This week, the European Council prolonged the economic sanctions targeting specific sectors of the Russian economy until July 31, 2017.

Imposing economic sanctions on Russia saw the country ban EU food imports, including dairy and meat products. In July of this year, Russian President Vladimir Putin extended the ban for another 18 months.

These measures were introduced on July 31, 2014 initially for one year in response to Russia's actions destabilising the situation in Ukraine and they were reinforced in September 2014.

The sanctions specifically target the financial, energy and defence sectors, and the area of dual-use goods.

On March 19, 2015, the European Council agreed to link the duration of the sanctions to the complete implementation of the Minsk agreements, which was foreseen to take place by December 31, 2015.

Since the Minsk agreements were not fully implemented by December 31, 2015, the Council extended the sanctions until July 31, 2016, and on July 1, 2016, until January 31, 2017.

Now however, having assessed the implementation of the Minsk agreements at the European Council meeting of December 15, the EU heads of state and government paved the way to renew the sanctions for a further six months, until July 31, 2017.

The Council formalised this decision on December 19, 2016 this week by written procedure and as it is the rule for all decisions on prolongation of restrictive measures, unanimously.

The economic sanctions prolonged by this decision notably:

  • Limit access to EU primary and secondary capital markets for five major Russian majority state-owned financial institutions and their majority-owned subsidiaries established outside of the EU, as well as three major Russian energy and three defence companies.
  • Impose an export and import ban on trade in arms.
  • Establish an export ban for dual-use goods for military use or military end users in Russia.
  • Curtail Russian access to certain sensitive technologies and services that can be used for oil production and exploration.

In addition to these economic sanctions, several EU measures are also in place in response to the crisis in Ukraine including restrictive measures in response to the illegal annexation of Crimea and Sevastopol, limited to the territory of Crimea and Sevastopol, currently in place until June 23, 2017.

The EU has said that it remains ready to reverse its decisions and re-engage with Russia when it changes its policy including by starting to contribute, actively and without ambiguity, to finding a solution to the Ukrainian crisis.