Seventh package of EU sanctions against Russia: which measures should be approved by next week?

Seventh package of EU sanctions against Russia: which measures should be approved by next week?

The European Union is preparing to unveil and approve a new sanctions package against Russia within a week. The latter should ban imports of Russian gold and close the loopholes in the current sanctions.

Preparations by EU ambassadors for the seventh package are due to resume this Thursday and Friday (July 14-15), and should be approved by member states in the middle of next week, several EU diplomats told EURACTIV.

This enforcement package would include a ban on imports of Russian gold, which makes up the largest share of the country’s exports outside of energy.

The decision was taken at a G7 summit last month by EU member states France, Germany and Italy, along with their counterparts from the United States, Canada, Japan and the United States. UK.

Industry analysts say the ban could be largely symbolic, as previous punitive measures imposed on Moscow have already successfully shut down European and US markets, including shopping malls in London and Zurich.

The list of dual-use items whose export to Russia is prohibited will also be expanded and new lists of people and entities linked to the wider circle of Russian President Vladimir Putin will be added, several EU diplomats told EURACTIV.

In addition, the new sanctions package would aim to close the loopholes of the previously adopted punitive measures, for example by adding certain products to the list of prohibited goods.

This new package could also include a reference to the clarification recently published by the European Commission on the transit of sanctioned goods to the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad. However, this is what some European diplomats have suggested.

The “Hungarian Factor”

Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine which began on February 24, the EU has adopted six sets of sanctions including asset freezes and visa bans for Russian oligarchs and officials, control of exports, the freezing of central bank assets, the disconnection of Russian banks from the SWIFT messaging system and the banning of Russian coal and oil imports.

The sixth set of measures was the most difficult to implement: after much discussion, the EU finally imposed, among other things, a partial embargo on Russian crude oil imported by sea by the end of the year, while allowing Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic to receive oil transported by pipeline, and excluded one of the last major Russian banks from the SWIFT system.

However, at the last minute, Hungary demanded that EU ambassadors meeting to finalize the legal text of the bloc’s sanctions package remove the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill, from the list of those targeted. by the sanctions, leaving a bitter aftertaste for many people in Brussels about how the issue was handled.

Although officials and diplomats do not expect Hungary to block the proposal for the seventh package of sanctions this time around, many EU diplomats are wondering what will happen to any packages that will follow. this one.

The majority of EU member states believe that the sanctions are effective, but that it will take time before their full impact on the Russian economy is felt.

Hungary believes that the EU should stop adding sanctions against Russia following its invasion of Ukraine and should instead encourage a ceasefire and the start of negotiations.

Asked what Budapest thinks about the way forward for subsequent sanctions packages, a senior adviser to Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán told EURACTIV on the sidelines of the June summit that the EU may have reached the maximum limit of unity On the question.

“We have reached the limit where it is very obvious that these sanctions can harm the European economy more than the Russian economy and then, if you realize that, we have to rethink our strategy”said Balazs Orbán (who is not related to the Prime Minister).

Energy excluded from future packages

Some Member States, especially in Eastern Europe, continue to push to add energy measures to upcoming packages before they are presented to Member States for approval.

According to the more belligerent among them, this should include a total ban on imports of crude oil as well as more measures on gas.

Other EU diplomats, however, point out that such an option is not an option, as a number of European countries remain highly dependent on Russian energy imports, especially gas.

“What is definitely problematic is to include energy in the sanctions, because you have to respect a rule that the sanctions must have a greater impact on Russia than on the countries imposing them”Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala told Reuters on Wednesday (July 13).

The Czech Republic, which took over the EU’s rotating presidency for six months on July 1, is one such country, which depends on Russia for almost all of its gas needs.

In recent months, Ukrainian officials have been pushing for the EU’s seventh sanctions package to include blocking all Russian banks that have not yet been hit by punitive EU measures, an option which, according to European diplomats, could be considered for the next sets of sanctions.

Source

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