EU foreign ministers debating 9th package of sanctions against Russia

Hungary's Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto, center, speaks with Czech Republic's Foreign Minister Jan Lipavsky, right, and Denmark's Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod, left, during a meeting of EU foreign ministers at the European Council building in Brussels

EU foreign ministers are presently meeting in Brussels to debate a ninth package of sanctions against Russia proposed by the European Commission. Helping to reaching broad agreement on the proposal is the last important foreign policy task for the Czech presidency before it hands over the lead role to Sweden at the end of this year.

The ninth package of sanctions against Russia was announced by the European Commission a week ago and it is up to Czechia, the country currently presiding over the EU, to try and secure broad consensus on the proposal.

The 9th package includes additional export controls and restrictions, particularly on dual-use goods, including key chemicals, nerve agents, electronics and IT components, sanctions against three additional Russian banks, including a full transaction ban on the Russian Regional Development Bank and extending the list of Russians with travel bans and frozen assets by around 200 people. Among those being added to the list are officers of the Russian armed forces, members of the State Duma and Federation Council, ministers, governors and leaders of political parties.

Source: Jernej Furman,  Flickr,  CC BY 2.0

The list of sanctioned goods being debated includes technological products that could be misused by the Russian military in the war on Ukraine, such as drones and their components, laptops, hard drives, cameras and other electronics. Foreign Minister Jan Lipavský says it is important not to water-down the proposal and to implement as many restrictions as possible.

"Politically, it is absolutely crucial that we do not allow Russia to continue to wage war against Ukraine. That is also why there are a number of technologies in the current sanctions, so that Russia, Iran or other countries cannot build and produce new bombs and missiles.”

However, the first few hours of debate in Brussels on Tuesday indicated that, reaching consensus on the list of new sanctions will not be easy. Some member states are worried about the sanctions backfiring on Europe’s economy while others are concerned about the possibility of sparking a global conflict. Hungary, which relies on Russia for cheap energy, has called for moderation in the sanctions regime and has opted out from participating in many of them.

Meanwhile Russia is naturally doing its best to circumvent the measures already introduced. That is also a topic currently being addressed by EU diplomacy. Some countries are proposing the inclusion of sanctions evasion on the European list of criminal offences. Foreign Minister Lipavský says that given the inevitable loopholes, achieving the desired results may take months:

Jan Lipavský | Photo: MZV ČR

"The European Commission regularly assesses the impacts of the sanctions introduced and we respond with adequate measures - basically we close the loopholes that Russia has found. However, Russia prepared itself for this conflict and made financial reserves so achieving the desired result is a long-term process. We must simply persevere and arm ourselves with patience."

In addition to patience, the EU wants greater control of the sanctions introduced and reportedly aims to create the position of a “sanctions representative” who will monitor and report on their implementation.

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