Thursday

19th Oct 2017

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).

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

"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.

Court hearing in MEPs 'private' expenses battle

The European parliament claims the media and public do not have a right to supervise or monitor the public role of MEPs, says Natasa Pirc Musar, a lawyer representing journalists, in a transparency battle against the assembly.

Eurogroup closes Schaeuble era

Eurozone finance ministers bade farewell to their longest-serving and most influential colleague, while preparing to also replace its chairman at the end of the year.

EU agencies defend research ahead of glyphosate vote

As the renewal of the weedkiller glyphosate is a hot potato on the EU agenda, with a vote in the Parliament on Thursday, the role of two closely-involved EU agencies has come under scrutiny.

Europeans more positive about EU, survey shows

On balance, 55 percent of British respondents said the UK had benefited from EU membership. Among all European respondents, 47 percent said their voice counted in the EU.

News in Brief

  1. EU summit moved to previous building after fumes scare
  2. Catalonia will 'not back down'
  3. New toxic incident in EU building ahead of summit
  4. Murdered Malta journalist's family invited to Parliament
  5. EU food safety chief denies keeping studies 'secret'
  6. EU states pledge 24,000 resettlement places so far
  7. US ready for arms sale to update Greece's F-16 fleet
  8. Austria's Green leaders step down following election failure

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EU2017EENorth Korea Leaves Europe No Choice, Says Estonian Foreign Minister Sven Mikser
  2. Mission of China to the EUZhang Ming Appointed New Ambassador of the Mission of China to the EU
  3. International Partnership for Human RightsEU Should Seek Concrete Commitments From Azerbaijan at Human Rights Dialogue
  4. European Jewish CongressEJC Calls for New Austrian Government to Exclude Extremist Freedom Party
  5. CES - Silicones EuropeIn Healthcare, Silicones Are the Frontrunner. And That's a Good Thing!
  6. EU2017EEEuropean Space Week 2017 in Tallinn from November 3-9. Register Now!
  7. European Entrepreneurs CEA-PMEMobiliseSME Exchange Programme Open Doors for 400 Companies Across Europe
  8. CECEE-Privacy Regulation – Hands off M2M Communication!
  9. ILGA-EuropeHealth4LGBTI: Reducing Health Inequalities Experienced by LGBTI People
  10. EU2017EEEHealth: A Tool for More Equal Health
  11. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Tourism a Key Driver for Job Creation and Enhanced Competitiveness
  12. CECENon-Harmonised Homologation of Mobile Machinery Costs € 90 Million per Year

Latest News

  1. EU okays Privacy Shield's first year
  2. EU seeks to decrypt messages in new anti-terror plan
  3. EU agencies defend research ahead of glyphosate vote
  4. Spain points at elections as exit to Catalan crisis
  5. How EU can ensure Daphne Caruana Galizia's legacy survives
  6. Juncker dinner to warm up relations with eastern EU
  7. Court hearing in MEPs 'private' expenses battle
  8. The unbearable lightness of leadership