On 22 March, a new EU human rights sanctions regime took effect. China, Russia, Myanmar and Libya will be the first countries to face new sanctions. These will be personal blocking restrictions: ban on entry into the EU and asset freezing within the EU, if any.
The new sanctions regime does not provide for sectoral economic sanctions and rather resembles the Global Magnitsky Act which was adopted in the United States and concerns exclusively human rights. These sanctions are unlikely to affect the policies of the countries against which they are imposed. It is a rather symbolic and political gesture of the EU to affirm its stance on a specific issue.
Why then is this regime important? Its creation shows that an increasing number of world countries want to have their own opportunities to impose sanctions in various areas: human rights, trade restrictions, protection of intellectual property rights, protection of personal data.
One of the reasons that pushed countries to this desire was the policy of the United States over the past 10 years as it has become more active in imposing extraterritorial sanctions, which are global in nature and create problems for other countries.
Russia, China, Britain, Germany and France have already announced their intention to set up their own sanctions mechanisms and structures. The EU’s regime is one of the first steps in this direction. It demonstrates that the international political system is no longer unanimous but increasingly fragmented into different clusters.
Elijah Kusa, UIF international policy expert