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28 May, 2023 00:20

EU sanctions talks stumble over Kiev’s ‘war sponsors’ list – Politico

Greece has joined Hungary in blocking the next round of sanctions on Russia
EU sanctions talks stumble over Kiev’s ‘war sponsors’ list – Politico

Negotiations over the EU’s 11th package of sanctions on Russia have stalled due to opposition from Athens and Budapest, which want their companies removed from a list of ‘war sponsors’ compiled by Kiev, according to Politico.

Two rounds of talks in Brussels this week ended with no deal in sight, the publication reported on Saturday, citing multiple anonymous diplomatic sources.

The main roadblock is said to be Kiev’s notorious list of “sanctions-evaders” and “international sponsors of war,” which features many European companies simply because they refused to cut all business ties with Russia.

Compiled by the National Agency on Corruption Prevention (NACP), the list includes companies such as German wholesaler Metro, French retailer Auchan, Italian cement company Buzzi Unicem, and Austrian banking group Raiffeisen.

Hungary was the only EU state to voice objections at a foreign ministers meeting on Monday, expressing concerns that Kiev’s accusations against OTP Bank could be formalized with the bloc’s next round of sanctions. On Wednesday, Greece reportedly joined in, saying allegations of sanctions evasion could be “very damaging” to its economy as well.

“Greece reiterated that, should there be concrete evidence of violation of sanctions, these should be brought to the attention of the member states concerned, at the technical level, so that this be adequately investigated and then due action will be taken,” an unnamed EU diplomat told the publication.

Politico claimed that the Ukrainian list and the EU’s next round of sanctions are not linked, and that Athens and Budapest are simply holding up the negotiations for political leverage. However, EU diplomats are hesitant to publicly name and shame the countries stalling the talks, supposedly out of fear that other member states whose companies are in Kiev’s crosshairs could also rebel.

Two sources said that the EU’s top diplomat, Josep Borrell, acknowledged the problem, and “it is now up to him to work with the Ukrainians on a solution.”

Budapest has taken a neutral stance regarding the conflict between Moscow and Kiev, refusing to provide military aid to Ukraine or allow Western aid to pass through its territory. Although Hungary has largely taken part in the current EU sanctions on Russia, it has repeatedly criticized the restrictions and opposed those that would affect its own economy, including its conventional and nuclear energy sectors.

Athens has also defied the bloc’s efforts to cut all economic ties with Moscow, with imports of Russian goods by Greece more than doubling to a record €9.33 billion ($10 billion) last year. However, the trade balance between the two countries in 2022 was negative, with the value of Greek exports to Russia decreasing to €156.4 million from €206.6 million in 2021.