Sanctions - not an end in themselves, but unavoidable

Measures against Russia Sanctions - not an end in themselves, but unavoidable

The representatives of the 28 European Union member states have agreed on a substantial package of measures against Russia. This is now to be formally approved without delay so that it can come into effect. Chancellor Angela Merkel declared that the decision was "unavoidable".

Berlaymont, seat of the European Commission (with EU flags).

Russia faces the prospect of further-reaching EU economic sanctions

Photo: Bundesregierung/Bergmann

"The heads of state and government of the European Union have repeatedly pointed out that sanctions are not an end in themselves, but will only be imposed when this becomes unavoidable," said Chancellor Angela Merkel.

"We have, however, also repeatedly stressed that the illegal annexation of Crimea and the persisting destabilisation of eastern Ukraine are unacceptable. Today’s decision was thus unavoidable. It is now up to the Russian leaders to decide whether they are willing to choose the path of de-escalation and cooperation. The EU sanctions can be reviewed, but equally further additional steps are conceivable," said Angela Merkel

The following specific measures were agreed on:

The EU is to impose an arms embargo on Russia.
Access to the EU capital market is to be made significantly more difficult for state-owned Russian banks.
High-tech goods for the oil industry may no longer be exported to Russia.
Dual use goods may no longer be supplied to military customers in Russia.

The package of measures was based on the wording elaborated by the European Commission for the 28 July. The EU heads of state and government must still formally approve the sanctions, using a written consent procedure in lieu of another meeting.

EU demonstrates unity, says Federal Foreign Minister

These sanctions are also a response of the EU to Russia’s reactions in the wake of the downing of a passenger aircraft in eastern Ukraine.
"The violence has been escalating for months now, every day sees further loss of life. A tragic climax came when flight MH17 was shot down and 300 people lost their lives," said Federal Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier. "The EU has responded to this with a broad consensus, adopting harsh measures, for the first time including economic sanctions, targeting those responsible and their supporters."

Sanctions absolutely essential

Federal Economics Minister Sigmar Gabriel believes that the sanctions are "absolutely essential". He considers it to be exceptionally important that they specially "target those responsible for the Russian government and Russian policy".

"We are perfectly aware that we too may suffer in economic terms from these measures," admitted Sigmar Gabriel. But when it is a matter of war and peace, economic policy cannot take precedence, he added. "We cannot allow war and civil war to take hold on our continent because we are afraid of the economic consequences." That is why the pressure must now be stepped up, "to get everybody around the negotiating table".

Coordinated action on the part of allies

The need for concerted action was also stressed by deputy government spokesperson Christiane Wirtz. At the government press conference on 30. July she said, "Obviously the measures adopted at European level have been the subject of consultation and coordination." With respect to the sanctions, Europe is also in contact with partners around the globe.

On Monday the Chancellor spoke by telephone with President Barack Obama and President François Hollande, as well as British Prime Minister David Cameron and Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi. The heads of state and government agreed on the "importance of coordinated sanctions on Russia because of the unchecked flow of weapons and equipment as well as the infiltration of combatants into eastern Ukraine".

G7 statement

On Wednesday the heads of state and government of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, the United States (G7), the President of the European Council and the President of the European Commission, expressed their grave concern about Russia’s actions.
They stated, "We once again condemn Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea, and actions to de-stabilise eastern Ukraine. Those actions are unacceptable and violate international law."
They also pointed out, "We remain convinced that there must be a political solution to the current conflict, which is causing rising numbers of civilian casualties. We call for a peaceful settlement of the crisis in Ukraine, and underline the need to implement President Poroshenko’s peace plan without any further delay."

Still willing to talk

The focus is on stabilising Ukraine, which is why the EU remains open for talks with Russia, explained Christiane Wirtz. This not only has the support of the Chancellor and the Federal Foreign Minister, but of all EU heads of state and government.

Christiane Wirtz pointed to the statement of Herman Van Rompuy, President of the European Council on 29 July, which reads, "The European Union remains ready to reverse its
decisions and reengage with Russia when it starts contributing actively and without ambiguities to finding a solution to the Ukrainian crisis."

EU action to date against Russia

On 17 March the European Council put a total of 21 individuals on a black list, or sanctions list. A decision of principle taken at the European Council meeting on 16 July gave foreign ministers a framework for more specific decisions.
On 22 July the EU foreign ministers met in Brussels to discuss stepping up sanctions on Russia. Coreper was mandated with elaborating these. Coreper is the intermediary level of the European Council. It consists of representatives of member states who represent their country and have the rank of ambassador to the EU.
On 24 July, Coreper decided to extend the existing black list to include high-ranking intelligence service and security staff. The next day a list of 15 individuals and 18 companies and organisations was published in the Official Journal of the European Union, thus bringing the measures into effect immediately.
On 25 July the representatives of the 28 EU governments in Coreper also agreed on additional economic sanctions. They charged the Commission to present the wording of the regulations for the measure by 28 July.
On 29 July Coreper adopted a package of measures. These must still be formally approved by the 28 EU member states.