The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Federica Mogherini, on the European Sanctions against the Russian Federation


On 15 October 2014, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ms. Federica Mogherini, explained to the Chamber of Deputies the reasons behind the adoption of the sanctions against the Russian Federation. The Minister emphasised the need to introduce restrictive measures, but also left the door open to their renegotiation in the case that Moscow adopted a more constructive approach. She said that:

The genesis of the European sanctions against the Russian Federation  can be found in a decision taken on last 6 March by the head of States and governments of the European Union. On that occasion it was decided to adopt restrictive measures, of a preventive and not punitive character, inspired by the principles of effectiveness, proportionality, gradualness, reversibility and non-retroactivity. In accordance with those principles, the European Union, acting in a totally autonomous manner with respect to other international actors, has elaborated a three-tiered framework of sanctions, each tier becoming applicable depending on the evolving seriousness of the situation on the field.

The support given by Moscow, the autonomist aspirations of Crimea and the significant Russian military presence in the peninsula have motivated, therefore, the so-called measures of phase 1, which limited the political dialogue with Russia, brought to an end some negotiations and prohibited to the EU member States to hold bilateral summits with the Russian Federation. The clear violation of principles and norms of international law, occurred through the illegitimate annexation of Crimea, determined the adoption of measures aimed at individuals. Indeed, the European Council of 20-21 March decided to tackle those Russian personalities responsible for jeopardising the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of Ukraine, through an entry ban and the freezing of financial activities.

As a consequence of the insufficient cooperation from Moscow for a resolution of the crisis, the Council of Foreign Affairs of 12 May extended the individual sanctions also to those natural and legal persons responsible for the expropriation of Ukrainian economic and financial activities in Crimea and Sebastopol, in violation of the Ukrainian law. The progressive isolation within which Moscow has confined itself, unable to understand the openness of the European Union, as well as the persistent destabilisation on the field justified – especially following the accident occurred to the Malaysian Boeing – the passage to the third phase, characterised by economic measures of sectorial nature, adopted by the Council of Foreign Affairs of 22 July and subsequently widened by the European Council of 30 August.

The European Union has been forced to adopt a series of individual financial and commercial sanctions against Russia, conceived so that all member States share their economic burden. The structure of the European sanctions is thus based on the respect for fundamental principles of democratic coexistence between States and on the awareness that sanctions are a tool to attain the ultimate goal of bringing the Russian Federation to establish, irreversibly and clearly, a dialogue toward a political solution of the Ukrainian crisis. The effectiveness of the sanctions also depends on the coherence of the approach at the international level. Consultations with the main partners, first of all in the framework of the G7, are aimed at ensuring that the restrictive measures sent to Moscow are univocal, based on principles and values widely shared well beyond the European perimeter.

The non-punitive nature and especially the reversibility of the sanctions make the European system flexible enough to take into account also the positive developments that might emerge on the Russian side. The pressure put by Moscow on the separatist leadership in Ukraine, which is at the basis of the ceasefire agreed upon in Minsk, last 5 September, is an example of the constructive approach we expect from Russia. The recent encouraging signs of the last weeks have prompted a prudent opening, from the European side, toward potential future horizons for reviewing the measures.

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