News / Europe

No Quick Decision Seen on Tougher EU Sanctions on Russia

FILE - A person is seen through a window above a Gazprombank branch in Moscow July 17, 2014.
FILE - A person is seen through a window above a Gazprombank branch in Moscow July 17, 2014.
Reuters

European Union ambassadors will debate proposals on Thursday on restricting Russian access to Europe's capital markets and defense and energy technology but are not expected to make a quick decision.

Ambassadors from the 28 EU nations are expected to agree on Thursday to add the names of some Russian companies that are helping to undermine Ukraine's sovereignty to the bloc's sanctions list, using new expanded criteria.

But they will probably need more time to agree to go beyond the asset freezes so far imposed by the EU and restrict Russia's access to Europe's financial markets and technology.

Despite threatening tough action since Russia's annexation of Ukraine's Crimea region in March, the EU has been divided over imposing economic sanctions on its main gas supplier.

Jolted into action

But the downing last week of a Malaysia Airlines plane over eastern Ukraine, killing 298 people, jolted the EU into action.

Foreign ministers for the first time this week singled out sectors of the Russian economy that the EU might target with sanctions in protest at Moscow's actions in eastern Ukraine.

The ministers said on Tuesday they could restrict Russia's access to capital markets, defense and sensitive technologies, “including in the energy sector,” unless Russia halts the flow of weapons across Ukraine’s border.

To avoid tougher sanctions, Moscow would also have to use its influence with pro-Russian rebels in Ukraine to allow an independent investigation into what brought down flight MH17.

“The Commission will be tabling tomorrow a paper with actions on each of the areas which were identified by the Foreign Affairs Council (ministers),” European Commission spokeswoman Pia Ahrenkilde Hansen told reporters on Wednesday.
        
Moment of silence

The EU's executive body had held a moment of silence earlier in memory of those killed on the Malaysian airliner, which Washington says was downed by a surface-to-air missile fired from rebel-held territory in eastern Ukraine.

European Energy Commissioner Guenther Oettinger suggested on Wednesday that the EU should not give Russia technical help to develop Arctic oil and gas fields if Moscow failed to help defuse the Ukraine crisis.

EU ambassadors will probably want to consult their capitals about the Commission's proposals before taking a decision on tougher sanctions and are likely to hold further discussions on July 29, diplomats said.

The ambassadors also have to decide how long the EU will give Russia to comply with its demands before imposing the sanctions.

Balancing the pain

One reason it has been so difficult for EU governments to agree to target sectors of the Russian economy with sanctions is that they fear some EU countries could suffer more than others from lost trade or from possible Russian retaliation.

The package of measures proposed by the foreign ministers was designed to balance the pain among EU member states.

But data indicates that Germany and Italy have most to lose if the EU makes good on its threat, while Britain's overseas territories are soaking up the lion's share of capital streaming out of Russia.

If ambassadors agree to the sanctions, it remains uncertain whether EU leaders would have to call an extraordinary summit meeting to approve them or whether governments would approve the decision in writing, without the need for a meeting.

Also at Thursday's meeting, ambassadors are expected to agree on a legal regulation broadening the scope of EU sanctions to include people and companies that support or benefit from Russian decision-makers responsible for annexing Crimea or destabilizing eastern Ukraine.

However, it may take until next week to publish a first list of people and companies targeted with asset freezes under this measure.

Ambassadors will also work on additional measures to restrict EU trade with and investment in Crimea.

You May Like

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs