how the EU intends to continue its policy of sanctions against Russia

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The economic pressure against Russia is intensifying. The European Union and the G7 plan to adopt a fifth package of sanctions after the shock wave caused by the discovery of scenes of massacres in Boutcha, in the suburbs of kyiv. “We must again increase the pressure on Putin and the Russian government”, said the president of the European executive, Ursula von der Leyen, on Twitter on Wednesday April 6.

“We therefore propose to further toughen our sanctions, said the President of the European Commission on Twitter. They limit the political and economic options of the Kremlin. They affect Russia much harder than us. And these will not be our last sanctions.”

The expulsions of Russian diplomats have accelerated in various European countries since Monday, with more than 200 cumulative dismissals in 48 hours. And the representatives of the Twenty-Seven are discussing, on Wednesday, the new sanctions to be adopted unanimously, before a meeting of European Foreign Ministers, next Monday, to validate these sanctions. Franceinfo takes stock of the maps available to the EU to increase its pressure against Vladimir Putin.

An embargo on coal imports

The European Commission is proposing “to ban all coal imports from Russia, worth 4 billion euros a year”, said Ursula von der Leyen. Russian coal accounts for 45% of EU imports, according to the Commission.

This sanction would have fewer consequences on the energy market of the Twenty-Seven than embargoes on oil (which represents 25% of European purchases), or on gas (45% of EU imports), according to the Bruegel Institute , a European think tank specializing in economics. Russian coal is indeed more easily replaceable by other sources of supply, unlike the other two Russian energies.

The President of the European Commission clarified that the EU was also considering additional sanctions,”especially on oil imports”. A sanction that does not dismiss Emanuel Macron. The French president confirmed on Tuesday that he was “in favor of a ban on the import of oil and coal”, according to the Elysée. France is one, along with Italy, of the EU countries for which this blockade would be the most painless, because it is not very dependent on Russian imports. Less than a third of the coal consumed in France is bought in Moscow, barely 20% of gas and only 13% of oil, according to the Ministry of Ecological Transition.

The hypothesis put forward of a European embargo on imports of Russian coal has already boosted prices. The ton of coal, without reaching its historical record of March 7 (465 dollars), again passed the 300 dollar mark on Wednesday.

The closure of European ports to Russian ships

Like the United Kingdom, which has already implemented this ban, the EU wishes to prohibit boats controlled by Russian entities or nationals from accessing European ports. However, this prohibition does not apply to vessels “covering essential products, in particular agricultural and food, humanitarian aid as well as the energy sector”.

“The EU will have to overcome serious challenges, as it will have to identify all Russian vessels, which could be difficult due to the complexity of the ownership structures of the companies that charter, control or operate them”warned Niels Rasmussen, a Swedish maritime expert, to AFP. “Furthermore, Russian-flagged vessels are changing flags at a record rate in order to avoid sanctions”he added.

On the land side, the Commission is proposing to ban Russian and Belarusian road transport operators on European roads, with the aim of “significantly limit the possibilities for Russian industry to procure essential components”.

New restrictions on trade

With regard to trade, Brussels intends to limit the export of strategic products to Russia. This restriction concerns industrial equipment and components such as advanced semiconductors or quantum computers.

The EU executive also wants to expand the list of Russian products banned from importing into the EU. Objective : “stop the flow of money from Russia and its oligarchs”, for an estimated value of 5.5 billion euros per year. The EU executive also proposes to prevent Russian companies from participating in public procurement inside the European Union.

The freezing of new assets of Russian personalities

The blacklist of Russian and Belarusian personalities whose assets in the EU are seized may be extended to “dozens of people”active in particular “in politics, business and propaganda”, according to the head of EU diplomacy, Josep Borrell. This asset freeze ensures that the targeted money cannot be used to support the Russian regime.

Currently, 877 individuals and 62 entities have had their assets frozen and are prohibited from entering or transiting EU territory, whether by land, air or sea. In France, the Minister of Finance, Bruno Le Maire, had already announced on March 20 the freezing of 850 million euros of financial assets and property belonging to Russian oligarchs on French territory.

The ban on new bank transactions

On the financial side, the 27 are planning to completely ban transactions with four major Russian banks representing a quarter of the country’s banking sector. Among them, VTB, the second establishment in Russia.

The EU has already deprived seven Russian banks of access to the Swift international financial system and banned all transactions with the Central Bank of the Russian Federation. It no longer has access to the assets it has stored in central banks and European private institutions. The European Council considers that “more than half of Russian reserves are already frozen”. Finally, the European Union and the G7, in coordination with the United States, are considering banning “brand new investment” in Russia, according to a source familiar with the matter.

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