EU foreign ministers threatened Russia with deeper economic sanctions yesterday, ordering the European Commission to draw up proposals on specific sectoral sanctions that may be deployed if Russia fails to co-operate with an investigation into the Malaysian airline disaster.
The European Commission, which is already undertaking impact-assessment work, will present proposals by tomorrow. These sanctions would cover "defence, access to capital markets, dual use goods and sensitive technologies, including in the energy sector", the EU's foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said.
Such restrictive measures would be introduced “if full and immediate co-operation” from Russia fails to materialise, EU foreign ministers said in a joint statement, though any final decision is likely to need political unanimity from EU leaders.
Speaking after the meeting, Polish foreign minister Radoslaw Sikorski said the decision to explore these sanctions represented "a strong package, stronger than ever before".
“I think we have a good result, something that should be satisfying to Holland, to the Dutch public . . . It will make president Putin realise this time we are for real,” said the Polish foreign minister, one of the strongest advocates of tougher action against Russia.
In addition, EU ambassadors will this week consider adding further names to the EU’s sanction list as agreed by EU leaders last week. The list is expected to be published by the end of this week.
Criticism of Russia
Speaking after yesterday's meeting, Ireland's Minister for Foreign Affairs, Charlie Flanagan, said that the restrictions agreed would have an impact on Russia, which he criticised for providing arms across the border into Ukraine.
“[The restrictions] will have an impact in our mind that will act as a deterrent. I would expect that from the end of this week you would see lists of names, of entities, of companies,” he said.
“It is important that the EU takes a strong stance on the supply of arms across the border from Russia to the Ukraine, which is acting as a most destabilising force . . . We have called upon the Russians to move back from the border and not to engage in the proliferation of any further troops or personnel along the border.”
‘Phase three’ sanctions
Mr Flanagan also said that the possibility of a further summit to consider “phase three” sanctions had receded following the meeting.
“The Ministers didn’t advance matters to stage three. That is something that is currently beyond our competence. That will be dealt with at EU heads of government level over the next few weeks.”
He added that there was resolve on the part of the European Union to bring the perpetrators of the downing of Flight MH17 to justice within a clear time frame.
While the foreign ministers tasked the European Commission with providing concrete proposals on deeper sanctions by tomorrow, they stopped short of sanctioning an arms embargo, as had been suggested by a number of member states ahead of the meeting, including Britain, Sweden and Lithuania.