The European Union’s foreign ministers said they were ready to crack down on human rights violations in several countries, in particular concerning the case of Alexeï Navalny. They also denounced the military coup in Burma.
Russia, Venezuela, Hong Kong, Belarus: meeting Monday in Brussels, EU foreign ministers will crack down on rights violations in these countries and have said they are “ready” to sanction the military coup in Burma – but the targeted sanctions have little effect, deplore the supporters of more muscular actions.
Russian opponent Alexei Navalny bluntly told MEPs in November 2020, while recovering in Germany, where he was treated after being poisoned in Russia. “The EU should target the money, the oligarchs, not just the old oligarchs, but the new ones, members of Putin’s inner circle,” he said.
EU foreign ministers on Monday decided to adopt new targeted sanctions against those responsible for the prosecution of Russian opponent Alexei Navalny, several diplomats said.
A ‘political agreement’ for new targeted sanctions was reached during the meeting and EU diplomat Josep Borrell was tasked with coming up with a list of names of Russian officials to be sanctioned, but no oligarch should be concerned, said diplomats.
Visa ban and asset freeze
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 ”, underlined the head of the Luxembourg diplomacy, Jean Asselborn.
The European sanctions consist of a visa ban and an asset freeze in the EU for the persons or entities concerned.
Europeans remain divided over the Kremlin. “We must look for ways to dialogue with Moscow, we need the help of Russia in many international conflicts”, argued the head of German diplomacy Heiko Maas.
Moscow stands “ready to react” in the event of “a new round of restrictive, unilateral, illegitimate measures”, warned Russian Ambassador to the EU, Vladimir Chizhov, in an interview with the German daily Die Welt.
Thirty names on Burma’s blacklist
The reaction to the coup d’état in Burma was the first point discussed by ministers. The EU “stands ready” to adopt sanctions against the military, if its calls for “de-escalation” are not followed, indicate the conclusions adopted after the discussion.
New sanctions against Nicolas Maduro’s regime in Venezuela must also be discussed, diplomatic sources 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).
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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