Has the EU reached the “summit of unity” on sanctions? – EURACTIV.com

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In this week’s edition: Next round of EU sanctions, last FAC of the season and move to North Macedonia.


More than 20 weeks after Russia invaded its neighbor, killing thousands and displacing millions of Ukrainians, Moscow announced on Saturday that it would step up military operations.

While the heaviest fighting continued to focus on the industrial Donbass region to the east, in the northeast near Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, Russian missile strikes continue to hit deep Ukrainian territory.

The EU, meanwhile, is preparing to toughen sanctions against Russia, preparing a new “maintenance and alignment” package to be endorsed by member states’ ambassadors during their meetings on Wednesday or Friday.

As announced by EURACTIV earlier this week, the proposal aims to ban imports of Russian gold, introduce stricter reporting requirements for freezing the assets of sanctioned persons and tighten export controls on double-dealing assets. use and advanced technologies.

It will also include pressure to counter the mainstream Russian narrative that EU sanctions are contributing to world hunger by blocking grain and food exports.

Asked about their expectations, EU diplomats told EURACTIV that they expected this next round of punitive measures to pass probably without major problems.

And now what?

Realistically, the current package could be counted more as a 6+, rather than a number 7.

Since Russia invaded Ukraine, the EU has agreed six sets of sanctions including asset freezes and visa bans for Russian oligarchs and officials, export controls, asset freezes from the central bank, the disconnection of banks from the SWIFT messaging system and a ban on imports of Russian coal. and oil.

The sixth package, including a partial embargo on Russian crude oil imported by sea by the end of the year, has been the most laborious, with Hungary becoming a major stumbling block for EU unity .

The EU has ‘shot itself in the lungs’ with rash economic sanctions on Russia, which unless reversed risk destroying Europe’s economy, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said this week . His foreign policy adviser had told EURACTIV that the EU might have reached the “peak of unity” on the sidelines of the bloc’s June summit.

Although officials and diplomats do not expect Hungary to block this time around, many EU diplomats wonder where that leaves the prospects for possible future packages.

Most EU member states say the sanctions are working, but it will take time before their full impact on the Russian economy is seen.

“Sanctions require strategic patience because it can take a long time before they have the desired effect,” EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell wrote in a briefing on Saturday. blog posts.

Given that sanctions against Russia would “take effect”, Borrell said EU sanctions, including restrictions on the purchase of Russian oil, “remain an important instrument of political action”, but acknowledged that it “could take a long time” for them to have an impact.

“Even if the sanctions don’t change Russia’s trajectory in the short term, that doesn’t mean they’re useless, as they affect the amount of resources it has to wage its war,” Borrell said.

But where does that leave the EU in terms of potential next steps, should there be another escalation on the ground in Ukraine during or after the summer?

Some EU leaders and diplomats in Brussels are wary of what rising inflation, energy and food prices could mean for the bloc’s unity as summer approaches – not just on sanctions but beyond.

With domestic politics likely to trump the bigger picture, a recession is likely to threaten political cohesion on the bloc’s line to Moscow.


UKRAINE LAST

  • Russia is preparing for the next stage of the offensive, according to Ukraine. Russia is preparing for the next stage of its offensive in Ukraine, a Ukrainian military official has said, after Moscow announced its forces would step up military operations in “all operational areas”.
  • The UN welcomes the “glimmer of hope” on the resumption of Ukrainian grain exports. Talks between Russia, Ukraine, Turkey and UN officials on resuming Ukrainian grain exports to the Black Sea have resulted in an agreement to form a coordination center to ensure road safety.
  • Zelenskyy calls for a “special tribunal” in the Russian invasion. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has called for a “special tribunal” to investigate Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, addressing a conference in The Hague focusing on war crimes in Ukraine. It comes as a report by the world’s largest security body expressed ‘serious concern’ over the so-called filtration centers set up by Russia in the occupied territories of Ukraine.

THE EU IN THE WORLD

ACS OVERVIEW | As Brussels draws to a close for the summer, the final Foreign Affairs Council before the break is expected to take stock of six months of Russian aggression against Ukraine, EU-Latin America relations and digital diplomacy, the latter to include the announcement of the opening of a representation in San Francisco in September.

Expect a potential political agreement on the next tranche of military support to Ukraine under the European Peace Facility, bringing the pot of money to 2.5 billion euros, in line with the latest findings from the EU summit.

EU foreign ministers are also expected to declare their readiness to resume the Association Councils with Israel and to prepare a ministerial meeting between the EU and the League of Arab States scheduled for October, which will take place in the context of Russia’s war in Ukraine.

REQUEST FOR SANCTIONS | Lithuania has said it will not try to challenge a clarification from the European Commission allowing sanctioned civilian goods to transit by rail through its territory to the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad, which it says Brussels, constitutes “no change of position” vis-à-vis Moscow. “Any new dispute over this would be a real victory for the Kremlin,” Lithuanian Prime Minister Ingrida Šimonytė said.

MISFORTUNE OF SEIZURES | The EU has frozen Russian assets worth 13.8 billion euros since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, but that large sum remains largely untouched across the bloc, a senior official said. senior official of the European Commission.

The EU is currently exploring legal ways to reuse frozen Russian assets that could be confiscated due to breaches of EU sanctions following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, according to a proposal seen by EURACTIV this week last.

DEFENSE CORNER

NO COMPROMISE | NATO’s new strategy is not for the alliance to shift its focus to the Indo-Pacific, but rather that there is a need to recognize and address China’s increased strategic influence in Europe, Karen Donfried told EURACTIV. Slovakia in an interview.

ENLARGEMENT

COMPROMISE APPROVED | North Macedonia’s Prime Minister Dimitar Kovacevski announced on Saturday that Skopje had reached a compromise with Bulgaria in a long-running dispute, allowing them to begin EU membership talks.

It comes after Bulgaria’s parliament opened the door to outgoing Prime Minister Kiril Petkov to approve a French proposal in June, allowing Sofia to lift its veto on the start of North Macedonia’s EU membership talks.

The last EU summit before the summer, in particular, proved that Western Balkan dissatisfaction with the lack of progress in EU enlargement is growing.

ON OUR RADAR

  • Foreign Affairs Council on Ukraine, EU-Latin America relations, digital diplomacy
    | Monday, July 18, 2022 | Brussels, Belgium

This newsletter is on hiatus until mid-August. Stay tuned to EURACTIV, if any geopolitical news breaks out over the summer.

Mary I. Bruner