Wednesday

8th Feb 2023

Russia blacklist of EU names 'unjustified'

  • Harms, an MEP, was turned back at Moscow's Sheremyetovo airport last September (Photo: SuperJet International)

Polish, Baltic state, and Nordic politicians feature heavily on a Russia travel ban list, which has emerged as a new irritant in relations.

The “stop” list of 89 names was circulated by Russia to EU foreign ministries last week and leaked to Finnish broadcaster Yle.

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Some people made fun of the affair.

“It means we're doing a good job”, former Czech foreign minister Karel Schwarzenberg (listed) said, calling the register “a very decent club”.

Others took it more seriously.

German FM Frank-Walter Steinmeier (not listed) said: “At a time when we’re trying to defuse a bitter and dangerous conflict in the heart of Europe, this doesn’t help”.

Polish centre-right MEP Jacek Saryusz-Wolski (listed), said “it would be good if people on the Russian list are protected by Polish counter-intelligence services”.

The measure targets friends of the Russian opposition and of Ukraine.

It names almost 30 MEPs and former MEPs, including the leader of the Liberal group, Guy Verhofstadt, and former European Parliament president Jerzy Buzek.

It includes: EU Council secretary general, German official Uwe Corsepius; former British deputy-PM Nick Clegg; and several UK security chiefs.

It also names: former EU commissioner Stefan Fuele; French philosopher Bernard Henri-Levy; and Anna Maria Corazza

Bildt, a Swedish politician who's married to Carl Bildt, a former Swedish minister and a Russia hawk.

The list is not new as such.

Russia, last September, stopped German MEP Rebecca Harms from going to Moscow for the trial of Nadezhda Savchenko, a Ukrainian airforce pilot.

It imposed the list in reaction to EU sanctions, which target Russian banks and energy firms and which blacklist 151 Russian and pro-Russian individuals.

Tass, a Kremlin mouthpiece, on Sunday (30 May), described the EU criticism and the Yle leak as a “political show”.

A “high-ranking” Russian official told the news agency the Russian list was created "as a response to a sanctions campaign unleashed against Russia by some German-led countries of the European Union”.

Russia’s ambassador to the EU, Vladimir Chizhov, in January told EUobserver the list targets people “who directly contributed or keep contributing to undermining Russia-EU relations”.

He added: “Unlike the European Union we don’t [publicly] disclose the names of people on the list because we don’t have a legal basis for that”.

For its part, the EU foreign service said on Saturday: "We don't have any … information on [the] legal basis, criteria and process of this [Russian] decision. We consider this measure as totally arbitrary and unjustified, especially in the absence of any further clarification”.

The EU blacklist, by contrast, is made public in its Official Gazette.

It gives a brief reason for each person’s listing, saying he or she, for instance, “actively supported actions and policies which undermine the territorial integrity … of Ukraine”.

It also sends individuals longer, private “statements of reasoning”, so they can challenge the decision at the EU court in Luxembourg.

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