Documents considered by the Committee on 14th October 2015 - European Scrutiny Contents


26 Ukraine and Russia: EU restrictive measures

Committee's assessment Politically important
Committee's decisionCleared from scrutiny
Document details(a) Council Decision and (b) Implementing Regulation concerning restrictive measures in respect of actions undermining or threatening the territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence of Ukraine
Legal base(a) Article 29 TEU; unanimity, (b) Article 14(1) and (3) of Regulation 269/2014; QMV
DepartmentForeign and Commonwealth Office
Document Numbers(a) (37086), —; (b) (37087)

Summary and Committee's conclusions

26.1 Council Decision 2014/145/CFSP of 17 March 2014 is concerning restrictive measures in respect of actions undermining or threatening the territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence of Ukraine.

26.2 On 29 January 2015, at an extraordinary meeting, the Foreign Affairs Council agreed that these restrictive measures, in respect of actions undermining or threatening the territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence of Ukraine, should be renewed for a further six months, until 15 September 2015.

26.3 Adoption of those additional measures was postponed until 16 February, to allow time for implementation of the agreement negotiated by the "Normandy Quartet" on 12 February 2015 (Ukraine, Russia, France and Germany, who negotiated the original 5 September 2015 "Minsk Agreement", and who have met several times in this format in Minsk, the capital of Belarus).

26.4 The EU Council has now, as of 15 September 2015, extended the EU restrictive measures for a further six months. The Minister for Europe (Mr David Lidington) explains that the Council reviewed the individual designations as part of the renewal process and decided that the entries for 25 persons should be substantively amended, with what he describes as a number of other minor grammatical amendments that ensure the statements of reason and identifying information for each individual remain accurate and up to date; and also the delisted Oleksiy Borisovych Mozgovy due to his now being deceased.

26.5 The Minister once again describes Russia's implementation of the Minsk agreements as limited and inconsistent, and says that, since most of its commitments fall towards the end of the timeline, the EU agreed that the Tier II measures should be extended for a further six months until 15 March 2016.

26.6 On 2 October 2015, the leaders of France, Russia, Germany and Ukraine met in Paris for further discussions on Ukraine, on the back of the longest ceasefire in Ukraine, which had lasted for over a month, and which included the Kiev government and the pro-separatist rebels in the east, who are supported by Moscow, having agreed to withdraw additional weapons from the front lines. But the meeting appears to have been dominated by EU and wider Western concern over Russia's military intervention on the side of the Assad regime in Syria's civil war. As ever, time will tell if progress in Ukraine is continued, stalls, or reverses.

26.7 In the meantime, we now clear the Council Decision and Council Implementing Regulation. As on previous such occasions, in the circumstances outlined by the Minister (see "Background" below, we do not take issue with his having agreed to their adoption prior to scrutiny.

Full details of the documents: (a) Council Decision (CFSP) 2015/1524 of 14 September 2015 amending Decision 2014/145/CFSP concerning restrictive measures in respect of actions undermining or threatening the territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence of Ukraine: (37086), —; (b) Council Implementing Regulation (EU) 2015/1514 of 14 September 2015 implementing Regulation (EU) No. 269/2014 concerning restrictive measures in respect of actions undermining the territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence of Ukraine: (37087), —.

Background

26.8 On 9 February 2015 the EU Council agreed to list, under these existing Ukraine restrictive measures, via Council Decision 2015/241/CFSP and Council Implementing Regulation (EU) No. 240/2015, a further 19 individuals, eight armed separatist groups and an entity named "Novorossiya"/"New Russia".[ 156] Their names are set out in our predecessors' relevant Report.[ 157]

26.9 Adoption of those additional measures was postponed until 16 February, to allow time for implementation of the agreement negotiated by the "Normandy Quartet" on 12 February 2015. In the first instance, the agreement called for an immediate and full bilateral ceasefire, to take effect in parts of Donetsk and Luhansk regions, from 00:00 local time on 15 February (22:00 GMT on 14 February) and the withdrawal of all heavy weapons by both sides to equal distances to create a buffer zone of at least 50km (Ukrainian troops to withdraw heavy weapons from the current frontline; separatist forces to withdraw theirs from the line of 19 September 2014); with heavy weapons withdrawal to start no later than day two of the ceasefire and be completed within two weeks; the OSCE would assist in the process.[ 158]

26.10 At that time, the Minister for Europe described a number of violations of the ceasefire (see our predecessors' Report for detail) and these additional measures as "an appropriate and necessary response to that escalation", and said that:

—  it was vital that all parties fully implement the ceasefire agreed in Minsk on 12 February without delay and without further loss of life;

—  it was also vital that decisive measures are taken to de-escalate tensions and engage constructively with the Government of Ukraine;

—  the Government had been consistently clear that it "will not lift sanctions before Russia complies with Minsk fully and completely"; and

—  that "if the situation deteriorates further we will look at adding more sanctions".

26.11 The debate on the causes of and how best to respond to this crisis continued, both in the House and in the wider public domain. For its part, the then Committee cleared these measures from scrutiny, and drew these developments to the attention of the Foreign Affairs Committee.

26.12 On this occasion and in the circumstances described — "the speed at which events in Ukraine have developed, requiring a rapid response from the EU Council, and the threat of asset flight if these measures became public" — they did not take issue with the Minister having overridden scrutiny.[ 159]

26.13 The amendments made in the further Council Decision and Council Implementing Regulation that the then Committee considered at the end of March resulted from the normal review process that is carried out after any decision to renew the overall package. Their purpose, the Minister explained, was to ensure that the statements of reason and identifying information remain accurate and up to date; consequently, fifty "listed" persons had their details amended, and one deceased person has been removed from the list.

26.14 The Minister also explained that, due to the length of the discussions since 29 January, and the requirement to pre-notify individuals where changes to their listings were made, the first drafts were circulated to Member States only on 3 March, and not finalised until 6 March; meaning that, had he not agreed to their adoption before 15 March, the entire package of measures would have fallen away; the resulting scrutiny override was, he says, thus regrettably unavoidable.

26.15 Again, our predecessors accepted that, on this occasion and in these circumstances, the Minister's explanation was reasonable, and cleared the documents from scrutiny.[ 160]

The Government's view

26.16 In his Explanatory Memorandum of 18 September 2015, the Minister says:

"Russia's implementation of Minsk has been limited and inconsistent, and since most of its commitments fall towards the end of the timeline set out in the Minsk agreements the EU is in agreement that the Tier II measures should be extended for a further six months until 15 March 2016.[ 161] We will continue to press Russia to implement its obligations, whilst monitoring closely, and stand ready to implement further restrictions if there are serious breaches of the Minsk agreements. We expect Russia to publicly condemn the extension. Material retaliation, such as by expanding their reciprocal measures, is possible but unlikely: their previously-secret 'stop list' is already public and their agricultural import ban was renewed in July after Tier III sanctions[ 162] were rolled over."

26.17 In his accompanying letter of the same date, the Minister describes the process as follows:

    "Discussions began in July and resumed after the summer break. The political agreement to renew the measures was only secured at the EU Committee of Permanent Representatives on 2 September.

    "The Committee will be aware of the importance of renewing these measures to maintain the pressure on Russia to implement its obligations under the Minsk agreements.

    "Unfortunately, due to the length of these discussions, and the requirement to pre-notify individuals where changes to their listings have occurred, first drafts of the Council Decision and Council Regulation were only circulated to EU Partners on 4 September. These drafts were then revised on 7 September. I therefore found myself in the position of having to agree to the adoption of these documents on 14 September, before your Committee had had an opportunity to scrutinise the documents. Any delay in adoption would have resulted in the entire package of measures falling away."

Previous Committee Reports

None, but see (a) (36749), — (b) (36750), —: Thirty-ninth Report HC 219-xxxvii (2014-15), chapter 21 (24 March 2015); (36662), — and (36663), —: Thirty-fifth Report HC-219-xxxiv (2014-15), chapter 18 (4 March 2015); (36546), — and (36545), —: Twenty-seventh Report HC-219-xxvi (2014-15), chapter 11 (17 December 2014); (36573),— and (36574), —: Twenty-seventh Report HC-219-xxvi (2014-15), chapter 12 (17 December 2014); (36430), —; (36435), —: Twenty-fourth Report: HC 219-xxiii (2014-15), chapter 9 (3 December 2014); (36430), — and (36435), —: Sixteenth Report HC 219-xvi (2014-15), chapter 10 (29 October 2014); (36348), —, (36349), —, (36350), —, (36351), — and (36352), —: Thirteenth Report HC 219-xiii (2014-15), chapter 35 (15 October 2014), (36262), —, (36263) —, (36264) —, and (36265), —: Eleventh Report HC 219-xi (2014-15), chapter 1 (3 September 2014) and (36235), —, (36236), —, (36240), —, and (36241) —: Ninth Report HC 219-ix (2014-15), chapter 40 (3 September 2014); also see (36028) —, (36029), — and (36030), —: First Report HC 219-i (2014-15), chapter 28 (4 June 2014); (35905), — and (35906), —: Forty-seventh Report HC 83-xlii (2013-14), chapter 23 (30 April 2014) and Forty-fifth Report HC 83-xl (2013-14), chapter 5 (2 April 2014); also see (35880), — and (35881), —: Forty-fourth Report HC 83-xxxix (2013-14), chapter 3 (26 March 2014) and (35848), — and (35849), —: Fortieth Report HC 83-xxxvii (2013-14), chapter 1 (12 March 2014).


156   Established in November 2014 in Russia, headed by Russian officer Igor Strelkov and, according to its stated objectives, aiming at providing all-round, effective assistance to "Novorossiya", including by helping militia fighting in Eastern Ukraine. Back

157   See (36662), - and (36663), -: Thirty-fifth Report HC-219-xxxiv (2014-15), chapter 18 (4 March 2015). Back

158   The original 2014 12-point plan is set out at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-29162903. For details of the February 2015 agreement, see http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-31436513. Back

159   See (36662), - and (36663), -: Thirty-fifth Report HC-219-xxxiv (2014-15), chapter 18 (4 March 2015). Back

160   See (a) (36749), - (b) (36750), -: Thirty-ninth Report HC 219-xxxvii (2014-15), chapter 21 (24 March 2015). Back

161   Asset freeze and travel ban. For full details of these measures, see the House of Commons Library Standard Note: SNIA 6951: Sanctions over the Ukraine conflict. Back

162   The EU announced broad economic ('tier three') sanctions against Russia on 29 July 2014 including restrictions on some state-controlled Russian banks' ability to borrow money in EU financial markets and an arms embargo. Back


 
previous page contents next page


© Parliamentary copyright 2015
Prepared 14 October 2015