EU agrees on fourth set of sanctions – fifth will be more difficult, says Saarikko

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EU agrees on fourth set of sanctions – fifth will be more difficult, says Saarikko

Minister of Finance Annika Saarikko (Centre) spoke to reporters before a parliamentary discussion in the auditorium of the Parliament House on 1 March 2022. (Markku Ulander – Lehtikuva)

MEMBERS of the European Union are prepared to recourse to further sanctions in an attempt to compel Russia to cease its aggression against Ukraine and Ukrainians, tells Finnish Minister of Finance Annika Saarikko.

“A fourth list of sanctions was approved this morning,” she said during a media availability organised after a meeting of the union’s finance ministers in Brussels on Tuesday.

“The finance ministers are still surprisingly unanimous in the face of this difficult situation.”

The European Council yesterday announced the fourth package of sanctions to ramp up economic pressure on the Kremlin and hamstring its ability to finance the invasion of Ukraine. The package includes a complete prohibition of transactions with state-owned enterprises making up the Kremlin’s military-industrial complex, a prohibition of roughly 3.3 billion euros worth of steel imports from Russia, a far-reaching ban on investment across the Russian energy sector and a prohibition on the export of certain luxury goods to Russia.

The list of sanctioned persons and entities was also complemented to cover more oligarchs and business elites with ties to the Kremlin, including Roman Abramovich, the owner of Chelsea FC, and Konstantin Ernst, the CEO of Channel One Russia.

“We are adding to our sanctions list even more oligarchs and regime-affiliated elites, their families and prominent businesspeople, which are involved in economic sectors providing a substantial Josep Borrell, the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy.

“These sanctions also target those who have a leading role in disinformation and propaganda that accompany President [Vladimir] Putin’s war against Ukrainian people. Our message is clear: Those who enable the invasion of Ukraine pay a price for their actions.”

Saarikko on Tuesday estimated that in spite of the readiness to continue imposing sanctions, the possible fifth package will not be easy for the 27-country bloc.

“Prohibitions linked to energy imports were floated as the next sanctions. Countries that are terribly reliant on energy imported from Russia will have to mull over those for a while. But I don’t see any real discord,” she stressed.

The EU is also mulling over means to fund the measures necessitated by the crisis, although no concrete proposal on the funding has yet been presented by the European Commission. Saarikko pointed to rumours that the union is devising a debt-based mechanism similar to the recovery instrument.

“Finland is principally opposed to common debt. All the alternatives are better. The longer the situation drags on, the more likely some kind of a common solution becomes. I dare predict that the discussions won’t be easy,” she said.

Margrethe Vestager, the European Commissioner for Competition, revealed to the finance ministers that an exemption to state subsidy rules is being drafted urgently. Saarikko said Finland has drawn attention to the “acute despair of agriculture,” for example.

“This could enable us to find a national solution for supporting agriculture given the recent absolutely unreasonable hikes in fertiliser and fodder prices. We’re expecting results as soon as next week.”

The European Council on Tuesday also agreed on a general approach to the so-called carbon border adjustment mechanism, which imposes tariffs tariffs on emission-intensive imports to the EU. The idea is that the tariffs eliminate the price difference between the imports and their counterparts made in the EU.

“The carbon border mechanism mustn’t undermine the EU’s own exports. Discussions about this are continuing, but a general approach has been found,” said Saarikko.

Aleksi Teivainen – HT


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