Human rights violations in several countries including Russia, Burma and China will be the subject of targeted sanctions by the European Union.
Russia, Burma, Venezuela, Hong Kong, Belarus: the European Union will crack down on human rights violations in these countries on Monday after increasing the number of warnings, but the targeted sanctions have little effect, deplore supporters of more muscular actions .
Russian opponent Alexei Navalny bluntly told MEPs in November 2020, during his recovery in Germany where he was treated after being poisoned in Russia. “The European Union should target the money, the oligarchs, not only the old oligarchs, but the new ones, members of the circle close to Putin”, he launched.
“As long as Mr. (Alicher) Ousmanov’s yachts continue to anchor in Barcelona or Monaco, no one in Russia or the Kremlin will take European sanctions seriously,” he said.
The European Parliament has passed a resolution to this effect, but it is not binding on the Member States.
Alexei Navalny was arrested on his return to Moscow in January and has been accumulating convictions since. The EU denounces a politicization of justice and demands its release. In vain.
The Europeans have therefore decided to crack down. They will activate their new human rights sanctions regime on Monday. The decision will be taken during a meeting of foreign ministers in Brussels and the measures will be effective for the European summit on March 25 and 26.
The European sanctions consist of a visa ban and an asset freeze in the EU for the persons or entities concerned.
The relatives of Alexeï Navalny submitted to them lists of personalities from the president’s inner circle, but “it is hardly possible to sanction the oligarchs. We can only act against officials, and that only if we have proof, ”underlines the head of Luxembourg diplomacy Jean Asselborn.
The adoption of sanctions requires unanimity of the Twenty-Seven and consensus is difficult to find. The EU is very divided on the attitude to adopt vis-à-vis Moscow, we recognize in the capitals.
Fear of reprisals and escalating tensions urge caution, a European minister told AFP. “We must avoid cutting bridges,” he pleaded.
The Europeans will also “take appropriate measures” against the perpetrators of the coup d’état in Burma after having unsuccessfully summoned the army to give up power, their foreign minister Josep Borrell announced on Saturday. But no indication suggests that a freeze on European investments is envisaged.
New sanctions against Nicolas Maduro’s regime in Venezuela will also be discussed, a diplomatic source said. About thirty names should be added to the country’s blacklist.
The ministers must also take stock of the measures adopted against the repression carried out in Hong Kong, where the principle “one country, two systems” is questioned by China. “We have to see if more needs to be done,” said a European diplomat.
Imprisonment and harassment of journalists in Belarus could also be punished. But three sets of sanctions have already been adopted against the regime and President Alexander Lukashenko has been blacklisted without any effect. And the support shown by Vladimir Poutine confirms Minsk.
Critics are mounting against the ineffectiveness of targeted European sanctions. “Europe should not be afraid to use its economic levers against Russia,” argues Ian Bond, director for international political affairs at the Center for European reform (CER).
“A more muscular approach vis-à-vis Russia could provide results,” adds Nicu Popescu, specialist in relations with Russia at the European Council for Foreign Relations (ECFR).
But “we should not wait for a united approach”, deplores the Italian Gianni Rotta, expert in disinformation with the European Commission. “The EU is facing a pandemic and growing economic hardship, dependence on Russian gas and has a few member countries that either sympathize with the Kremlin or are dominated by populist parties fueled by Russia,” he said. explained in an interview for the Carnegie Europe center.
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