Documents considered by the Committee on 5 April 2011 - European Scrutiny Committee Contents

10   EU restrictive measures against Côte d'Ivoire


Draft Council Decision amending Council Decision 2010/656/CFSP on restrictive measures against Côte d'Ivoire

Legal baseArticle 29 TEU; unanimity
DepartmentForeign and Commonwealth Office
Basis of considerationEM of 4 April 2011
Previous Committee ReportNone; but see (32391) —, (32412) — and (32413) — HC 428-xii (2010-11), chapter 18 (12 January 2011);

(32081) and (32155) —: HC 428-viii (2010-11), chapter 10 (17 November 2010) and HC 428-v (2010-11), chapter 12 (27 October 2010); also see (27131) 16033/05: HC 34-xv (2005-06), chapter 15 (18 January 2006) and HC 38-i (2004-05), chapter 24 (1 December 2004)

To be discussed in Council12 April 2011 Foreign Affairs Council
Committee's assessmentPolitically important
Committee's decisionCleared


10.1  As earlier Reports have noted, Côte d'Ivoire has had a bad time over the past eight years. UN sanctions were first imposed in 2004. These are implemented in EU by a policy-setting Council Decision and an implementing Council Regulation. EU restrictive measures imposed on Côte d'Ivoire prior to last autumn were thus an arms embargo, a travel ban and asset freeze on three people and a ban on direct or indirect import of all rough diamonds.

10.2  Last autumn, after five years and six postponements, Côte d'Ivoire was set to hold Presidential elections on 31 October 2010. But the outcome remained uncertain and the EU perceived a high risk of demonstrations turning violent. Against this background, UNSCR 1946, adopted on 15 October 2010, renewed sanctions for six months but also permitted the supply of non-lethal equipment intended solely to enable the Ivorian security forces to use only appropriate and proportionate force while maintaining public order. As our previous Report recalls, on 27 October and 18 November 2010 the Committee considered and cleared a Council Decision and implementing Council Regulation to enable France to provide such equipment in time for the second round of elections on 28 November 2010.

10.3  This turned out to be a run-off between incumbent President Gbagbo and his main challenger, Alassane Ouattara. It reversed their first-round positions, with Ouattara gaining a 54:46 majority, announced by the Independent Electoral Commission (CEI) on 2 December and certified on 4 December by the UN Secretary-General's Special Representative. The Minister for Europe (Mr David Lidington) noted that all the main observer groups — EU, AU, ECOWAS, Carter Centre — pronounced the elections "not perfect but fair enough." He went on to say that President Gbagbo had tried to prevent the CEI announcing the result and the Gbagbo dominated Constitutional Council then declared the announced results null and void and on 3 December gave Gbagbo a 51:49 majority. He also referred to the Government's public backing of the UN's endorsement of the 28 November election results and ministerial statements making it clear that Gbagbo should cede power.

10.4  That Ouattara was the properly-elected President and that Gbagbo should cede power was the position also taken by the rest of the EU, the AU, the US and ECOWAS (the relevant regional body). ECOWAS then mounted an unsuccessful diplomatic mission in the first week of January, seeking to persuade Gbagbo to leave. Control of the national treasury had been passed by ECOWAS to President-elect Ouattara. But he remained holed up in Abidjan's main hotel, protected by the UN force, UNOCI. And Gbagbo remained in control of significant military and other forces, and some revenue streams from cocoa and oil exports. Though, at that stage, widespread and sustained violence had been avoided, UNOCI was still being denied access by forces loyal to Gbagbo to areas in the north of the country in which there were said to be mass graves of Ouattara supporters.

10.5  The three Council Decisions that we cleared on 12 January 2011 embodied the EU response, which was part of a wider strategy embraced by all the above international actors, to isolate Gbagbo and his supporters and starve them of their remaining funds, so that they eventually did the right thing. Thus:

  • on 22 December 2010 a Council Decision was adopted (amending the Council Decision adopted in November 2010) which subjected 19 individuals identified as blocking the democratic process in Côte d'Ivoire to a travel ban;
  • then, on 31 December 2010 another amendment was adopted, subjecting a further 59 individuals blocking the democratic process to a travel ban; and
  • in addition, on 18 January 2011, a further amendment was adopted that targeted those already subject to a travel ban with an assets freeze and also commercial entities — two autonomous ports, of Abidjan and San Pedro, and three banks, due to their role in helping to fund the illegitimate government of Gbagbo — with a view to restricting the Gbagbo regime's access to revenue.[38]

The draft Council Decision

10.6  In his Explanatory Memorandum of 4 April 2011, the Minister for Europe (Mr David Lidington) explains that listing of the ports and other entities has severely restricted income flows, thus complementing the decision by the Central Bank of West African States to remove signatory powers from Gbagbo's regime. He cites reports suggesting that Gbagbo was only able to pay about 60% of civil servant salaries last month, and says that this figure will be even lower this month. However, the Minister says, in addition to the political pressure that this places on Gbagbo's ability to govern, it has also had repercussions both in Cote d'Ivoire, through exacerbating an already serious humanitarian situation, and beyond, by restricting the flow of trade.

10.7  Against this background, the Minister says that it is therefore proposed to make amendments to the restrictive measures that include "a humanitarian carve out,[39] a prohibition on the purchase of Ivorian bonds issued by the illegitimate government of Gbagbo, a review clause to assess the impact of the listing of the two ports and additions to the list of individuals targeted by a travel ban and asset freeze."

The Government's view

10.8   The Minister reiterates UK support for the UN endorsement of President Ouattara as the winner of last year's Presidential election, and continues his comments as follows:

"The situation in the country is fast changing and we are deeply concerned at the serious escalation of violence. Until Gbagbo steps aside, we support continued robust restrictive measures against him and those that support his illegitimate regime. Those who are responsible for threatening the peace process in the country, and for inciting acts of violence against innocent civilians will be held responsible for their actions.

"The EU measures are having an effect in weakening Gbagbo's position and his ability to govern. However it also has repercussions both in Cote d'Ivoire, through exacerbating an already serious humanitarian situation, and beyond, by effectively stopping EU trade with the country, particularly affecting the EU shipping and cocoa industry. We are therefore ensuring that we keep EU measures under regular review and seek to mitigate these effects where possible and appropriate."


10.9   At this juncture, the situation on the ground appears to be highly uncertain: BBC reports say that Ouattara's prime minister has said the time is right for a "rapid offensive" against Abidjan; that many residents are trapped indoors without food, water and electricity; that the UN has urged Ouattara to investigate hundreds of deaths blamed partly on his supporters in the town of Duekoue; and that Gbagbo's army chief of staff, having defected to the other side, has now changed his mind.

10.10  This illustrates the very difficult situation with which the EU and other international actors are grappling. Though it may have resolved itself by the time the Foreign Affairs Council meets on 11 April, this cannot by any means be taken for granted, and the measures proposed would thus appear to be sensible.

10.11  We now clear the document.

38   See headnote: (32391) -, (32412) - and (32413) - HC 428-xii (2010-11), chapter 18 (12 January 2011). Back

39   An exemption on humanitarian grounds to allow, for example, the importation of lime for use in potable water supply. Back

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