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Dysfunctions Last Updated: Feb 7, 2024 - 1:43:08 PM

„Russians not Welcome”
By German Foreign Policy, 18 Sep2023 
Sep 19, 2023 - 3:35:51 PM

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Sanctions on Russia lead to excesses: Russians may, in some cases, be prohibited from bringing items of everyday use into the EU. Russian businesspeople may be sanctioned even though innocent.

Russians are no longer allowed to enter the EU by car and, in some cases, must even leave personal items of everyday use, including laptops and clothing behind at the border. This is the outcome of several days of discussion on an updated EU regulation on the implementation of sanctions on Russia, which has made waves last week. The ban to enter the EU with cars registered in Russia, is already being implemented in Finland, the Baltic states and Poland. Norway is taking it into consideration. Lithuania intends to even ban the transport of daily personal necessities. While Russian exiled opposition activists are vehemently protesting– they are also affected by these measures – the General Court of the European Union has ruled that sanctions on businesspeople are legitimate, even if they do not support the Ukraine war or the Russian government. To be sanctioned, it suffices to be an influential businessman in a significant branch of the Russian economy. Proof of guilt, which is standard in a constitutional state is no longer necessary.
Sanctions without Evidence
On September 6, the General Court of the European Union ruled that sanctions on Russian businesspeople are legitimate, even if these cannot be backed by concrete evidence. The action was filed by Russian businesspeople, who had been placed on the EU’s restrictive measures lists, which means that their assets within the EU are frozen and that they are banned from entering EU member countries. The plaintiffs had argued that the EU had imposed sanctions on them without proving their active involvement in the Ukraine war or any other direct support of the Russian government.[1] The Court ruled that such proof was not required in order to be placed under sanctions. It is perfectly sufficient to be “involved in economic sectors which constitute a substantial source of revenue for the Government of the Russian Federation.”[2] Thus, one of the plaintiffs can be “classified as a leading businessperson involved in the oil and gas industry sectors which provide a substantial source of revenue to the Russian Government. This, in itself, justifies the imposition of harsh sanctions on him. This does not constitute “an unjustified, arbitrary and disproportionate limitation of their fundamental rights, which include, inter alia, the right to respect for private and family life, home and communications.”

A Precedent
If the General Court’s ruling is allowed to stand, it will set new standards within the EU. Successful businesspeople from third countries must then in principle expect sanctions, as soon as the EU imposes draconian restrictive measures on the governments of their countries. The only possibility of avoiding the sanctions would be – as is confirmed by another General Court ruling [3] – to give up ones business activities, to cease one’s professional existence. The hope of escaping sanctions in the absence of any infraction, would be eliminated. Apply this new standard to EU member countries themselves and to their past activities, drastic measures would not only have had to be taken against Germany’s red-green government coalition in 1999 – for waging a war of aggression against Yugoslavia in violation of international law. But it would also have been justified for those countries that had not participated in the war to have imposed sanctions on Germany’s automobile industry sector’s leading businessmen, whose fundamental importance to the German economy and government is beyond question. The same would apply to leading businessmen of Poland, or France for their governments’ participation in the wars of aggression in violation of international law on Iraq (2003) or Libya (2011).

“Interpret Sanctions Broadly”
The EU’s sanctions on Russia are also leading to other excesses. The EU Commission, for example, published a paper on September 8, that specifies how those measures should be carried out on Russians seeking to enter the EU. According to these stipulations, cars with Russian tag numbers, are no longer allowed to cross the EU’s borders. If at all, exceptions are only allowed for EU citizens, who, for professional reasons, must live in Russia, such as diplomats.[4] Last week, Finland, the three Baltic countries and Poland have reacted by closing their borders to Russian vehicles. The EU’s specification, which uses the justification that the Russians entering may seek to sell their vehicles inside the EU, and thus violate the sanctions, goes considerably further. The list of goods not allowed to enter the EU contains 160 items, including laptops, luggage, shaving crème as well as cosmetics. These also fall under general suspicion that their owners may be transporting them only for the purpose of circumventing the sanctions. The latter must in all cases “be interpreted broadly,” according to the General Court of the European Union updated version of the EU papers.[5] The German customs administration endorses this policy whole heartedly.

Collateral Damage
In the meantime, the EU’s regulations are provoking protests – not because they are actually forcing Russians to abandon their property at the borders and to enter the EU more or less penniless, if this is even allowed. Alongside simple citizens of the Russian Federation, without any political intentions for coming, the rules also apply to declared opponents of President Vladimir Putin’s government, including activists of the Russian exile opposition, such as associates of Alexei Navalny, currently imprisoned in Russia. “We ask you to reconsider your decision,” Maria Pevchikh, the Director of the “Fund to Fight Corruption,” founded by Navalny. Banning vehicles with Russian license plates is “just about as absurd as the ban on entering with luggage and clothes purchased in Russia.” This also makes life more difficult for those members of the Russian opposition, “who are forced to leave the country,” and therefore must use the most convenient means of transportation – their automobile.[6]

At the Discretion of the Authorities
The protests by opponents of the Russian government have prompted the EU to refine their regulation a bit further. Brussels insists on its ban on the entry of automobiles registered in Russia. However, it is for “the national competent authorities” to “assess each situation and to implement the prohibitions accordingly.”[7] There are goods for which there is little risk that the owner is bringing them into the EU solely to be able to circumvent the sanctions. These include “personal hygiene items” or clothing “contained in their luggage” or worn by travelers. In such cases, national competent authorities should continue to apply the prohibition in a “proportionate and reasonable” manner. Thus, the decision pertaining to whether sun crème or items of clothing will be allowed to enter the member countries, is left in the hands of individual customs officials. According to reports, Lithuania has already announced, that even personal items will be confiscated.[8] Via X (formerly Twitter), Estonia’s Foreign Minister Margus Tsahkna justifies these measures by his country saying that Russians are “not welcomed here,” until “Ukraine is victorious.”

 [1] Alexander Haneke: Kaum Hoffnung für die Oligarchen. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 08.09.2023.

[2] Court of Justice of the European Union: Press Release No 132/23 Luxembourg, 6 September 2023.

[3] Sanktionen rechtmäßig. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 07.09.2023.

[4] Finnland schließt Grenze für russische Autos. zdf.de 15.09.2023.

[5] Import, purchase & transfer of listed goods. Frequently asked questions – as of 12 September 2023. finance.ec.europa.eu.

[6] Thomas Gutschker, Reinhard Veser: Empörung über die EU. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 15.09.2023.

[7] Import, purchase & transfer of listed goods. Frequently asked questions – as of 12 September 2023. finance.ec.europa.eu.

[8] Daniel Säwert: EU-Sanktionen: Brüssel ist scharf auf Russen-Autos. nd-aktuell.de 13.09.2023.

Source:Ocnus.net 2023

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