Fri. Dec 4th, 2020

EU Delegation to the UN in Geneva – Press releases

As announced by the President Ursula von der Leyen at the State of the European Union, the European Commission and the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy have today put forward a Joint Proposal for a Council Regulation concerning implementation of restrictive measures (sanctions) against serious human rights violations and abuses worldwide.

The Joint Proposal for a Council Regulation is one of the legal acts required by Council to proceed with the establishment of the new horizontal sanctions regime. It complements the Council Decision that is being proposed by High Representative Josep Borrell and that – once adopted by the Council – will establish the EU Global Human Rights Sanctions Regime.

Once in force, the new EU Global Human Rights Sanctions Regime will provide the EU with greater flexibility to target those responsible for serious human rights violations and abuses worldwide, no matter where they occur or who is responsible. It is expected that the EU Global Human Rights Sanctions Regime will consist of measures such as asset freezes and travel bans. On the latter, the Joint Proposal would also give, for the first time, the Commission oversight on the implementation of the travel bans.

The new regime will not replace existing geographic sanctions regimes, some of which already address human rights violations and abuses, for example in Syria, Belarus or Venezuela.

These proposals strongly demonstrate the EU’s commitment to support human rights, democracy, the rule of law and the principles of international law around the world. They respond to the political agreement by EU Foreign Ministers at the Foreign Affairs Council in December 2019 to move forward with the establishment of such a regime.

The EU Global Human Rights Sanctions Regime is also a key deliverable proposed by the High Representative and the Commission in the Action Plan on Human Rights and Democracy 2020 – 2024 as part of the Joint Communication adopted in March 2020.

Next steps

The proposed Council Regulation will be discussed by Member States in the Council in parallel to the High Representative’s Proposal for a Council Decision.

Members of the College said:

Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, said: “We must stand up for human rights and fundamental freedoms. An EU sanctions regime that holds to account those responsible for abuses and violations of human rights is long overdue. We trust that the Council will demonstrate its determination to support the Commission in this objective by adopting our proposal.”

Josep Borrell, High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/Vice-President for a Stronger Europe in the World, said: “Human rights are under attack around the world. The new EU Global Human Rights Sanctions Regime will be a powerful tool to hold accountable those responsible for serious human rights violations and abuses around the world. This is an opportunity for Europe not only to stand up for its values but to act.”

Valdis Dombrovskis, Executive Vice-President for an Economy that Works for People, said: “We are putting forward a zero tolerance policy against those who abuse and violate human rights around the world. Today’s proposals offer broad possibilities to respond to such actions, and show our commitment to defend the values we believe in.”

Mairead McGuinness, Commissioner for Financial Services, Financial Stability and Capital Markets Union said: “These proposals are an important step towards a much-needed sanctions regime. By enforcing our human rights sanctions efficiently and effectively, EU countries can make sure that there is no escape for those who create human pain and suffering. As soon as the regime is adopted by the Council, the Commission will firmly support these efforts.”


EU sanctions help to achieve key EU objectives such as preserving peace, strengthening international security, and consolidating and supporting democracy, international law and human rights. They are targeted at those whose actions endanger these values, and intend to reduce as much as possible any adverse consequences on the civilian population. The EU has about 40 different sanctions regimes currently in place.

The Council Regulation is needed to detail the measures of the sanctions regime established by the Council Decision that can affect the functioning of the EU’s internal market. It is directly binding on the national administrative authorities as well as on private operators, whereas the Council Decision is legally binding on EU Member States.

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