The European Union is to adopt a new mechanism to punish chemical weapons’ attacks by targeting people blamed for using banned munitions, regardless of their nationality, according to unnamed EU diplomats, cited by Reuters.
The new sanctions regime is based on a French proposal to combat the alleged repeated use of chemical weapons by Russia and Syria. It would allow the EU to quickly impose sanctions on specific individuals anywhere in the world, freezing their assets in the bloc and banning them from entry.
According to the unnamed EU diplomatic sources, ambassadors from the EU’s 28 governments are set to adopt the regime on September 26th, without discussions on it.
The EU already sanctions Syria and Russia over their alleged misconducts, however under the new regime the individuals must be added to special country lists. As reported by Reuters, these are difficult to negotiate and expand, because some EU members are reluctant to criticize close partners, “particularly Moscow.”
“This is significant because we will be able to add names without a big, sensitive debate,” said an unnamed one senior EU diplomat involved in the negotiations. “We can try to uphold certain rights rather than just issuing statements.”
The unnamed EU diplomats also said that the chemical weapons regime could be followed by a similar mechanism for human rights violations, similar to the US Global Magnitsky Act, which allows Washington to sanction individuals for abuses or corruption.
The regime would be given a final approval on October 15th, it would require the support of all EU governments for names to be added, according to a preparatory paper seen by Reuters.
According to Reuters, it was unclear whether Britain would add the names of the two Russian nationals accused of poisoning Sergey Skripal and his daughter. However, the unnamed diplomats claimed that Britain has been unsuccessful in convincing other EU members to support new sanctions on Russia’s alleged involvement in the case. Russia has denied any involvement in any chemical weapons and nerve agent use.
Prime Minister Theresa May at the summit in Salzburg called on the leaders of EU states to accelerate the establishment of a new mechanism of sanctions against those responsible for the use of chemical weapons. The Prime Minister also briefed the summit participants on the progress of Skripal case investigation.
According to Reuters, France supported the EU sanctions regime in part because the United Nations Security Council has been deadlocked over how to set up an independent inquiry for chemical attacks in Syria. Russia rejected a joint draft resolution submitted by the UK, France and the US earlier in 2018.