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EU expands ‘black list’ of Russians and cancels EU-Russia summit in June

March 21, 2014, 9:47 UTC+3
European Council President Herman Van Rompuy said the EU is imposing sanctions on more senior officials of the Russian government
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BRUSSELS, MARCH 21. /ITAR-TASS/. The European Union has expanded the “blacklist” of Russian officials from 21 to 23 names whose travel to the EU countries is banned and bank accounts of which, if they are found in European banks, are to be frozen. No decisions on the introduction of economic sanctions were made, but the European Commission has been instructed to develop a plan of action “to reduce European Union’s energy dependence on Russia.”

European Council President Herman Van Rompuy said after the first day of the summit that the name list would be known after its publication in the EU Official Journal. Russian representatives of a really high rank are present in it, he added.

In addition, EU countries have agreed to suspend the preparation for bilateral summits with Russia and cancelled a Russia-EU summit that was scheduled for June. The EU insists on the de-escalation of the crisis in Ukraine and restoration of the country’s territorial integrity, Van Rompuy said. If Russia takes further action in Ukraine and de-escalation does not take place, the EU will take further measures, including economic ones, he noted. “In the absence of de-escalation from Russia, the European Council has decided to expand the list of individuals subject to visa ban and asset freeze. We put forward another 12 names to the list of 21 agreed to earlier this week. We are also cancelling the next EU-Russia Summit and member states will likewise cancel regular bilateral summits,” he said at a press conference following the first session of the European Council in Brussels on Thursday.

Rompuy said that previously it was clearly stated that the “failure to settle the crisis peacefully, and any steps by Russia to destabilize Ukraine, will have far-reaching consequences.” “And by that we mean consequences on relations in a broad range of economic areas. We ask the (European) Commission and the member states to prepare possible targeted measures,” he said.

“Russia's annexation of Crimea and Sevastopol is a clear violation of Ukrainian sovereignty and of international law. We strongly condemn the unconstitutional referendum in Crimea; we will not recognize it, nor will we recognize the annexation. There is no place for the use of force and coercion to change borders on the European continent in the 21st century,” he said.

“Sanctions are not a question of retaliation; they are a foreign policy tool. Not a goal in themselves, but a means to an end. Our goal is to stop Russian action against Ukraine, to restore Ukraine’s sovereignty - and to achieve this we need a negotiated solution. Europe stands ready to facilitate and engage in a meaningful dialogue involving Ukraine and Russia and supports all multilateral initiatives towards that aim,” Rompuy said. He also demanded “a prompt agreement on an OSCE mission to Ukraine, and we’ve asked the High Representative to urgently draw up plans for an EU contribution to facilitate the work of the OSCE mission. In the absence of an OSCE mission in the coming days, the European Union will launch an EU observer mission.”

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso for his part admitted that the EU had not made decisions yet on possible practical and economic sanctions against Russia.

He said the European Commission had already started the preparation of possible sanctions in a wide range of spheres. He noted the EC was considering all the economic sectors, but had not reached an agreement on the specific economic measures against Russia. According to Barroso, the timeframe for the co-ordination of these measures had not been specified.

The EU summit also instructed the European Commission to work out by June an action plan for the reduction of European Union’s energy dependence on Russia, according to a draft final statement of the summit, received by Itar-Tass. It has been a second attempt over the past 10 years. The first attempt had been made in 2006, after the first natural gas crisis in relations between Russia and Ukraine that was led by the leaders that came to power after the pro-European “orange revolution” of 2004.

The European Council (EU summit) instructs the European Commission to deeply analyze and submit by June a comprehensive plane for reducing external energy dependence of the EU, especially of the most energy dependent states, says the document.

Deliveries from Russia currently cover some 60% of the EU oil and natural gas demand.

The European Commission will first study the possibilities for the diversification of the traditional energy sources for EU countries, including prospects for the shale gas development in Poland and the UK. Second, it will consider the expansion of the number of foreign energy suppliers, including the development of the “southern corridor” - a system of gas pipelines that would be able to supply energy resources bypassing Russia, as well as prospects of more purchase of liquefied natural gas (LNG) and the creation of new routes of delivery of hydrocarbons from North Africa. Third, the European Commission is to give its opinion on the intensification of the introduction of alternative energy sources in Europe, and fourth - study the possibilities for improving energy efficiency of the European economy.

The European Commission will present the results of its work by the June EU summit. This plan will be considered in the context of determining new standards of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, which the EU intends set for itself by 2030. Taking into account that most EU countries are implementing a systematic nuclear phase-out policy, as well as curbing the extremely environmentally unfriendly power generation at coal-fired electric power-plants, as well as the extremely low environmental friendliness of shale gas production, the European Commission today is facing a most difficult task.

The first attempt to fulfill it had been made in 2006 during the preparation of the so-called EU Green paper on Energy that was aimed at the radical reduction of European Union’s external energy dependence. Then the European Commission started this work after a short-term disruption of the Russian natural gas delivery to Europe in January 2006 as a result of the refusal of President Viktor Yushchenko, who came to power as a result of the “orange revolution,” to repay Kiev’s debts to Russia’s natural gas monopoly Gazprom and who ordered illegal siphoning off of gas. The EU had immediately accused Russia of the use of energy as a “tool of pressure” and started to struggle for energy independence.

As a result of all the efforts in the period from 2006 to 2012, the total gas import of all European Union member states, according to Eurostat — EU’s statistics service, increased from 336 million tonnes of oil equivalent to 346 million tonnes per year, which happened despite the general European industrial slump in 2009-2012 as a result of the sovereign debt crisis. At the same time, Russia’s share in EU energy imports only increased, in particular, in connection with the decline of deliveries from North Africa the political stability level in which sharply deteriorated as a result of a series of rebellions that were actively supported by the EU, and whole zones of chaos formed there, as, for example, in Libya.

According to forecasts of the European Commission, if the existing trends persist, by 2035 EU’s energy dependence on Russia would increase from 60% to 80%.

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