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What’s next for EU sanctions on Russia?

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Welcome to EURACTIV’s Global Europe Brief, your weekly update on the EU from a global perspective.

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In this week’s edition: Future of EU’s Russia sanctions, Gaza plans and EI defence inquiry.

Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, the EU has applied 11 packages of sanctions against Moscow, with measures spanning across sectors and including some 1,800 individuals and entities.

The main focus of the new round of measures, proposed by the European Commission on Wednesday (15 November), is to further crackdown on the Kremlin’s ability to circumvent the bloc’s sanctions and feed its war machine, as well as curb Russia’s ability to finance its invasion of Ukraine.

EU officials have been evasive about the reasons for the delay of the EU’s latest sanctions package against Russia, despite the public announcement of European Commission boss Ursula von der Leyen in Kyiv two weeks ago.

Diamonds may be forever, but not when it comes to imports from Russia, which is the biggest producer of rough diamonds cut from hundreds of mines beneath the Siberian permafrost.

While the option to include them has been discussed by EU member states for months, mostly with the opposition of Belgium over protecting its diamond capital Antwerp, now the EU’s executive proposed to ban imports of Russian non-industrial natural and synthetic diamonds and diamond jewellery from the start of 2024.

The proposal calls for an import, purchase and transfer ban on diamonds transiting Russia and Russian diamonds cut and polished in third countries, such as India. Add to that a progressive phase-in – from 1 March to 1 September next year – of an import ban of Russian diamonds when processed in third countries.

“This phasing-in of indirect import bans takes into consideration the need to deploy an appropriate traceability mechanism that enables effective enforcement measures and minimises disruptions for market players,” the proposal text, seen by Euractiv, stated.

The new package includes measures to better enforce the EU’s leaky price cap on Russian oil as well as targeting the export of machine tools and machinery parts that Moscow uses to produce weapons used in Ukraine.

Moscow has been importing some machinery from Europe to be used to make ammunition. With the upcoming winter, and likely more fierce trench warfare ahead, the ammunition battle might prove decisive for the outcome of the war.

Russia has been able to sustain its own production of ammunition and at the same time acquire large stocks from third countries like North Korea, while Ukraine’s Western allies risk falling short of commitments to provide Kyiv with enough artillery shells.

Meanwhile, the bloc is also drawing up plans to hit third countries with economic penalties if they fail to comply with Western sanctions or can’t explain a sudden rise in trade in banned goods.

If approved, the proposals would also target 120 individuals and entities, including more than 30 companies added to a list of entities with which trade is restricted, including Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Singapore and several Russian machine-building companies.

But with the new package on the way, many ask: What is left?

The laborious journey of the current proposal, which was discussed by EU ambassadors on Friday (17 November), shows that sanctions work in Brussels is slowing down.

Despite continued pressure by the bloc’s Eastern European sanctions hawks, Lithuania and Poland, it is increasingly unlikely other member states would sign up to their maximalist proposals, which include Russia’s nuclear sector, liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), liquefied natural gas (LNG) and steel. There is also a whole list of components made in the EU that can be used in Russian military hardware.

EU officials and diplomats are also increasingly questioning whether labelling future measures as ‘packages’ makes sense in the long-term and contemplate a transition towards a ‘more flowing’ sanctions regime.

And there is growing frustration over the circumvention of Western sanctions against Russia by unscrupulous states and businesses.

The EU’s special envoy David O’Sullivan has been appointed to make sure European sanctions are implemented, but despite jetting around third countries he lacks leverage to convince them to align with the bloc’s policies.

EU sanctions experts increasingly point towards the need to move from implementation to enforcement of sanctions.


GAZA PLAN | With Israeli forces now deep inside Gaza, some two weeks after the start of a ground operation to destroy the Islamist movement Hamas, EU foreign ministers started looking into what the future may look like after the fighting ends.

Israel, the United States and Hamas may have reached a tentative agreement to free dozens of women and children held hostage in Gaza in exchange for a five-day pause in fighting.

ACP HOLD-OUTS | The EU this week finally sealed an agreement on a new treaty that will govern relations with the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) community, but the refusal of 35 of the 79 ACP states to sign it has cast a shadow over its merits.

G-20-LED SUMMIT | Leaders from more than a dozen African countries are heading to Germany for the G20 Compact with Africa conference, which aims to help bolster private investment in the world’s poorest, but fast-growing, continent.


CFSP BUDDY-ING | Western Balkans representatives should join their EU counterparts more regularly for meetings to increasingly align with the bloc’s common foreign and security policy, according to a non-paper on “deeper cooperation” with the region, produced by a group of EU countries and seen by Euractiv.


DEFENCE INQUIRY | The European Ombudsman asked the bloc’s executive this week to give guarantees of independence for the experts evaluating the industry’s proposals for the European Defence Fund, in another blow to the EU’s transparency in defence industry policy.

FRENCH PRESENCE | France must step up its staff presence and participation in innovation programmes inside NATO for Paris to benefit from its membership and financial contribution to the military alliance, a report by the country’s Court of Auditors has warned.


G20 conference ‘Compact with Africa 2023’| Sunday, 19 November 2023| Berlin, Germany
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg on Western Balkan tour, visits Bosnia, Kosovo, Serbia, North Madedonia| Mo-Wed, 19-22 November 2023| Western Balkans
Informal EU Foreign Affairs Council debrief on Borrell’s Middle East trip| Monday, 20 November 2023| virtual
AU-EU Ministerial Meeting| Monday, 20 November 2023| Brussels, Belgium
Global Food Security Summit| Monday, 20 November 2023| London, United Kingdom
EU development ministers meet, exchange with World Bank Group President Banga| Tuesday, 21 November 2023| Brussels, Belgium
10th anniversary of Euromaidan protests| Tuesday, 21 November 2023| Kyiv, Ukraine
Virtual G20 Leaders’ Summit| Wednesday, 22 November 2023| virtual, hosted by India
Foreign, defence ministers, heads of security councils of CSTO states meet ahead of organisation’s summit| Wednesday, 22 November 2023| Minsk, Belarus
CSTO Security Alliance leaders to meet| Thursday, 23 November 2023| Minsk, Belarus
EU-Canada Summit| Thu-Fri, 23-24 November 2023| St John’s, Canada
Southern Neighbourhood Ministerial Meeting| Mo-Tue, 27 November 2023| Barcelona, Spain
EU trade ministers meet on WTO Ministerial preparation, interim trade agreement with Chile and EU-US trade relations| Monday, 27 November 2023| Brussels, Belgium
UN Security Council meeting on Israel-Palestinian issues| Tuesday, 28 November 2023| United Nations, United States
NATO foreign ministers meet| Tue-Wed, 28-29 November 2023| Brussels, Belgium
United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP28)| Mo-Tue, 30 November – 12 December 2023| Dubai, United Arab Emirates
EU foreign ministers meet| Wednesday, 11 December 2023| Brussels, Belgium
EU-Western-Balkans Summit| Wednesday, 13 December 2023| Brussels, Belgium
Russia’s President Putin to hold public Q&A session TBC| Wednesday, 13 December 2023 | Moscow, Russia
EU leaders to decide on Ukraine, Moldova accession talks, discuss MFF review| Thu-Fri, 14-15 December 2023| Brussels, Belgium
Serbia national election| Sunday, 17 December 2023| Serbia


[Edited by XXX]

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