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

How to Safeguard Your Mobile Privacy

As the digital world becomes more mobile, so too do concerns about eroding privacy and increased hacking More

'Desert Dancer' Chronicles Iranian Underground Dance Troupe

Film by Richard Raymond is based on true story of Afshin Ghaffarian and his friends More

Audio Top 5 Songs for Week Ending May 23

This week's lineup can be summed up like this: 'It's The Same Old Song' - but they're great songs - featuring Walk The Moon, The Weeknd, Wiz Khalifa and Charlie Puth More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmakingi
X
Bernard Shusman
May 24, 2015 2:55 PM
According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Millions Flock to Ethiopia Polls

Millions of Ethiopians cast their votes Sunday in the first national election since the 2012 death of longtime leader Meles Zenawi. Mr. Meles' party, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front, is almost certain of victory again. VOA's Anita Powell reports from Addis Ababa.
Video

Video Scientists Testing Space Propulsion by Light

Can the sun - the heart of our solar system - power a spacecraft to the edge of our solar system? The answer may come from a just-launched small satellite designed to test the efficiency of solar sail propulsion. Once deployed, its large sail will catch the so-called solar wind and slowly reach what scientists hope to be substantial speed. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video FIFA Trains Somali Referees

As stability returns to the once lawless nation of Somalia, the world football governing body, FIFA, is helping to rebuild the country’s sport sector by training referees as well as its young footballers. Abdulaziz Billow has more from Mogadishu.
Video

Video With US Child Obesity Rates on the Rise, Program Promotes Health Eating

In its fifth year, FoodCorps puts more than 180 young Americans into 500 schools across the United States, where they focus on teaching students about nutrition, engaging them with hands-on activities, and improving their access to healthy foods whether in the cafeteria or the greater community. Aru Pande has more.
Video

Video Virginia Neighborhood Draws People to Nostalgic Main Street

In the U.S., people used to grow up in small towns with a main street lined by family-owned shops and restaurants. Today, however, many main streets are worn down and empty because shoppers have been lured away by shopping malls. But in the Del Ray neighborhood of Alexandria, Virginia, main street is thriving. VOA’s Deborah Block reports it has a nostalgic feel with its small restaurants and unique stores.
Video

Video Effort Underway to Limit Damage from California Oil Spill

Cleanup crews are working around the clock to remove oil from the waters off the coastal city of Santa Barbara, in California. About 380,000 liters of oil may have leaked out before a rupture in an onshore, underground pipeline was discovered Tuesday. The environmental disaster hit the popular West Coast resort area before the Memorial Day weekend. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports investigators have yet to determine what caused the incident.

VOA Blogs