Brussels 1.10.2020 The Special European Council (#EUCO) takes place in an effort to continue a strategic discussion on Turkey. During the EU leaders’ video conference of 19 August 2020, the situation in the Eastern Mediterranean and relations with Turkey were raised by some member states. The leaders expressed their concern about the growing tensions and stressed the urgent need to de-escalate. The members of the European Council expressed their full solidarity with Greece and Cyprus and recalled and reaffirmed previous conclusions on the illegal drilling activities.
“We agreed to come back to these issues during our meeting in September. All options will be on the table” Charles Michel, the president of the EU Council said.
On 15 and 16 September president Michel travelled to Greece, Cyprus and Malta as part of the preparations for the summit discussions. He also had several phone calls with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
The EU leaders meet in Brussels to discuss foreign affairs, mainly the relations with Turkey, which a candidate country, and the situation in the Eastern Mediterranean. The leaders are also expected to address relations with China, the situation in Belarus and the poisoning of Alexei Navalny. The single market, industrial policy and digital transformation are also on the agenda.
Russia has made a decision to expand on a parity basis the retaliatory list of EU officials banned from entering the country, the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement spokesperson Maria Zakharova read out at a news briefing on September 23.
“In response to European Union actions the Russian side has made a decision to expand the retaliatory list of representatives of the EU member countries and institutions who are prohibited from entering the territory of Russia. The number of names on the Russian list has been increased to match that on the existing EU list,” the diplomat said.
“We have repeatedly warned the European Union that this approach is harmful. But the EU ignores our proposals for a meaningful and professional dialogue on the basis of facts and continues to use the language of sanctions,” spokesperson has underlined.
Zakharova recalled that lately the EU took a number of unfriendly steps towards Russia and Russian citizens, thus bypassing the existing international norms and using sanctions on far-fetched and absurd pretexts.
The announcement came day after President Putin on argued September 22 that ending “illegitimate sanctions” against countries like his could boost the suffering from pandemic global economy and create jobs, using his annual speech at the U.N. General Assembly to stress the need for multilateral cooperation against the pandemic.
In his speech Putin told the U.N.’s 75th anniversary gathering that countries need to work together better to fight the virus and other global problems.
“Freeing world trade from barriers, bans, restrictions and illegitimate sanctions would be a great help in revitalizing global growth and reducing unemployment,” Russian President said.
Cyprus vetoed attempts by the EU member-states to impose sanctions against some 40 Belarusian officials, including incumbent President Alexander Lukashenko.
The measures were being considered in response to the sham election that saw Lukashenko elected to a sixth term in office, and the Minsk government’s tough response to protesters who dispute the result.
Cyprus has demanded the sanctions against President Recep Tayip Erdogan to be applied first, due to a dispute over gas drilling in the eastern Mediterranean.
The chief of the EU diplomacy Josep Borrell vowed during the press-conference following the foreign affairs Council to reach unanimity by the next meeting. He added, that it is also his personal commitment.
Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics condemned the actions by Cyprus in a tweet, saying that it “sends a wrong signal to Belarusians, our societies and the whole world.”
The EU top diplomat Josep Borrell said the Foreign ministers had a «good discussion» on the issues of the Eastern Mediterranean and Turkey, underlining the the diplomacy is determined in defending European Union’s interests and reiterates solidarity with Greece and Cyprus. Borrel pointed at refrain from unilateral action by Turkey as a basic element to allow the dialogue to advance.
«What we want is to find paths towards a healthier relationship. It is in the mutual interest of both the European Union and Turkey» Borrell said at concluding press-conferece after two day meeting in Gymnich format, which took place in Berlin on August 27-28.
“For this reason, we must walk a fine line between preserving a true space for dialogue and, at the same time, showing collective strength in the defence of our common interests.
“We want to give a serious chance to dialogue, and I very much appreciate and thank the efforts deployed by Germany in this attempt to look for solutions through dialogue between Turkey and Greece and Cyprus.
“As High Representative, I will try to create space for negotiations on all issues of our complex and difficult relations with Turkey.
“It is equally clear that there is a growing frustration in the face of Turkish behaviour. On that, the Council expressed a political consensus to ask the relevant Council Working Groups to speed up their work in order to add individuals suggested by Cyprus to the list of the existing regime for illegal drillings in the Eastern Mediterranean, with a view to a rapid adoption.
“Finally, we also agreed that in the absence of progress in engaging with Turkey, we could develop a list of further restrictive measures that could be discussed at the European Council on 24-25 September”.
The EU Foreign Ministers addressed the Belarusian Presidential elections that took place on 9 August.
“Ministers reiterated their repeated call to the Belarusian authorities to stop the disproportionate and unacceptable violence against peaceful protesters. The EU expects the authorities to release immediately all unlawfully detained persons. In light of shocking reports of inhumane treatment and detention conditions, the European Union expects a thorough and transparent investigation into all alleged abuses, in order to hold those responsible to account.
“During their discussions, the Ministers sent a strong signal of the EU’s support to the Belarusian population in their desire for democratic change. The Ministers noted the exceptional work of the domestic election observers, whose reporting, in the absence of international election observers, has been crucial in helping to reveal the true picture regarding last Sunday’s elections. They discussed how to support this vital work.
“The Ministers reiterated that the elections were neither free nor fair. The European Union considers the results to have been falsified and therefore does not accept the results of the election as presented by the Belarus Central Election Commission. The European Union will therefore put forward to the Belarusian authorities a proposal for EU support in in establishing and facilitating a dialogue between the political authorities, opposition and broader society in view of resolving the current crisis. The High Representative/Vice-President and his services will begin work on this proposal immediately.
“Ministers also agreed on the need to sanction those responsible for violence, repression and the falsification of election results. The work on additional listings within the existing sanctions framework for Belarus will start immediately.
“The Ministers expressed appreciation for the work of journalists in the difficult conditions that they are facing and condemned attacks on and detentions of journalists, including EU citizens.
“The Ministers agreed to revert to reviewing EU-Belarus relations at their upcoming informal meeting end of August. As part of this review, the European Union will look at how to increase its support to the Belarusian people, including through enhanced engagement with and financial support to civil society, additional support to independent media, and increasing opportunities for student and academic mobility”.
The EU Council decided to impose restrictive measures against six individuals and three entities responsible for or involved in various cyber-attacks. These include the attempted cyber-attack against the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), and those publicly known as ‘WannaCry’, ‘NotPetya’, and ‘Operation Cloud Hopper’.
The sanctions imposed include a travel ban and an asset freeze. In addition, EU persons and entities are forbidden from making funds available to those listed.
Sanctions are one of the options available in the EU’s cyber diplomacy toolbox to prevent, deter and respond to malicious cyber activities directed against the EU or its member states, and today is the first time the EU has used this tool. The legal framework for targeted restrictive measures against cyber-attacks was adopted in May 2019 and recently renewed.
In recent years, the EU has scaled up its resilience and its ability to prevent, discourage, deter and respond to cyber threats and malicious cyber activities in order to safeguard European security and interests.
In June 2017, the EU stepped up its response by establishing a Framework for a Joint EU Diplomatic Response to Malicious Cyber Activities (the “cyber diplomacy toolbox”). The framework allows the EU and its member states to use all CFSP measures, including restrictive measures if necessary, to prevent, discourage, deter and respond to malicious cyber activities targeting the integrity and security of the EU and its member states.
Targeted restrictive measures have a deterrent and dissuasive effect and should be distinguished from attribution of responsibility to a third state.
The EU remains committed to a global, open, stable, peaceful and secure cyberspace and therefore reiterates the need to strengthen international cooperation in order to promote the rules-based order in this area.
“I am deeply concerned at the growing use of sanctions, or the threat of sanctions, by the United States against European companies and interests. We have witnessed this developing trend in the cases of Iran, Cuba, the International Criminal Court and most recently the Nordstream 2 and Turkstream projects” reads the statement of the EU top diplomat Josep Borrell.
“As a matter of principle the European Union opposes the use of sanctions by third countries on European companies carrying out legitimate business. Moreover, it considers the extraterritorial application of sanctions to be contrary to international law. European policies should be determined here in Europe not by third countries.
“Where common foreign and security policy goals are shared, there is great value in the coordination of targeted sanctions with partners. We have seen many positive examples of this and will continue to coordinate where we can. Where policy differences exist, the European Union is always open to dialogue. But this cannot take place against the threat of sanctions.
President Nicolás Maduro has ordered the European Union’s Ambassador H.E. Isabel Brilhante Pedrosa (pictured) to leave Venezuela within 72 hours.
In his announcement on Juin 29 broadcast on state television, speaking of the EU, Mr Maduro said: “If they can’t respect Venezuela, then they should leave it.”
He added: “A plane can be loaned for her [Pedrosa] to leave.” Venezuela’s air space is currently closed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The diplomat expulsion came hours after the EU placed sanctions on 11 Venezuelan officials for acting against the National Assembly headed by opposition leader Juan Guaidó.
Juan Guaidó declared himself interim President of Venezuela last year but has failed to remove Mr Maduro.
The opposition leader has the backing of the EU and the US.
EU Council today decided to renew the sanctions targeting specific economic sectors of the Russian Federation for a further six months, until 31 January 2021.
This decision follows the latest assessment of the state of implementation of the Minsk agreements – foreseen to take place by 31 December 2015 – at the video conference of the members of the European Council of 19 June 2020. Given that full implementation has not yet been achieved, EU leaders took the political decision to roll-over the economic sanctions against Russia.
Such restrictive measures were originally introduced in 2014 in view of Russia’s destabilising actions against Ukraine, and target the financial, energy and defence sectors, as well as the area of dual‑use goods.
The sanctions limit access to EU primary and secondary capital markets for certain Russian banks and companies and prohibit forms of financial assistance and brokering towards Russian financial institutions. The measures also prohibit the direct or indirect import, export or transfer of all defence-related materiel and establish a ban for dual-use goods which may have military use or be used by military end users in Russia. The sanctions further curtail Russian access to certain sensitive technologies that can be used in the Russian energy sector, for instance in oil production and exploration.
Image: Saint Petersburg, Russia
The Council today decided that current sanctions in respect of actions undermining or threatening the territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence of Ukraine should be extended for a further six months until 15 September 2020.
These restrictive measures provide not only for a freezing of funds, but also a prohibition against making funds or other economic resources available to the listed persons. They currently apply to 175 persons and 44 entities, following the removal of two deceased persons from the list.
Other EU measures in place in response to the crisis in Ukraine include:
economic sanctions targeting specific sectors of the Russian economy, currently in place until 31 July 2020;
restrictive measures in response to the illegal annexation of Crimea and Sevastopol, limited to the territory of Crimea and Sevastopol, currently in place until 23 June 2020.
The legal acts were published in the Official Journal on 13 March 2020.
Image: Crimea bridge at night, source: social media