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The EU Sanctions Operation in Syria: Conflict Management by other Means

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Abstract

Since May 2011, the EU has crafted one of its most far reaching and sophisticated sanctions operations in support of the anti-regime protests against the current regime in Syria. The present article examines the measures wielded by the EU, its expected impact and its implications for the EU's relations with its global partners. While seriously undermined by the lack of support of Russia, the sanctions are having a noticeable economic impact. Yet, the choice of measures is ill-suited to stop the bloodshed. The sanctions have also served to (re)define partnerships with other powers, both in the Middle-East and globally. Resumen: A partir de mayo de 2011 la Unión Europea ha llevado a cabo una de las operaciones más sofisticadas sobre sanciones en apoyo de las protestas contra el régimen político de Siria. El presente artículo examina las medidas autorizadas por la Unión Europea, su impacto esperado y las implicaciones para sus relaciones con sus socios globales. Aunque hayan quedado seriamente debilitadas por la falta de apoyo de Rusia, las sanciones están teniendo un impacto económico visible. No obstante, las medidas escogidas no son las más adecuadas para detener el derramamiento de sangre. Las sanciones han servido también para redefinir las asociaciones con otras potencias, tanto en Oriente Medio como a nivel global. Palabras clave: Siria, sanciones específicas, La Unión Europea, PESC, Asociaciones Estratégicas, Responsabilidad de Proteger.
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THE EU SANCTIONS OPERATION IN SYRIA: CONFLICT
MANAGEMENT BY OTHER MEANS1
Clara Portela2
Singapore Management University
Abstract:
Since May 2011, the EU has crafted one of its most far reaching and sophisticated sanctions operations
in support of the anti-regime protests against the current regime in Syria. The present article examines
the measures wielded by the EU, its expected impact and its implications for the EU’s relations with its
global partners. While seriously undermined by the lack of support of Russia, the sanctions are having a
noticeable economic impact. Yet, the choice of measures is ill-suited to stop the bloodshed. The
sanctions have also served to (re)define partnerships with other powers, both in the Middle-East and
globally.
Keywords: Syria, targeted sanctions, European Union, CFSP, Strategic Partnerships, Responsibility to
Protect.
Resumen:
A partir de mayo de 2011 la Unión Europea ha llevado a cabo una de las operaciones más sofisticadas
sobre sanciones en apoyo de las protestas contra el régimen político de Siria. El presente artículo
examina las medidas autorizadas por la Unión Europea, su impacto esperado y las implicaciones para
sus relaciones con sus socios globales. Aunque hayan quedado seriamente debilitadas por la falta de
apoyo de Rusia, las sanciones están teniendo un impacto económico visible. No obstante, las medidas
escogidas no son las más adecuadas para detener el derramamiento de sangre. Las sanciones han
servido también para redefinir las asociaciones con otras potencias, tanto en Oriente Medio como a
nivel global.
Palabras clave: Siria, sanciones específicas, La Unión Europea, PESC, Asociaciones Estratégicas,
Responsabilidad de Proteger.
Copyright © UNISCI, 2012.
Las opiniones expresadas en estos artículos son propias de sus autores, y no reflejan necesariamente la
opinión de UNISCI. The views expressed in these articles are those of the authors, and do not
necessarily reflect the views of UNISCI.
1 This paper was first published as Egmont Security Policy Brief No. 38 in September 2012 by Egmont, Royal
Institute of International Relations. Data correspond to late August 2012. The author thanks Thomas Renard,
André Bank, Rosa Balfour and Dursun Peksen for their input.
2 Dr Clara Portela is Assistant Professor of Political Science at Singapore Management University (Singapore).
Her research focuses on the foreign policy of the European Union, in particular international sanctions. She is the
author of European Union Sanctions and Foreign Policy (Routledge 2012) and the recipient of the 2011
THESEUS Prize for Promising Research on European Integration.
E-mail:
http://dx.doi.org/10.5209/rev_UNIS.2012.n30.407
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1. Introduction
One year and a half after the beginning of the protests against the current regime in Syria, the
European Union’s (EU) response to the Arab Spring has taken some unprecedented traits. The
popular uprisings in the Arab world have led the EU to employ an instrument it had been
traditionally reluctant to use in this region: sanctions. They were imposed against targets in
Tunisia, Egypt and Libya in the early days of the Arab Spring. However, they fulfilled
different roles: In Tunisia and Egypt, where leaderships were unseated after only few weeks
of protests, giving way to transitional governments, the EU froze the assets held in European
accounts in order to prevent ousted leaders from accessing state funds. In Libya, sanctions
were quickly followed by a multinational military operation under NATO command which
precipitated the defeat of government forces. By contrast, in Syria neither have the protests
succeeded in ousting President Bashar Al-Assad, nor has the use of force been seriously
contemplated. The Syrian leadership consistently refuses to step down or to negotiate with
opposition groups, opting instead for a strategy of repression which has been the subject of
widespread international condemnation. Since the eruption of violence in March 2011, the
situation has been characterised by stalemate, until protesters started making progress against
government forces in July 2012. In the face of continued violence, the United Nations
Security Council (UNSC) remains deadlocked: Russia has indicated its readiness to yield a
veto against any proposal to intervene. A military operation to put an end to the crackdown on
protesters remains unlikely for fear of a domino effect that could exacerbate conflicts in this
volatile region. The UK along with the US and some of Syria’s neighbours such as Saudi
Arabia and Qatar has resorted to arming opposition forces. Yet, the EU is still far away from
reaching an agreement on military intervention – even though calls in that direction proliferate
among European politicians. In the absence of policy alternatives, sanctions currently
constitute the core of the EU’s response to the conflict in Syria. The EU first asked Al-Assad
to negotiate with the opposition, then to cease repression, and as from August 2011, to leave
office.
3
These demands were supported by sanctions imposed alongside those of the US, and
tightened in reaction to successive crackdowns on civilians.
The sanctions against Syria are unprecedented. To begin with, the EU deployed the
virtual entirety of measures in the sanctions toolbox within less than a year. In its past
practice, it usually wielded an arms embargo and a visa ban on the leadership and their
associates. The tightening of sanctions in subsequent rounds often consisted in lengthening
the blacklist and applying an assets freeze to the featured individuals. While this process often
took years, the sanctions against Syria have accumulated the whole set in just a few months.
Most notably, they entail an energy embargo, namely a ban on the import of oil from Syria – a
rare measure for the EU to adopt in the absence of a UNSC mandate given that the EU
imports this oil to meet its own energy needs. Prior to the embargo, the EU’s import of Syrian
crude was worth over €3 billion a year, and went mostly to Italy and Germany.
4
Finally,
sanctions were agreed at the request of the League of Arab States (LAS), a regional
organisation that had encouraged such measures against one of its members only once before
in its history – against Iraq in the early 1990s.
3
Balfour, R. (2012): “EU Conditionality after the Arab Spring”, EIMed (Barcelona) Papers IEMed no. 16.
4
Figures for 2010, at http://exporthelp.europa.eu.
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2. A Whole Set in Less than a Year
The declared objective of the EU is to increase pressure on the Assad regime to end
repression, withdraw the Syrian army from besieged towns and cities, the implementation of
democratic reforms and an inclusive national dialogue. The sanctions wielded against Syria
encompass 17 sets of restrictive measures, according to the EU’s own counting.
5
The
sanctions package comprises a set of very diverse measures which can be expected to affect
the regime and Syrian society very differently. Also, these measures display different level of
“targetedness”, defined in terms of their capacity to discriminate between targets. A brief
overview
6
of the main prohibitions follows:
A first set of sanctions targets the Syrian government: EU sanctions prohibit disbursements
and assistance by the European Investment Bank (EIB) as well as new grants or loans by the
member states. The EIB had some 17 project underway in Syria in 2011, and reportedly a
portfolio worth €1.3 billion.
7
In the same vein, measures are designed to ensure that private
actors in Europe do not issue loans for those cooperation projects that have been interrupted
by the EU – notably, the construction of power plants. The issuing of insurance to the Syrian
government and the opening of new subsidiaries of Syrian banks in the EU are banned, as is
the opening of new offices of European banks in Syria. The assets of the Syrian central bank
in the EU are frozen and it is forbidden to trade public bonds to and from the Syrian
government, public bodies and financial institutions.
A second set of sanctions targets those individuals directly involved in the exercise of
repression, with the intention of affecting them and their associates personally. They are
prohibited from entering the territory of the EU, and the assets they hold in Europe are frozen.
These individuals feature in a blacklist currently comprising 155 entries, while the blacklist of
entities to which they are linked numbers 53. The freezing of assets and the visa ban on the
leadership and their associates fulfils a double objective: cutting them off from financial
assets so these cannot be used for repression and making the conduct of their business in
Europe more difficult. Family members of the Syrian leadership are simultaneously heading
state companies and entities associated with the regime a personal connection that warrants
their listing. In addition, they stigmatise blacklisted individuals and inconvenience them in a
private capacity.
A third set of sanctions is directed towards the repressive apparatus of the regime. Some
measures concern the arms sector: the transfer of weapons and equipment that can be used for
internal repression is banned. The arms embargo is supplemented by technical and financial
assistance related to these items. The initial arms ban was broadened to encompass some dual-
use items in the tightening that took place in April 2012. An innovative measure not covered
by standard EU embargoes consists in banning the supply of software for the interception of
internet and phone communications; in other words, the sort of equipment necessary for the
security forces to locate opposition forces and monitor their activities. The latest
reinforcement of the embargo consists in the decision to inspect vessels and aircraft suspected
of transporting weapons to Syria via Europe, a measure along the lines of UNSC sanctions
regimes against Iran and North Korea.
5
Council of the European Union (2012): “The EU and Syria: Fact Sheet”, Press Release (20 August 2012).
6
For the text of the legal instruments, consult http://eeas.europa.eu/cfsp/sanctions/docs/measures_en.pdf, in
particular Council Decisions 2011/782/CFSP, 2012/122/CFSP and 2012/206/CFSP.
7
Norman, L. (2011): “EU set to broaden Syrian sanctions”, Wall Street Journal, 11 November 2011.
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The EU arms embargo is not bound to have any major effect: Syria’s top weapons suppliers
are Russia, Iran, Belarus and North Korea, while supplies from European countries stopped
already in the early nineties. Russian arms exports to Syria have more than tripled in the
period from 2008 to 2011
8
, and continue into 2012. Nevertheless, the mere prohibition of
software can have some limited impact, as alternative suppliers can offer similar technology,
but of lower efficacy.
A fourth set of sanctions specifically targets the energy sector, with the intention of cutting off
the government’s sources of revenue, and thus weaken repression. These entail a ban on the
import of oil and petroleum products from Syria, but also a prohibition on providing
insurance to this sector, supplying technology for the oil and natural gas sector, as well as
providing loans to enterprises engaged in the oil industry. The purchase or increase in
participation in Syrian enterprises engaged in the oil sector is prohibited. The electricity sector
is also affected: participation in the construction of new power plants for electricity
generation, the provision of technical or financial assistance and the creation of joint ventures
to that end is also banned. The ban on oil and petroleum products from Syria is the single
most powerful measure in the package, given that fuels and mining products constitute over
89% of the EU’s imports from Syria.
9
The ban on insurance has serious economic
implications, since oil shipments now have to be insured by authorities in the recipient states,
which might not be prepared to bear the costs.
A fifth category concerns trade restrictions. Measures affecting bilateral trade include a ban
on cargo-only flights, and a ban on the export of certain goods: luxury products, gold,
diamonds and precious metals. Aside from the oil embargo, the trade measures are modest.
The EU merely imported some textiles and agricultural products from Syria, sectors
representing respectively 4.8% and 2.7% of total imports from Syria. The restrictions
affecting trade are geared towards preventing conspicuous upgrades in the limited trade flows
that remain after the import of oil, which made up most bilateral trade. The ban on luxury
goods, one of the most recent measures, is also directed against the elite. Overall, the bans
affect imports are rather marginal. In 2011, Syria was the EU’s 54
th
trading partner,
accounting for only 0.2% of its trade with the world. By contrast, the EU accounted for 21%
of Syrian trade with the world
10
, and the export of crude oil to the EU represented 27.4% of
total exports in 2010. Restrictions also concern the provision of financial support for trade:
member states are not allowed to enter into long-term commitments, while short- and
medium-term financial support for nationals and entities trading with Syria are discouraged.
In spite of these restrictions, trade preferences per se have not been withdrawn – the
procedure foreseen for the suspension of the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) would
take over a year, and the fear is that it would mostly affect small and medium enterprises
unconnected to the regime.
Finally, several EU member states such as Belgium, France, Italy, the Netherlands and Spain
have closed their embassies in Damascus, a diplomatic sanction that does not qualify as an
EU measure given that it was not jointly agreed by the European Council. Yet, the EU
Delegation remains open.
8
SIPRI Arms Transfers Database, at http://www.sipri.org/databases/armstransfers.
9
Figures for 2011, at http://ec.europa.eu/trade/creating-opportunities/bilateral-relations/countries/syria/.
10
Ibid.
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2.1. But Can they Work?
What impact do these measures have – and do they stand a chance of succeeding in
discouraging repression? EU officials have reportedly indicated that the sanctions package
“seems to make the functioning of the government more difficult” and “causes significant
anxiety and concern to the Syrian regime”.
11
In order to transform the arms embargo into an
effective measure, it would need to be universalised and made mandatory by means of a
UNSC Resolution a step that the EU and the US have been promoting to no avail, most
recently in July 2012. Certain measures can hardly be expected to instil a policy change in
spite of the strong symbolism of the message they convey, such as the ban on luxury goods or
the blacklisting of high-ranking officials. The trump card of the sanctions package is the oil
embargo, given that most of the oil produced by Syria used to be sold to the EU. This
constitutes the only measure, along with the restrictions in the banking sector, which is
reportedly fulfilling its objective of depriving the regime of key revenue.
12
According to the
EIB, in 2011 growth was negative (estimated at -2%) due to the conflict and the international
sanctions, and with the decrease in oil, tourism and tax revenues, the fiscal deficit is expected
to increase to 11%.
13
The GDP reportedly contracted by 3.4% during 2011, according to the
Economist Intelligence Unit. However, the prohibition on insurance and supply of spare parts
for the oil and gas sector, which proved effective when applied on Libya by the US in the
1990s, needs years to display its results. One could presume that the trade-related measures
are susceptible of affecting trade beyond the stipulated prohibitions by increasing the risk
premium on economic engagement with Syria. In other words, European companies might be
discouraged from conducting trade with Syria even in goods that are currently permitted for
fear that what is now legitimate commerce might be banned in a subsequent tightening.
However, such effects are hardly desirable: Firstly, because EU sanctions aspire to be targeted
and should discriminate between those who are involved in government repression and those
who are not; and secondly because they may interfere with the provisions for the numerous
humanitarian exemptions that permeate EU sanctions legislation.
3. Strategic Issue, Deceptive Partnerships
If hitherto unable to halt the violence in Syria, the EU has nonetheless managed to take joint
action and to position itself on this delicate issue vis-à-vis other regional and global powers.
Significantly, the EU’s sanctions package is in tune with the position of Syria’s neighbours:
the imposition of sanctions responded to a call by the Arab League, composed by a group of
countries traditionally sceptical of the use of this policy tool. The suspension of Syrian
membership by the Organisation of Islamic Co-operation, a body composed of 57 members,
highlights the wide condemnation of the regime among Islamic countries (with the notable
exception of Syria’s ally: Iran). The position of the EU has a double, partly contradictory
motivation. Part of the impulse behind the sanctions is to show support for the Arab uprisings,
in an attempt to make up for its lack of determination during the first weeks of the Arab
spring in early 2011. The self-avowed half-heartedness with which the EU had promoted
democracy in the region until the popular revolts erupted constitutes an embarrassing
background to the EU’s attempts to profile itself as a supporter of the protest movement. This
11
Mahony, H. (2012): “EU Ministers set to beef up Syria arms embargo”, EUObserver, 20 July 2012.
12
Landis, J. (2012): “The Syrian Uprising of 2011: Why the Assad Regime is likely to survive to 2013”, Middle
East Policy, vol. 19, no. 1, pp. 72-84.
13
“Financing operations in Syria”, FEMIMP, at
http://www.eib.europa.eu/attachments/country/syria_2012_en.pdf.
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puts EU sanctions policy more in tune with its programmatic intention to promote democracy
and human rights a departure from its earlier practice in the Arab World, where it had
exclusively wielded sanctions in support of anti-terrorism and non-proliferation goals. On the
other hand, the EU is simultaneously aligning itself with regional powers which resist the
spread of democracy in the Middle East, such as Qatar and especially Saudi Arabia.
The Syrian sanctions package has had the effect of aligning the EU and the US closely
in an encouraging example of effective transatlantic collaboration: after some initial
disagreements about the scope of the arms embargo, the measures agreed by the EU almost
perfectly match those put in place by the US. This coincidence prevents a situation in which
European companies can take over trade links previously entertained by US companies
something that is now being done by non-Western operators. Also, the sanctions operation
against Syria contributes to the US objective of containing Iran, who is the target of a parallel
sanctions regime. Sanctions have been adopted by traditional partners of the EU, such as
Switzerland. Even Turkey, a key regional power directly neighbouring on Syria, has imposed
sanctions that go beyond “any previous Turkish sanctions against any neighbour”.
14
Turkey
originally wielded an arms embargo, assets freezes, and diplomatic sanctions, but later added
trade sanctions such as raising taxes on Syrian goods and closing border crossings for trade.
The sanctions have pitted the EU against Russia, one of its “strategic partners”, which
continues to threaten a veto in the UNSC. Supporting the sanctions would contradict
significant traits of its foreign policy. It would entail ceasing support for the last remaining
ally inherited from the Cold War era in a region where it is almost deprived of influence. The
strategic importance of Syria to Russia does not only emanate from the lucrative weapons
deals it secures, but also from being the host of Russia’s only maritime base in the
Mediterranean. Losing Syria, Russia’s last stronghold in the Middle East, would be a major
psychological and reputational setback. Furthermore, Moscow has a principled reluctance to
be seen as supporting “regime change” against a long-standing associate, especially as
Russia’s allies elsewhere expect to be reassured of unwavering Russian support in the face of
Western pressure.
Other powers occupy a middle position somewhere between the transatlantic and the
Russian stance. The stance of other BRICS countries has become evident thanks to their
membership of the UNSC in the period 2011/12. Brazil, South Africa and India, who served
in the UNSC as the Syrian crisis unfolded, abstained from a draft resolution condemning
Syrian repression in October 2011. Last year’s experience in Libya showed how a UNSC
mandate authorising force in application of the doctrine of the “Responsibility to Protect”
could be used by external powers to launch a fully-fledged war. This has tempered the
BRICS’ appetite to endorse mandates along similar lines. By holding back from a UNSC
resolution, BRICS are siding with each other in resisting new action cementing the
admissibility of intervention to address internal repression. Nevertheless, an evolution is
visible. Having grown increasingly condemnatory of Syrian repression, India and South
Africa supported a resolution last February similar to the failed draft of October 2011, which
was eventually vetoed by Russia and China. In turn, the shift in India’s and South Africa’s
votes has apparently compelled veto-bearing countries to somewhat distance themselves from
Damascus.
15
While China has consistently vetoed UN resolutions alongside Russia, its
condemnation of the Syrian government has become harsher. If Moscow was to relax its
opposition, Beijing would likely be reluctant to wield its veto, especially given that its
14
Walker, J. (2012): “Turkey’s Syrian Dilemma”, EPC Commentary (9 July 2012).
15
Traub, J. (2012): “Will the good BRICS please stand up?”, Foreign Policy (9 March 2012).
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interests are not directly involved. The recent proliferation crises in Iran and North Korea
have seen China agreeing to sanctions, privileging regional stability and its image as a
“responsible power” over its traditional adherence to the principle of non-intervention.
16
The BRICS positioning around the Syrian issue suggests that the EU’s strategic
partnerships have not been of much use in winning the support of emerging powers. Russia, a
strategic partner, constitutes the main obstacle hindering sanctions, while Turkey, both a key
regional power and a NATO ally which does not enjoy such status, has resolutely aligned
itself with the EU and the US. Disappointingly, the communiqué of the most recent EU-China
High-Level strategic dialogue does contain one single reference to Syria.
17
In sum, the
reaction of regional and global powers to crises like the one in Syria remains mostly driven by
interests alien to the policy preferences of the EU, whose influence through its strategic
partnerships remains hardly noticeable an outcome that puts into question the very raison
d’être of these partnerships.
4. Syria and the Future of EU Sanctions Policy
The analysis that the combined EU and US sanctions against Syria are causing considerable
damage to the economy is unusually consensual – even though, at the time of writing, its
impact on the power balance in Syria and on the course of the crisis is difficult to ascertain.
The irony about EU energy sanctions is that only extremely pressing situations such as violent
government repression entailing growing civilian casualties garner sufficient support for the
swift adoption of strong measures like energy bans or embargoes on oil extraction equipment.
And yet, because these measures require some time to produce sufficient damage to
encourage concessions, they are ill-suited to address situations requiring an urgent fix such as
the current crisis in Syria.
Which future does the current response to Syria herald for EU sanctions policy? The
sanctions package against Syria demonstrates that the EU is able to surmount the main
structural deficiency of its sanctions, namely the weakness of its measures in terms of the
little disutility they cause.
18
Notably, the package includes import and export bans damaging
some European business interests, a feature it shares with the Iran sanctions. The reluctance to
affect trade constituted so far a “red line” that had hardly ever been crossed in the absence of
a UNSC mandate, with the exception of the special case of the arms trade. Moreover, trade
bans such as the prohibition to import gems from Myanmar were bound to have only
negligible economic impact for European companies. By contrast, we are now witnessing
how security interests trump commercial advantage. Also, the speed with which the whole
package was agreed was remarkable for EU standards: in the past, sanctions regimes were
tightened very slowly, with upgrades often consisting in the mere lengthening of existing
blacklists. For an entity believed to be too unwieldy to frame a credible sanctions policy only
a few years ago, the EU’s crafting of sanctions has been remarkably speedy and broad
particularly in view of the block’s growing membership and the persisting unanimity rule
under which the CFSP operates.
16
Oertel, J. (2011): “China und das Sanktionsregime der Vereinten Nationen”, SWPAktuell no. 23 (April 2011).
17
European Union (2012): “Joint Press release after the 3
rd
EU-China High-level Strategic Dialogue”, A318/12,
Brussels (10 July 2012).
18
Portela, C. (2010): European Union Sanctions and Foreign Policy, Routledge, London.
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Sadly, the fact that the EU incorporates selective trade bans in its sanctions has
distressing implications. Firstly, it signifies a move away from the narrowly targeted sanctions
that impeccably characterised EU sanctions policy. Because assets freeze and visa bans are
based on a blacklist, they single out those individuals and entities held to bear responsibility
for misbehaviour. By contrast, selective embargoes affect entire sectors and are those more
likely to disadvantage individuals bearing no responsibility for the condemned policies.
Finally, while the blacklists did not pose any major obstacle to bilateral trade with targets, the
inclusion of trade restrictions will do little to increase the popularity of a sanctions regime
widely regarded as a poor substitute for an unlikely military intervention.
... One of the longest sanctions was the boycott of Germany after the First World War. Several scholars note that sanctions imposed on Iran in 2012 had one of the largest impacts (Dowell, 2011;Farahani & Shabani, 2013;Nyun, 2008;Portela, 2012). ...
... For example, the USA and Europe Union's sanctions against Syria reduced GDP by 10%, at the same time increasing financial debt by 11% in 2010. Tourism is also affected (Portela, 2012). Countries that impose the sanctions are also affected. ...
... After the failure of this approach, the sanctions were used for changing and constraining the regime. In analysing the EU's sanctions against Syria, Portela (2012) finds that the EU has put in place sophisticated sanctions that have visible economic effects despite the fact that they were undermined by Russian action. These sanctions, however, were not suited to stopping the bloodshed. ...
... Analysing the EU's 2008-10 sanctions against Belarus and their subsequent easing, Portela (2012) concludes that the impact of the sanctions on rapprochement with Belarus was minimal. The accommodation by Belarus of the EU's demands was mainly due to 24  CONDITIONALITY AND SOCIALISATION the envisaged economic benefits from improved cooperation with the EU. ...
Book
Full-text available
Several events in the past few years have dramatically shown how the interests of European citizens are directly affected by the stability, security and prosperity of their neighbouring regions. At the same time, the European Union and its member states face many challenges and dilemmas in designing and pursuing policies that not only effectively promote these interests, but also build stronger partnerships with neighbouring countries based on the values on which the Union is founded. First the Arab revolts and then Russia’s assertiveness in the eastern neighbourhood prompted reviews by the EU of its European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP), in 2011 and 2015, respectively. These reviews, in turn, have renewed scholarly interest in the ENP. By deliberately focusing on the recent literature (since 2011), this book by CEPS identifies the factors that explain the (lack of) effectiveness and coherence of the ENP. This exercise has resulted in a rich overview of and deep reflection on a wide variety of ENP-related themes, such as conditionality and leverage, the interests vs values dilemma and the role of third parties. The study identifies where there is consensus among scholars and where perspectives and judgements differ. It also identifies important gaps in the literature where further research is needed. This book will be of interest to a wide audience of officials, diplomats, parliamentarians, researchers at think tanks, civil society organisations, university teachers, trainers, students and journalists who want to know more about the challenges and dilemmas arising from the ENP. The work has been carried out with the support of the Policy and Operations Evaluation Department (IOB) of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands.
... Later on, by Spring-2011, with the outbreak of conflict in Syria and, on the account of it, the USA, EU and Arab League (AL) imposed negative economic sanctions on the Syrian government, individuals and companies (2011: human rights, democracy). The sanctions campaign imposed by multilateral organisations-OFAC, HM Treasury, the EU, the UN and several other regulatory entities-was unprecedented and one of the most comprehensives ever implemented (Portela, 2012). ...
Article
Since the outbreak of the Syrian crisis in March 2011, the USA, European Union, Arab League and several other regulatory entities imposed negative economic sanctions on Syria—some of the most comprehensive ever implemented. This article first provides an assessment of Syrian foreign trade sector during the reform period of the 2000s and its impact on economic growth. Second, it estimates the impact of sanctions and conflict on the trade sector of the Syrian economy. The analysis is conducted using a panel-gravity model between Syria and 78 trading partners (1987–2017). Multilateral sanctions and conflict-related disruptions demonstrate a large significant negative impact on Syria-bilateral trade flow by 65 per cent. We attempt to find out whether the Syrian economy was able to divert trade away from Europe and/or conduct de-Europeanisation. Findings confirm that the Syrian economy was unable to divert trade flow to Asian and other countries due to the conflict-related congestion and distance factor. JEL: C33, F10
Thesis
Economic sanctions are influential instruments for foreign policy in the EU. The comprehensive sanctions were replaced by the smart and targeted restrictive measures in the EU. The crucial objective of the transformation of sanctions is to mitigate the humanitarian consequences of sanctions on civilians. However, direct and indirect impacts of smart and targeted sanctions affect citizens' fundamental rights and freedoms in third countries. The rule of law as the central component of democracy and human rights is the most prominent victim of imposing sanctions on developing or underdeveloped countries. The EU can be criticized for manipulating sanctions and a double standard to ensure the fundamental values inside and outside the EU. The EU defines a specific threshold for protection of the rule of law by the Member States. The Commission, Council, and the ECJ in Hungary and Poland cases have determined the low and specified threshold. In other words, violation of the vital requirement of an independent department of justice could be recognized as a systemic and severe violation of the rule of law that triggers the mechanism of Article 7 TFU and Article 258 TFEU. On the other hand, coercive and constraining sanctions can be imposed on third countries lacking sustainable economies. Imposing economic sanctions based on Article 21 TEU and Article 215 TFEU on underdeveloped or developing countries could weaken their sovereignty and threaten their effective control as the crucial criterion of the nation-state. Sanctions can destroy the economic infrastructures of target states and erode the state's sovereignty and public trust in the long run. When the target state is incapable of responding to the essential needs of citizens and the state functioning disrupted due to the sanctions, it means that the nation-state is transforming to the fragility status. The fragile state has no potentialities to ensure and protect the rule of law and provide essential services such as security, healthcare, and education. The destructive consequences of the EU sanctions could be defined as a systemic violation of worldwide values such as the rule of law when imposed without pre-evaluation of the target state's economic, legal, and social circumstances. The EU Treaty sets the promotion of peace, human rights, democracy, justice, and fundamental freedoms as the values and objectives which the EU should protect. The EU is obliged to strengthen the rule of law and protect human rights in third countries to ensure international peace and security. The humanitarian effects of the coercive and constraining sanctions on third states could endanger the legitimacy of sanctions due to the contradiction with fundamental values set in Article 2 TEU. The universality and indivisibility of basic values in Article 21 (1) TEU reflect the EU's obligation to strengthen the infrastructures of fragile states to be independent and functioning without any foreign interventions.
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Associate professor and director of the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma.