Brok: ‘Economic sanctions are much more costly for Europe than for America’

Elmar Brok.jpg

Elmar Brok, an influential German centre-right MEP, expressed frustration over the US approach to the Crimea crisis, warning Washington to show greater tact when speaking about the EU’s Ukraine policy and potential sanctions on Russia. EURACTIV Germany reports.

Speaking to foreign correspondents in Berlin on Monday (17 March), Brok called on the United States not to lose sight of the facts when it calls the shots in Ukraine.

“Regarding the US, I would like to be clear,” said Brok, who hails from German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party.

“Economic sanctions are much more costly for Europe than for America. The US contributed €700 million, while the European Union gave €11 billion. The cost of economic sanctions is quite one-sidedly carried by Europe and not by the US,” he told journalists.

Brok is chairman of the Committee on Foreign Affairs in the European Parliament and an influential figure in the CDU. Speaking in Berlin on Monday, Brok said he would “be delighted if our American friends would take [these sums] into account when they give public statements.”

The Christian Democrat MEP said it would be helpful if different starting positions were respected and not attacked – directly or indirectly, referring to the recent words of US diplomat Victoria Nuland who famously said “Fuck the EU” in early February.

Brok cited Iran sanctions as another example. “The Americans did not receive any oil from Iran, so they can easily carry out sanctions. But a country like Greece received 60% of its supply from Iran at that time. Implementing this in Greece – considering its difficult economic situation – should be considered an accomplishment at the very least and not be taken for granted.”

Budapest Memorandum

Additionally, Brok said he would be interested in American behaviour as a guarantor of the 1994 Budapest Memorandum, which commits the US, the United Kingdom and Russia to respect the sovereignty and borders of Ukraine, Kazakhstan and Belarus in return for nuclear disarmament.

But since Moscow broke the memorandum by annexing Crimea, Brok said “the two other partners – the US and the UK – have yet to come up with any consequences for this behaviour.”

Step-by-step sanctions give diplomacy a chance

Monday’s comments by Brok took place just after a meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Speaking with journalists, the MEP revealed the second level of sanctions against Russia, including travel restrictions and freezing assets.

But the list of sanctions is still open and expandable, with the third level of sanctions ready to be initiated within days or weeks, depending on the situation’s evolution on the ground. European heads of states and governments are gathering in Brussels this week (20-21 March) for an EU summit meeting.

According to Brok, the meeting with Merkel unanimously decided that developments in Crimea were a double violation of international human rights – namely the Russian troop invasion, and the one-sided implementation of the referendum on Crimea’s attachment to Russia, which violates the Ukrainian constitution.

“The sanctioning mechanism is clear. I hope that there will now be willingness to talk. But acceptance of the status quo does not belong among the topics for discussion. Rather the discussion should consider the entire situation – including restoration of international human rights law on the Crimea,” Brok said.

The purpose of step-by-step sanctions is not to punish, but rather to repeatedly offer diplomatic solutions a chance, Brok explained. The EU’s policy so far has by no means failed he said, indicating, “the alternative would have been sending troops.”

Brok emphasised again: “War is eliminated. But diplomacy and economic instruments take more time to realise. At some point, Russia will have to recognise that it is much worse off under Cold War conditions, with less economic relations.”

“We are by no means defenceless,” Brok said, describing the situation in Germany as an example of Europe’s economic strength. Germany currently exports €38 billion in goods and services to Russia annually, he explained, but within the EU Germany sells goods and services amounting to €650 billion. “That means, we sell much more to the Netherlands than to Russia.”

At an extraordinary summit on 6 March, EU leaders denounced Russia’s “aggression” in Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula and threatened Moscow with sanctions if it did not take steps to “de-escalate” the crisis.

>> Read: EU gives ultimatum to Russia over its ‘aggression’ against Ukraine

EU Leaders strongly condemned Russia's “unprovoked violation of Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity", and called on Russia to immediately withdraw its armed forces and allow immediate access for international monitors.

Failing to do so, EU leaders threatened Moscow with sanctions, including travel bans and assets freeze, which could potentially hit Russian President Vladimir Putin.

  • 20-21 March: EU summit in Brussels

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