WSJ learns about EU work to strengthen control over sanctions against Russia

EU governments are discussing measures to close loopholes to circumvent sanctions and improve data exchange between EU countries

The European Union is working to enforce all six rounds of sanctions against Russia as the bloc of 27 countries “seeks to increase economic pressure on the Kremlin”; in connection with the military operation in Ukraine, writes The Wall Street Journal.

European sanctions officials believe the economic measures are working, the newspaper writes. However, European governments, according to the publication, are discussing new measures that could close loopholes, tighten enforcement of sanctions and improve data exchange between EU countries.

As the WSJ notes, at the heart of the EU's problem lies a division of power between Brussels, which sets the policy of sanctions, and national ministries, supervisory authorities and industry groups, which need to interpret and apply restrictive measures. There is no single unit in the European Union that can penalize sanctions violations like the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) of the US Treasury. The EU authorities also have limited powers to investigate violations, the newspaper notes.

Now the most problematic area of ​​application of European sanctions— it is a job to identify and freeze assets belonging to “Russian oligarchs associated with Russian President Vladimir Putin,” writes the WSJ. According to the EU authorities, the assets of sanctioned Russians in the amount of more than $14 billion have been frozen in member countries of the association, while Brussels admits that they could “lose much more.”

Since the end of February, the United States, Great Britain, the EU states and a number of other countries have begun to tighten sanctions against Russia due to hostilities in Ukraine. During these months, several packages of restrictions were introduced that affected Russian companies associated with the defense and energy sectors, banks, transport companies, parliamentarians, officials, businessmen and journalists, as well as family members of those affected by the sanctions.

In May, the European Commission proposed to treat sanctions circumvention as a crime against the European Union. The EC considers serious violations:

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  • direct or indirect participation in bypassing restrictions, including including by hiding assets;
  • failing to freeze the funds of individuals on the sanctions list;
  • engaging in the import or export of prohibited goods.

The Russian authorities consider the sanctions illegal and promise to answer them. Countries that have introduced measures do not understand the scale of the impact of restrictions on their own economies, said the head of the Ministry of Economic Development Maxim Reshetnikov. The Kremlin said that Russia is able to “succeed” with the Western world, even though the USSR did not succeed in its time

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