The EU fails to close the ninth package of sanctions against Russia

Intense and fruitful day in Brussels, but with a bitter touch. The foreign ministers of the European Union have not been able to approve this Monday the ninth package of sanctions against Russia in their last meeting of the year, but they hope to achieve it during the early hours of Tuesday or at the latest during this week. The Council, however, has been productive, and the governments have managed to agree on the 200 names of entities and individuals linked to the Kremlin, the Army and the Russian judiciary that the European Commission proposed a few days ago for a Add them to the community blacklist.

Always in this line, the ministers also gave the green light to a battery of punitive measures against Iran for its help to Moscow in the war and for the savage repression of democratic demonstrations in the country. Yes, coinciding with the news of the public hanging of a second person. “He was arrested a month ago, a summary trial and has been executed. The use of capital punishment as a tool of repression is unacceptable,” denounced the head of community diplomacy.

The EU thus hits again at “the repression of the ongoing protests and the human rights situation, Iran’s military cooperation with Russia, including the delivery of drones to Russia for its war of aggression against Ukraine, as well as regional security and the nuclear plan”, say the approved conclusions. On the one hand, the ministers have added 20 individuals and one entity to the list of people subject to restrictive measures for their role in the response to the demonstrations after the death of the young Mahsa Amini. On the other hand, they have added four people and four more entities “for undermining or threatening the territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence of Ukraine. Brussels sees its role clearly ” in the development and delivery of unmanned aerial vehicles used by Russia in its war against Ukraine”. The Council has also signaled its intention to impose additional restrictive measures against another entity on the same grounds. The measures includethe freezing of assets, the prohibition to travel to the Union and the prohibition to make funds or economic resources available to those listed .

The Russian question has not been so easy and it is now in the hands of COREPER, of the ambassadors of the 27 in Brussels who have a first opportunity this Monday and on Wednesday, before the European Council that will bring together the leaders, another. The agenda is very busy, with the Russian sanctions but also the entire package that directly and indirectly affects Hungary. His National Reform Plan, the possible freezing of his Cohesion funds and the financial assistance package of 18,000 million euros for Ukraine, which Budapest blocks.

“We have discussed the ninth package of sanctions against the Kremlin, which is intensifying the aggression against Ukraine. No agreement was reached, but I hope it will be reached this week and we can approve these sanctions in the next few hours oam It will be late this week,” Borrell said. The European Commission’s proposal is a package whose main elements are expanding sanctions against three other banks, cutting off Russia’s access to all types of drones , as well as imposing new restrictions on the country’s mining and energy industry.

The problem, this time, is not a Hungarian veto (which wanted, once again, to remove specific names), Borrell said, but technical issues that have to do with energy restrictions and chemicals . “If there is not 100% agreement, it is because there are states that do not agree. I cannot go into details and point out, the work continues but I am absolutely confident that there will be an agreement. It is about what The type of exemptions to include so that there are no negative side effects and the effectiveness of the sanctions is not affected,” said the Spaniard.

More resources for weapons to Ukraine

In addition, and after overcoming a complicated debate, the high representative Josep Borrell has announced an agreement to increase the firepower of the European Fund for Peace (EFP) by 2,000 million , the instrument that despite its name was conceived to finance military operations, and which has dedicated 3,100 million euros to date to arm the Ukrainian Army. Each country sends the equipment it has directly to kyiv, and is then reimbursed by the EPF. “Today’s decision will ensure that we have the funding to continue providing concrete military support to our partners’ militaries. In less than two years, the fund has proven its worth and has completely changed the way we that we support our partners”, Borrell celebrated.

The EPF is an extra-budgetary instrument and has a financial ceiling of 5,000 million euros (at 2018 prices) for the period 2021-2027, with annual ceilings ranging from 420 million euros in 2021 to 1,132 million euros in 2027 The contributions of the Member States are determined with a distribution key based on gross national income. It has been used up to six times with Ukraine, at 500 million euros each , but also for packages in Mozambique, Georgia, Moldova, Mali, Somalia, or the Balkans. The Foreign Council has decided to increase the ceiling by 2,000 million euros in 2023, with the possibility of a further increase at a later stage. The total increase until 2027 would be up to 5,500 million euros (at 2018 prices).

A czar for European sanctions

As European sanctions increase, and become a key instrument in foreign policy, the need for more effective coordination and representation also grows. To this end, the European Commission plans to appoint this Tuesday, according to the Financial Times, a kind of czar for sanctions, a figure in charge not only of coordinating efforts but of acting as an interlocutor with third countries . Like Turkey, for example, which is key so that punitive measures against Russia or Iran or other problematic neighbors cannot be avoided.

Brussels is looking for ways to centralize and simplify its sanctions regime. But he is also studying how he could have something equivalent to the Office of Foreign Assets Control (Ofac), the powerful US Treasury agency. As that unfolds, that European czar, who would be David O’Sullivan, a former senior community official, who was EU ambassador to the US and now runs a think tank, would imitate that of Jim O’Brien, whose Work is focused on improving collaboration with US allies. in terms of sanctions, says the British newspaper.