The EU Wants to Enhance Its Sanctions Regime

Dec 25, 2018 | 18:00 GMT

A proposal working its way through the European Union would expand the reasons for the imposition of sanctions by the bloc.

European Union flags outside the European Commission headquarters in Brussels, Belgium.



  • The European Union is currently discussing new tools to impose targeted sanctions against individuals and institutions responsible for human rights violations.
  • This proposal seeks to give the European Union additional options to impose pressure on governments and institutions, though the effectiveness of targeted sanctions is still a matter of debate within the bloc.
  • Political interests and national strategies will continue to influence the European Union's foreign policy, which means that a new sanctions regime would still face the same kinds of limits that characterize the existing ones.

The European Union is working on a new institutional framework to punish human rights violations around the world. In early December, EU member states endorsed a Dutch proposal to target people and entities that violate human rights with punitive measures such as asset freezes and travel bans. While the European Union has used human rights violations in part to justify sanctions in the past, the Dutch proposal would make the issue the primary trigger of sanctions. If implemented, the new sanctions regime would mark the next step in the evolution of a continental bloc that over the past decades has become more active in sanctioning individuals and entities around the world. However, institutional constraints, such as the need for unanimity when it comes to approving sanctions, would still limit the impact of the new sanctions regime....

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