Ukraine crisis: So what can EU really do? The options are...
Published on Mar 6, 2014 6:26 PM
BRUSSELS (REUTERS) - European Union leaders meet for an emergency summit in Brussels on Thursday to discuss the crisis in Ukraine and how to respond to Russia's seizure of the Crimean peninsula.
EU foreign ministers agreed on Monday they would consider "targeted measures" against Russia if it did not reverse course in Ukraine and return its forces to barracks.
At the same time, the United States, Britain, Germany and France are trying to get Russia to take part in mediation to "de-escalate" the crisis and prevent the threat of wider conflict, or the need for international sanctions.
Following is a list of steps the EU could take against Russia if it can secure agreement among all 28 European Union member states.
Under EU law, any sanctions or restrictive measures must be agreed unanimously.
SUSPENDING TALKS ON VISA COOPERATION - POSSIBLE
Russia has been in negotiations with the EU since 2007 on visa liberalisation and is also in talks on a new investment and research pact. Both are hugely important for Russia, which never fails to mention its desire for visa-free access to the EU. The EU could quite easily suspend both sets of negotiations.
ARMS EMBARGO - POSSIBLE
The EU could relatively easily impose restrictions on arms exports to Russia. While Russia produces most of its own weaponry and any EU steps would have limited impact in terms of Russia's capability, Moscow does import certain machinery and dual-use equipment from the EU that is important.
TRAVEL BANS - POSSIBLE BUT UNLIKELY
The EU could impose travel restrictions on specific Russian officials by revoking visas or imposing visa bans. It has carried out similar steps against officials in Belarus, Syria and Libya, but may find it hard to justify in Russia's case.
CANCELLATION OF ATTENDANCE AT G8 SUMMIT IN SOCHI - POSSIBLE BUT UNLIKELY
Russia is hosting the G8 summit in Sochi in June. The G7 countries have already suspended preparations for the meeting, although they have not cancelled their attendance altogether.
The EU members of the G7 - Britain, Germany, France and Italy - could decide to cancel their involvement, a serious diplomatic snub to Russia, but they would likely prefer to do it in coordination with the United States, Canada and Japan.
ASSET FREEZES - UNLIKELY
The EU could decide to freeze the assets of senior Russian officials and any oligarchs close to President Vladimir Putin, a serious step that would cause deep consternation in Russia.
However, Britain, where many Russians have money and property, has concerns about the wider ramifications of the move for market stability, as do other member states that have close banking relations with Russia or hold large Russian investments.
TRADE RESTRICTIONS - UNLIKELY
The EU already has several disputes ongoing against Russia at the World Trade Organisation, which Moscow joined only in 2012.
It could move to impose new tariffs or barriers on bilateral trade, but it is a dangerous move since the EU imports around 25 percent of its energy from Russia and would not want to enter a trade war. Around 7 percent of EU exports go to Russia, while Russia sends 45 percent of its exports to the EU.