TEHRAN, Young Journalists Club (YJC) - Top officials in the European Commission, the powerful executive arm of the EU, said on Wednesday that they would be ready to act if the EU interests were not eventually addressed in the US legislation on Russia.
Lawmakers in the US House of Representatives unanimously ratified the bill, a package of sanctions on Russia, Iran and North Korea, on Tuesday only to move it forward for passage in the Senate. The sanctions are meant to punish Russia over a series of issues, including its alleged role in the US presidential election last year and Moscow’s continued meddling in Ukraine. Russia says the new bans would harm bilateral interests while again denying Washington’s allegations of interference in other countries.
The EU commissioners, who met in Brussels to discuss the issue, said in a statement following the talks that they were concerned about the sanctions “notably because of the draft bill's possible impact on EU energy independence.” They said if US lawmakers do not address those concerns, as once raised by European Commission head Jean-Claude Juncker in May, they would stand on no ceremony to act.
The draft of US sanctions on Russia has reportedly been modified to alley the EU’s concerns. The bill that passed the House on Tuesday only targets pipelines originating in Russia and those passing through, like the Caspian pipeline that carries oil from Kazakhstan to Europe, are spared.
The EU is not satisfied yet as it says European firms that contribute to the development of Russia's energy sector could also be penalized by the wave of new measures.
EU Commission’s Wednesday statement said the bill “demonstrates that a number of these concerns are being taken into account” but it said that “any company (including European) which contributes to the development, maintenance, modernization or repair of energy export pipelines" of Russia, could still be subject to sanctions. It said that even the energy infrastructure transiting through Ukraine could be affected by the bill “depending on its implementation.” It also warned over the impacts of the new law on a major natural gas project out of the Baltic states.
The statement concluded that United States’ unilateral decision to impose tough sanctions on Russia was a blow to previous close cooperation between the two sides of the Atlantic on maintaining a united front against Russia.
European governments have individually expressed dismay at the new US sanctions on Russia, saying they run counter to accepted international norms.
Germany on Wednesday called for a closer cooperation between Berlin and Washington on the issue, saying the United States was in fact using the sanctions as a tool of industrial policy against Russia.
A German Foreign Ministry spokesman said Germany "could not accept" Washington's practice of carrying out industrial policy under the guise of sanctions, adding that in his view the sanctions would not necessarily be adopted.
The United States and the European Union started introducing bans on Russia in March 2014 after Crimea, a former Ukrainian peninsula on the Black Sea, decided to rejoin Russia after the fall of a Russia-backed government in Kiev. In July that year, the EU imposed a new round of economic sanctions on Moscow after a passenger plane was shot down above volatile territories in eastern Ukraine.