The European Union may soon impose fines and other penalties on individuals and companies that violate human rights or do not comply with international laws and treaties. The EU can then impose fines, or economic sanctions, or travel restrictions within the EU, or confiscate bank balances.
The European Foreign Ministers have agreed to a proposal that the Netherlands had already submitted a few months ago. The Dutch parliament wanted the EU to set up its own Magnitsky law aimed at Russian politicians and officials suspected of corruption.
The United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, and the three Baltic Sea states already have a Magnitsky law. It was named after the Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, who fought against corruption and human rights violations and died in a cell in Moscow in 2009 under suspicious circumstances.
"A huge step forward," said Foreign Minister Stef Blok. For some EU countries, the reference to 'Magnitski' was too sensitive. That points too much in the direction of Russia, while the scheme must apply worldwide. That is why Minister Blok had broadened and extended the law to such an extent that it not only relates to Russian suspects but to all human rights violators worldwide.
EU countries struggling with sanctions had to be pulled over, Blok said. "Fortunately we were able to convince them that we need an assertive foreign policy and that defending human rights is at the core of that policy."
A year ago the Netherlands received support for such a plan, but Borrell's predecessor Federica Mogherini had not taken any steps so far. Minister Blok thinks it now takes about half a year before a proposal is made. After that, all EU member states still have to approve that proposal.