Legal Basics and Imposition Mechanism
The European Union widely uses sanctions or restrictive measures
in its official terminology both for protection of its interests and international peace and security. Currently, Brussels handles 38
regimes under and beyond the UN resolutions against 4,030 legal entities and 7,902 individuals.
As a matter of fact, the European Union prefers diplomatic action and regards sanctions as a foreign policy tool of last resort. However, Brussels extensively employs restrictive measures for several reasons. Firstly, in contrast to the United States, the EU lacks sufficient military mechanisms and has to rely on NATO. Secondly, the EU market is so large and attractive that potentially sanctioned countries, individuals and legal entities are normally motivated to meet the EU demands. Thirdly, uniting 28 states, the EU can take concerted action and apply effective lobbying on other international platforms, including the UN, G20, etc.
Brussels observes all UN-imposed sanctions and coordinates their observance with the EU members. Besides, the European Union may at its own discretion expand and amplify UN sanctions along with its own measures. Brussels basically resorts to sanctions in the following cases:
- Countering threats to the key principles of its foreign policy, primarily threats to international peace and security.
- Countering terrorism.
- Countering dissemination of WMD, first of all, nuclear weapons.
- Fighting against violation of human rights.
- Countering illegitimate annexation of territories and targeted destabilisation of a sovereign state.
The EU defines imposition of restrictive measures by the provisions of its Common Foreign and Security Policy
, with a relevant specification contained in Article 215 of the Treaty of the Functioning of the European Union
. Observance of restrictive measures is compulsory within the entire EU jurisdiction (the territory of member states), as well as for EU residents – individuals and legal entities including affiliates and branches in third countries. Types of Sanctions
Mainly, the EU practices the following restrictive measures:
- Denial of entry to the EU countries.
- Freezing of assets of foreign states, legal entities and individuals placed in EU territory.
- Financial restrictions including freezing of assets of the sanctioned country's central bank, ban on crediting private banks and other legal entities, limitations on remittances, etc.
- Limitations on supplies of certain groups of goods and services, including bans on supplies of weapons and military equipment, equipment usable by the police and punitive bodies, supplies of high-tech and double-use items (also equipment for hydrocarbon and energy sectors), software, gold, precious metals, etc.
- Ban on imports of certain goods and services including oil and gas, parts and components, etc.
- Transportation restrictions, etc.
Restrictive measures are adopted unanimously by the European Council upon the recommendation of the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. Proposals on specific sanctions are developed by regional working groups of the Council (depending on the regional belonging of the targeted entity), the Foreign Relations Counselors Working Party (RELEX), the Political and Security Committee (PSC), and Committee of Permanent Representatives (COREPER II). After the decision on imposition of the restrictive measures has been taken, its text must be published in the Official Journal of the European Union
. The European Council must also accordingly inform the European Parliament. Then the EU officially notifies the sanctioned legal entity or individual, who in their turn may officially apply with a request to review the imposed restrictions.
The adopted sanctions are obligatory for implementation by the EU member states. Measures prescribing denial of entry to the EU countries and bans on supplies of weapons and military equipment are realised in absence of further accommodation, while financial and economic measures (freezing of assets, limitations on financial operations, etc.) require an additional regulation of the European Council that should specify the details and mechanisms. These directives are adopted by the Council upon the recommendation of the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and upon agreement with the RELEX. Normally, these regulations are adopted at the same time with the decision on restrictive measures so that the two documents could have maximum effect. Cancellation of Sanctions
The EU monitors on a permanent basis the situations related to the imposition of restrictive measures. The European Council decisions on sanctions are effective for 12 months. Depending on the developments, the European Council may decide to extend, expand, amend, suspend or cancel the measures. If the sanctions are lifted or not extended, all of them become ineffective. At the same time, the Council regulations have no time limits, so the EU measures pose as a sufficiently flexible mechanism for responding to objectionable actions of the third countries, legal entities and individuals whose actions threaten the interests of the EU and its member states.Responsibility for Violation of Sanctions
A union of 28 states, the EU relies on national governments both in observance of restrictive measures and punishing legal entities and individuals who violate the sanctions regimes. Similar to the United States, the penalties may involve fines and imprisonment. Since the responsibility is determined by the laws of each EU member state, the penalties may vary considerably.
— Infographics: The EU Sanctions