Sunday

22nd Jul 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.

... our 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.

Investigation

Commission accused of cherry picking job applicants

A pilot project scheme is giving preferential treatment for interns to land highly sought-after jobs at the European Commission - bypassing the lengthy open competition for everyone else seeking the same position.

Investigation

Commission accused of cherry picking job applicants

A pilot project scheme is giving preferential treatment for interns to land highly sought-after jobs at the European Commission - bypassing the lengthy open competition for everyone else seeking the same position.

News in Brief

  1. Libyan PM rejects EU migrant camps idea
  2. Italy's Salvini to sue critical anti-mafia writer
  3. EU countries send aircraft to Sweden to help with wildfires
  4. British ex-commissioner's jobs called into question
  5. May to tell EU to drop Irish border 'backstop' idea
  6. Trump threatens EU over Google fine
  7. Spain withdraws arrest warrant for Catalan separatists
  8. EU readies counter-measures on possible US car tariffs

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. IPHRCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  2. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  4. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  6. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersNordics Could Be First Carbon-Negative Region in World
  8. European Federation of Allergy and AirwaysLife Is Possible for Patients with Severe Asthma
  9. PKEE - Polish Energy AssociationCommon-Sense Approach Needed for EU Energy Reform
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to Lead in Developing and Rolling Out 5G Network
  11. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Economic and Trade Relations Enjoy a Bright Future
  12. ACCAEmpowering Businesses to Engage with Sustainable Finance and the SDGs

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersCooperation in Nordic Electricity Market Considered World Class Model
  2. FIFAGreen Stadiums at the 2018 Fifa World Cup
  3. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Work Together to Promote Sustainable Development
  4. Counter BalanceEuropean Ombudsman Requests More Lending Transparency from European Investment Bank
  5. FIFARecycling at the FIFA World Cup in Russia
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersOECD Report: Gender Equality Boosts GDP Growth in Nordic Region
  7. Centre Maurits Coppieters“Peace and Reconciliation Is a Process That Takes Decades” Dr. Anthony Soares on #Brexit and Northern Ireland
  8. Mission of China to the EUMEPs Positive on China’s New Measures of Opening Up
  9. Macedonian Human Rights MovementOld White Men are Destroying Macedonia by Romanticizing Greece
  10. Counter BalanceControversial EIB-Backed Project Under Fire at European Parliament
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersIncome Inequality Increasing in Nordic Countries
  12. European Jewish CongressEU Leaders to Cease Contact with Mahmoud Abbas Until He Apologizes for Antisemitic Comments

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us