launches bid to be EU Commission president

Europe must have a robust foreign policy and nurture high-tech industries, Slovak EU commissioner Maros Sefcovic has said in his bid to succeed Jean-Claude Juncker as the next EU commission president.

News in Brief

  1. Austria ex-chancellor hints at running for Juncker's job
  2. Greece to move asylum-seekers from overcrowded Lesbos camp
  3. Transatlantic soya trade soars due to trade wars
  4. EU tables strategy for connecting Europe and Asia
  5. Bulgaria backs Hungary in dispute with EU
  6. Trump urged Spain to build Sahara wall to stop migrants
  7. EU-Arab League summit proposed for February in Egypt
  8. Stop 'migration blame-game', Tusk tells EU leaders

Sefcovic launches bid to be EU Commission president

Europe must have a robust foreign policy and nurture high-tech industries, Slovak EU commissioner Maros Sefcovic has said in his bid to succeed Jean-Claude Juncker as the next EU commission president.

'Every group split' ahead of EU copyright vote

Political groups in the European Parliament are split about how to vote for a directive that would reform the EU's copyright regime - amid warnings that freedom of expression and creators' rights are at risk.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  2. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General
  3. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs.
  4. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  5. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  6. IPHRCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  7. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs
  8. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All
  9. IPHRCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  10. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  12. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want

Latest News

  1. EU divisions on menu at Salzburg dinner
  2. EU mulls action to prevent cattle suffering at Turkish border
  3. Safeguarding Schengen at Salzburg
  4. Denmark's image 'damaged' by bank scandal
  5. Real Brexit progress needed by October, Barnier says
  6. Poland to face EU top court on rule of law
  7. Austria's EU presidency: a bridge over troubled water?
  8. EU promotes 'Egypt model' to reduce migrant numbers

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  2. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordics Could Be First Carbon-Negative Region in World
  4. European Federation of Allergy and AirwaysLife Is Possible for Patients with Severe Asthma
  5. PKEE - Polish Energy AssociationCommon-Sense Approach Needed for EU Energy Reform
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to Lead in Developing and Rolling Out 5G Network
  7. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Economic and Trade Relations Enjoy a Bright Future
  8. ACCAEmpowering Businesses to Engage with Sustainable Finance and the SDGs
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersCooperation in Nordic Electricity Market Considered World Class Model
  10. FIFAGreen Stadiums at the 2018 Fifa World Cup
  11. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Work Together to Promote Sustainable Development
  12. Counter BalanceEuropean Ombudsman Requests More Lending Transparency from European Investment Bank

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us