Friday

27th May 2022

France and Germany back Dutch on human rights sanctions

  • Dutch foreign minister Stef Blok (r) will ask EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini (l) to start work on the new measures (Photo: consilium.europa.eu)

EU officials will shortly start drawing up new human rights sanctions, if foreign ministers give the nod to a Dutch plan at talks in Brussels on Monday (10 December).

The visa bans and asset freezes are meant to end impunity for individual abusers no matter where they come from.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

  • Sergei Magnitsky: The Russian case was a "worldwide ... symbol of impunity", politicians said (Photo: Dmitry Rozhkov)

They are also meant to snap into place more quickly than old-fashioned, country-based EU sanctions.

Britain, France, and Germany back the Dutch idea, EU diplomats told EUobserver on the eve of today's meeting.

Most other EU states also signalled assent in recent talks in The Hague, despite concern that one or other Russia-friendly capital, such as Rome, might block the project.

The weight of support and the timing will make it hard for EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini to say no to Dutch foreign minister Stef Blok when he asks for action on Monday, the diplomats noted.

"Who can speak out against human rights on World Human Rights Day?", one EU source said, referring to the 70th anniversary of the UN's Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which falls on the same day.

NGOs, MPs, and MEPs from all over Europe put additional wind in Blok's sails with letters of endorsement last week.

The expectation is that Mogherini will task an EU Council 'working group' to start drafting the new sanctions blueprint.

The Dutch hope to have the new measures in place before next year's European Parliament elections in May.

Horse-trading

The proposal could still get caught up in EU horse-trading ahead of a summit later this week, one diplomat warned, however.

"No one is likely to stand up and voice strong opposition on Monday, but let's see how it comes out. There are different elements at play, some of which could be linked to each other," he said.

He spoke amid EU leaders' plans to extend the life of economic sanctions imposed on Russia over its invasion of Ukraine.

They plan to blacklist extra names over "illegal" elections in Russia-occupied east Ukraine and Russia's use of a chemical weapon to try to assassinate a former spy in the UK.

They also need a deal with Italy on its plan to overspend on EU fiscal rules in its national budget.

But final decisions on most of these items will be made at the EU summit on Thursday, not by foreign ministers, the EU diplomat said, with the Dutch project at risk of getting dragged into the wider bargaining.

'Magnitsky' debate

For its part, the Netherlands has gone to some lengths to avoid linking its proposal to Russia or anything other than "values".

It has called it an "EU Human Rights Sanctions Regime", instead of an "EU Magnitsky Act".

Magnitsky Acts are similar sanctions already in place in the US, Canada, and in a handful of EU states in the name of Sergei Magnitsky, a Russian anti-corruption activist who died in prison.

The Netherlands spoke of abuses more readily associated with Africa, such as "sexual violence", than with Russia-type regimes, in its internal EU papers.

It named Congo and Myanmar and highlighted US listings of abusers in Asia and Latin America, instead of ones in Russia.

But for some, Magnitsky's name, which brands a criminal stamp on the Kremlin's forehead, is an important part of ending the impunity the sanctions are designed to curtail.

"Sometime a name means everything," almost 100 MPs and MEPs from 18 EU states said in an open letter over the weekend.

"The way in which the Russian government tried to cover up his [Magnitsky's] murder and exonerate the people involved became a symbol of impunity ... worldwide," they added.

"Whatever the negotiations lead to, we will always call it the 'Magnitsky Act'," the European politicians said.

EU warns tech giants on Russian fake news

Social media platforms are told to tackle fake accounts and the spread of fake news more effectively before the European elections next May - or face regulation.

Germany led way on EU rights protection

Germany led the way on protection of human rights this year, but Hungary, Italy, and Poland "undermined the EU's moral standing" on the world stage, a leading NGO said.

Opinion

Unanimity under review, if new EU sanctions to work

Any new regime should focus on individual perpetrators, such as the prison guards and low-level administrators and officers - but it must also similarly allow the listing of individuals higher up in the command chain.

Opinion

When Reagan met Gorbachev — a history lesson for Putin

Neither Reagan nor Gorbachev achieved their goal at the famous Reykjavik summit of 1986. Despite that fact there are lessons that current leaders — particularly Vladimir Putin — could adopt from these two iconic leaders.

Opinion

Orbán's overtures to Moscow are distasteful and detrimental

Some Western European politicians are reviving the chimera of a negotiated settlement. None of this makes the current, half-hearted approach towards sanctioning Russia look better — nor does it shed any favourable light on the cravenness of Hungary's current government.

News in Brief

  1. Dutch journalists sue EU over banned Russia TV channels
  2. EU holding €23bn of Russian bank reserves
  3. Russia speeds up passport process in occupied Ukraine
  4. Palestinian civil society denounce Metsola's Israel visit
  5. Johnson refuses to resign after Downing Street parties report
  6. EU border police has over 2,000 agents deployed
  7. Dutch tax authorities to admit to institutional racism
  8. Rutte calls for EU pension and labour reforms

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic delegation visits Nordic Bridges in Canada
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersClear to proceed - green shipping corridors in the Nordic Region
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers agree on international climate commitments
  4. UNESDA - SOFT DRINKS EUROPEEfficient waste collection schemes, closed-loop recycling and access to recycled content are crucial to transition to a circular economy in Europe
  5. UiPathNo digital future for the EU without Intelligent Automation? Online briefing Link

Latest News

  1. EU summit will be 'unwavering' on arms for Ukraine
  2. Orbán's new state of emergency under fire
  3. EU parliament prevaricates on barring Russian lobbyists
  4. Ukraine lawyer enlists EU watchdog against Russian oil
  5. Right of Reply: Hungarian government
  6. When Reagan met Gorbachev — a history lesson for Putin
  7. Orbán oil veto to deface EU summit on Ukraine
  8. France aims for EU minimum-tax deal in June

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us