The Europeans on Monday approved a new round of targeted sanctions for human rights violations in China and Burma and issued a warning to Turkey. But no one in the EU is ready to break with Beijing, Moscow and Ankara.
The sanctions prepared by their ambassadors were approved at the start of a meeting of foreign ministers in Brussels. The EU has sanctioned eleven Burmese officials implicated in the deadly crackdown since the coup, confirmed European Foreign Minister Josep Borrell.
Sanctions have also been approved against four leaders in China’s Xinjiang region for human rights violations against the Uyghur Muslim minority, diplomatic sources have learned. Beijing has threatened retaliation, but the dialogue is not broken.
Firm message to Moscow
The sanctions are personal, targeted and consist of a visa ban and an asset freeze in the EU. The new device adopted in December has already been used to sanction four senior Russian officials involved in legal proceedings against Russian opponent Alexei Navalny.
A message of firmness from the EU was also to be sent to Moscow, several ministers announced upon their arrival. But the European Union, which still depends on Russia for a third of its gas supplies, cannot break with Moscow, said a diplomat.
The main topic of discussions on Monday will be Turkey, admitted Josep Borrell. Foreign ministers are due to finalize their recommendations for the European summit on March 25 and 26. Ankara is blowing hot and cold in the relationship with the European Union, which is seeking normalization after a year of tensions and confrontations.
Turkish shadows and lights
The leaders of the European institutions held a videoconference on Friday with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and called on him to create the conditions for a peaceful relationship. Its response was Turkey’s withdrawal from the Council of Europe’s Istanbul Convention on combating violence against women. This decision was condemned by the Europeans and the President of the United States Joe Biden considered it “unjustified” and “deeply disappointing”.
Relations with Turkey will be one of the themes discussed during the meeting of NATO foreign ministers on Tuesday and Wednesday with the new Secretary of State Antony Blinken, expected in Brussels on Monday evening.
The head of German diplomacy Heiko Maas deplored “the play of light and shade” in Turkey. “The events we have just witnessed in recent days, the desire to ban the People’s Democratic Party (HDP, Prokurd) and the withdrawal of the Istanbul Convention, are bad signs,” he said. .
“Back to the Middle Ages”
“These are very worrying signals,” said Swedish Minister Ann Linde. “It’s a return to the Middle Ages. This is not the way in which we have to rebuild normal relations with Turkey, ”denounced the Luxembourger Jean Asselborn. Ministers will take note of a report prepared by Josep Borrell. The Spaniard presents them with options for positive and negative actions to be implemented.
“All options are provided to encourage the development of good relations, but restrictive measures are also present if the situation were to deteriorate,” he explained. Sectoral economic sanctions are among the options.
“I have no desire to return to a regime like this,” one of the ministers told AFP. “But there is no question of cutting bridges,” he insisted. “Turkey is an important partner for migration,” recalled Slovak Minister Ivan Korcok.