Support for the resolution to recognize Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism was huge in the European Parliament – 494 votes in favor (70 percent of support). And although it is only a declaration, because the resolution is not legally binding, it can be seen as another step in the EU strategy against the invasion of Ukraine. According to commentators, the European Parliament is preparing the ground for member states that seek to “embed” Putin even more. So far, the EU has approved a total of eight sanction packages. Of course, it was not without controversy, some sanctions had to be modified (or even mitigated) to achieve the required unanimity. So far, the strongest resistance has come from Hungary, which has already announced that it is opposed to further restrictions on the Kremlin.
What is the purpose of the EP resolution?
Essentially, a European Parliament resolution is nothing more than a political signal, as it has no legal effect in itself. Rather, it is about preparing the ground for the confiscation of Russian assets that have so far only been frozen in Europe. In addition, it is intended to bring Vladimir Putin before an international tribunal after the end of the war, as well as to gradually freeze diplomatic relations with Russia. “The confiscation of Russian assets would help rebuild Ukraine,” says MP Charlie Weimers of the Swedish right-wing populist Sweden Democrats party, who initiated the resolution. “Until Russia withdraws from Ukraine, no real peace will be possible. (…) Russia must understand that not only individuals are responsible for war crimes, but also the Russian state must bear responsibility for the destruction and deliberate terror in Ukraine,” adds Weimers. The resolution is the first step towards this goal. The declaration of a country as a sponsor of terrorism is unprecedented. It is true that within the Community there is an EU list of terrorists, but it lists people and organizations, not individual countries. However, the initiators of the resolution are of the opinion that recognizing Russia as a state sponsoring terrorism creates grounds for opening a new instance. We are talking about a list of countries – along the lines of the US – which would enable the launch of a number of significant restrictive measures against the countries listed on it. Currently, the US recognizes four countries as state sponsors of terrorism: Cuba, Iran, North Korea and Syria. Inclusion on the list results in the imposition of sanctions, including blocking U.S. foreign aid and arms exports, dual-use export controls and financial restrictions, and severing diplomatic ties. However, there are critical voices against the idea of creating an EU list of countries sponsoring terrorism. Commentators stress that it is the Council, not the Parliament, that is responsible for imposing sanctions. In their opinion, the importance of such lists in practice is negligible. There is also the question of obtaining a consensus of all twenty-seven on the inclusion of a country on the list. Instead of multiplying entities, the focus should be on the next package of sanctions, add opponents.
What else can the EU do?
Little more than continuing to impose sanctions. The European Parliament calls for diplomatic relations with Russia to be kept to a minimum, and for Russian institutions to be closed and banned, as they usually disseminate Russian propaganda. The Russian invasion of Ukraine has been going on for nine months now. At that time, NATO repeatedly reminded its Western partners that fatigue and exhaustion had no place in supporting Kiev. In the case of the EU, however, the room for maneuver is getting narrower, because the EU countries do not have the courage, and thus do not reach agreement on Russian gas. Energy dependence on Russia is still very high, and although it is decreasing, as long as it exists, it is not possible to really “push” Putin.