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Russian sanctions evasion shows circumvention is the biggest threat to Europe

May 10, 2023by Anrike Visser

First published by Euractiv

“On 10 March, chief European Union diplomat Joseph Borrell told Euractiv that the EU had nearly exhausted sanctions to counter Russia and would focus on sanctions circumvention moving forward. While the size and scale of sanctions on Russia are unprecedented, sanctions circumvention has long been a serious problem and must be addressed, but not at the expense of new sanctions.

For years, civil society and the media have exposed breaches of sanctions, arms embargoes, and product bans. Until Russia’s circumvention tactics highlighted the true size of the enforcement gap, these felt like isolated events and struggled to make it on the EU’s agenda. In 2019, Marietje Schaake, a Dutch liberal MEP, called sanctions breaches a “systematic problem.”

The EU needs to continue to adopt new sanctions on Russia and work to ensure they are not circumvented.

So far, several EU countries and their neighbours have been able to identify and stop sanctions breaches, but these are just the tip of the iceberg. Estonia alone has found 1500 sanctions violations, according to their finance minister. The Netherlands recently arrested an exporter of microchips to Russia who, according to Europol, “deliberately pretended that these goods had a different destination [than] the actual final one [Russia] in order to circumvent the EU-imposed trade sanctions.”

Simultaneously highlighting the renewed vigour toward sanctions enforcement and the systemic challenges in doing so, French authorities recently concluded that 60% of real estate agents in select municipalities around Cannes, Monaco, and Nice are either unaware of or do not check the sanctions lists.

While these instances do show an increased focus on enforcement, there are a lot of uncertainties around undetected cases.” […]

Read the full op-ed at Euractiv.

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