European Union envoys are set to agree a new mechanism to punish chemical weapons’ attacks by targeting people blamed for using banned munitions regardless of their nationality, diplomats said.
The legal regime, based on a French proposal to combat what Paris and London say is the repeated use of chemical weapons by Russia and Syria, would allow the EU to impose sanctions more quickly on specific individuals anywhere in the world, freezing their assets in the bloc and banning them from entry.
Ambassadors from the EU’s 28 governments are expected to approve the regime at their weekly meeting on Wednesday (Sept 26), without debate.
The EU already has sanctions lists for Syria and Russia, but under the current system individuals must be added to special country lists. These are complex to negotiate and difficult to expand because some EU governments are reluctant to criticise close partners, particularly Moscow.
“This is significant because we will be able to add names without a big, sensitive debate,” said one senior EU diplomat involved in the negotiations. “We can try to uphold certain rights rather than just issuing statements.”
Banned two decades ago under an international treaty, the rising use of nerve agents has alarmed Western governments.
EU diplomats say the new chemical weapons regime could be followed up by a similar mechanism for human rights violations, similar to the United States’ Global Magnitsky Act, which allows Washington to sanction individuals for abuses or corruption.
The regime, due to be given a final stamp of approval by EU foreign ministers on Oct 15, will still need the support of all EU governments for names to be added, according to a preparatory paper seen by Reuters.