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EU Criminalizes Violations of EU Sanctions, With a Focus on Russia

On Nov. 28, 2022, the Council of the European Union (Council) adopted a decision (Decision) to add the violation of restrictive measures to the list of so-called “EU crimes” set out in the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU).

As a reminder, the European Union has adopted throughout 2022 many economic and other sanctions to target the Russian Federation (Russia)’s economy and thwart its ability to continue its aggression against Ukraine. Nevertheless, currently EU Member States have different definitions of what constitutes a violation of EU sanctions, and what penalties must be applied in the case of a violation. This could lead to different degrees of enforcement of EU sanctions and risk of sanctions being circumvented. The Council has now decided that implementation of EU sanctions requires a joint effort, and the Decision is expected to be an essential tool to ensuring that any attempts to circumvent EU sanctions will be minimized or stopped.

Background

Under Article 83(1) TFEU, the European Parliament (Parliament) and the Council may “(…) establish minimum rules concerning the definition of criminal offences and sanctions in the areas of particularly serious crime with a cross-border dimension resulting from the nature or impact of such offences or from a special need to combat them on a common basis.” The areas of crime set out in Article 83(1) TFEU for the moment are: terrorism, trafficking in human beings and sexual exploitation of women and children, illicit drug trafficking, illicit arms trafficking, money laundering, corruption, counterfeiting of means of payment, computer crime, and organized crime.

As we have reported previously, on May 25, 2022, the European Commission presented a proposal for a decision to extend the list of these areas of crime to include the violation of EU sanctions.

Next steps

The inclusion of the violation of EU sanctions in the list of “EU crimes” is the first of two steps to ensure a similar degree of sanctions enforcement throughout the EU and to dissuade attempts to circumvent or violate EU sanctions.

Having adopted the Decision, the Commission now will propose an EU Directive containing minimum rules concerning the definition of criminal offences and penalties for the violation of EU sanctions. The Council and the Parliament will then discuss and adopt the draft EU Directive. 

©2023 Greenberg Traurig, LLP. All rights reserved. National Law Review, Volume XII, Number 335
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About this Author

Erik de Bie, Greenberg Traurig Law Firm, Amsterdam, Corporate and Tax Law Attorney
Shareholder

Erik de Bie is an attorney-at-law specilized in international trade, customs and VAT matters. Erik counsels clients in European trade, export control, sanctions, customs, VAT and excise duty related matters, including litigation. He focuses his practice on developing and implementing European savings programs, setting up and restructuring European distribution and supply chains, improving and structuring customs, excise duty and VAT related compliance, and limiting risks and liabilities. Given the developments in European legislation and the needs of his clients, Erik is...

31-020301-7315
Local Partner

Robert is a Local Partner in the firm's Antitrust Litigation & Competition Regulation Practice. In addition, he focuses his practice on regulatory matters. He advises clients on high-value and complex matters spanning a wide spectrum of economic sectors, including chemicals, defense, pharmaceuticals, and technology.

Robert represents clients before the European Commission, the Dutch Competition Authority (ACM), the Dutch administrative law courts, and the EU courts in matters relating to cartel defense, abuse of dominance, merger control,...

+31 20 301 7327
Kara Bombach, Greenberg Traurig, Washington DC, International Trade and White Collar Defense Attorney
Shareholder

Kara Bombach assists companies to lawfully export goods, technology and services around the globe. She places significant emphasis on helping clients achieve practical, workable solutions to complex regulatory situations arising under anti-corruption and anti-bribery measures (U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) and OECD Convention), export control laws (EAR and ITAR), anti-boycott laws, and special sanctions (embargoes) maintained by the U.S. government (OFAC and other agencies) against various countries (including Iran, Cuba and Sudan), entities and individuals....

202-533-2334
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