Russia has gone far too far by capturing opposition leader Navalny immediately after his arrival. This is what most countries of the European Union believe. Today, the Foreign Ministers are meeting in Brussels and they are most likely to announce new sanctions against Russia.
The penalties will apply against people who have been involved in human rights violations in Russia. These could include police officers who arrested Navalny, judges sentencing or people who have recently been involved in the precipitation of protests in Russia. From them, bank balances will be frozen and they will no longer be given visas to travel to the EU.
That may sound like a firm approach, but its not what Navalnys imprisoned wants. He spoke with MEPs at the end of November and called on Brussels to impose sanctions against immense Russian oligarchs. If they can no longer dock their luxury yachts in the ports of Monaco and Barcelona, they will put pressure on Putin to change the course, Navalny argues.
This course may seem logical, but, according to EU diplomats, it is difficult to implement in practice. A Dutch initiative has recently made it possible to impose EU sanctions on the basis of human rights violations. But the people against whom the sanctions are directed must have been directly involved in those violations. And that doesnt apply to the oligarchs.
If there are Russians on the list of sanctions who had nothing to do with the arrest of Navalny or the suppression of protests, they can challenge their punishment before the European Court. If such a case is lost, it would be a big disgrace for the EU. And so the EU countries really want to limit the list to people who can be proven to have violated human rights in recent times.
The problem is that EU sanctions will not necessarily hit local judges or police officers hard. Brussels diplomats say that the threat of European sanctions does not allow all judges to participate in show trials.
That is a gain for the EU, but at the same time threats from the Kremlin will have a much greater impact on their lives for most Russians than threats from Brussels. If the Russian police officers or judges on the sanctions list do not travel to the EU anyway, they will never be denied a visa. It is also questionable whether these groups have European bank funds.
CCEit on 3 previously made this video about Navalny:
Ministers must unanimously agree to the sanctions. The EU countries are not always on the same level as regards their Russia policy. Hungary, for example, buys coronavaccins from the Russians, even though they are criticised by Brussels. Germany does not see any economic sanctions that could harm the Russian-German gas pipeline Nordstream 2.
Nevertheless, the EU countries seem to be more in line with the sanctions imposed by Navalnys fate. In October, EU ministers also imposed sanctions after Navalny had been poisoned. If there were any opponents, they lost the battle. Also in recent days, there were no countries in the preparatory meetings that threatened to veto new sanctions.
The European Foreign Coordinator Borrells visit to Moscow at the beginning of this month may also have to do with this. Borrell didnt make a strong impression there. At a press conference, Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov told him to his face that the EU is not a reliable partner. Borrell left it unchallenged. On the same day, Lavrov also expel three European diplomats.
Although there is a great deal of criticism in Brussels about Borrells actions, the queues seem to be closed against Russia too. Dropping Borrell right now would be the wrong signal to the Kremlin. The absence of sanctions after such a difficult visit would confirm the image of a wailing EU foreign policy.
It will not be known today who will be on the list of sanctions. Brussels officials will look at this in the coming weeks. At the EU summit next month, EU leaders will then confirm these names definitively.