EU will use for the first time its European Magnitsky Act over Navalny

The foreign ministers focused on the need to bring back full implementation of the JCPOA

Photo: EU Josep Borrell.

During the Foreign Affairs Council held on Monday in Brussels, ministers had discussions about Russia, Iran and Hong Kong. The Council exchanged views, via video conference, with the new US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on the substantive agenda for EU-US cooperation on key global, foreign and security policy issues. 

This was first high-level interaction between the EU and the new US administration, a month from its taking office. The discussion showed the parties' intention not only to deepen the EU-US partnership, but also their intention to form a joint global leadership in fighting the pandemic and dealing with recovery, mitigating climate change and ensuring the promotion of democratic values.

The Council held a comprehensive and strategic discussion on EU-Russia relations. Josep Borrell, High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy explained at the news conference following the meeting that “there is a shared assessment in the Council that Russia is drifting towards an authoritarian state and driving away from Europe”.

He said that the ministers unanimously interpreted Russia’s recent actions and responses as a clear signal of not being interested in cooperation with the European Union, on the contrary, it looks interested in confrontation and disengagement from the European Union.

Ministers focused on pushing back on infringements of international law and human rights, containing disinformation and cyberattacks, but also engaging on issues of interest to the EU.  “To push back, to contain and to engage,” HR Borrell summed up.

In response to the events around the situation of Mr Navalny we reached a political agreement to impose restrictive measures against those responsible for his arrest, sentencing and persecution, Borrell said adding that for the first time ever we will make use of the EU Global Human Rights Regime to this end. This regime is the European variant of the US Magnitsky Act.

“These sanctions will be put in the pipeline of our administrative process today under a proposal of the High Representative. I hope they will be decided soon. Maybe it will take one week, but I hope not more than that, and will be approved by written procedure by the Council,” Borrell specified.

He said he cannot give more details about the people who will be on the listing, but outlined that “it refers to people involved on the detention and persecution of Alexei Navalny.”

EU foreign ministers also agreed to increase support to all those engaged in the country in defending the political and civil freedoms.

The Council discussed as well the situation with Iran, and the worrying recent developments in the nuclear field. The need to bring back full implementation of the JCPOA, both as regards nuclear commitments and when it comes to sanctions lifting, was consistently highlighted.

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