Irish diplomat to head up enforcement of EU’s Russia sanctions

David O’Sullivan will move to the new role from his position as head of the Institute of International and European Affairs

A former diplomat from Ireland, David O’Sullivan, has been appointed to head the European Union’s efforts to push for tighter international enforcement of sanctions on Russia.

The European Commission announced that Mr O’Sullivan would take up the new post in mid-January, moving from his current position as head of policy think tank the Institute of International and European Affairs.

He is to become “the new international special envoy for the implementation of EU sanctions, to reinforce ongoing international actions and contacts with third countries,” European Commission vice-president Margaritis Schinas said.

The appointment comes as the US and EU push to shut down loopholes in sanctions imposed on Russia in response to its invasion of Ukraine.


Mr O’Sullivan began his career in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. He went on to serve in a number of top EU roles, including chief operating officer of the EU’s diplomatic service, secretary general of the European Commission and ambassador of the EU’s delegation to the United States.

Mr O’Sullivan is expected to work closely with the team of Ireland’s Commissioner Mairead McGuinness, who has sanctions implementation as part of her brief as chief of financial services.

He is also expected to co-ordinate with Jim O’Brien, who holds a similar position in the United States as head of its newly created Office of Sanctions Coordination, which was created in January.

Countries including Turkey, Serbia and the United Arab Emirates are expected to be scrutinised as the EU and US work to close off workarounds to the economic measures.

The EU is currently working to agree its ninth package of economic sanctions imposed on Russia to undermine its ability to wage war in Ukraine.

The European Commission has proposed further measures including imposing travel bans and asset freezes on 200 new individuals and entities, sanctioning three more Russian banks and cutting off Moscow’s access to drone supplies.

Naomi O’Leary

Naomi O'Leary

Naomi O’Leary is Europe Correspondent of The Irish Times