EU sanctions evasion and circumvention at the heart of the Border States’ meeting in Helsinki

EU sanctions evasion and circumvention at the heart of the Border States’ meeting in Helsinki

Combatting circumvention of the EU sanctions is a common mission of the EU Member States, especially of those who are at the forefront of sanctions implementation at the border with Russia. In order to facilitate co-operation further, the Border States, Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, and EFTA member state Norway, met in Helsinki on 15-17 May.

The EU has shown determination and unity in responding to Russia’s unprovoked war of aggression against Ukraine since February 2022. In the field of sanctions, the EU has made important decisions on unprecedented scale and has over the past 15 months continued to gradually increase the pressure on Russia by introducing new restrictive measures. In view of the effectiveness of sanctions, Russia has invented many ways to circumvent them.

Majority of the EU trade, including sanctioned goods leaving the EU, are transported via Border States and Russia to a third country as their final destination. Accordingly, the Border States at the EU/EFTA external border share a burden and play central role at enforcing the EU sanctions and controlling goods entering or leaving EU Member States, including also goods that arrive to the border from other EU countries. Considering the unique and challenging Border States’ position, continuous deep cooperation and unified efforts between the Border States’ authorities are of utmost importance to further tackle evasion and circumvention. It is notable, that strict and uniform implementation of the sanctions is crucial for them to work efficiently and appropriately.

The three-day discussions involved National Competent Authorities responsible for National Coordination of Sanctions Implementation, granting of authorisations (e.g. export licenses, financial sanctions authorisations) and Customs Officials of the Border States. Also Sweden, holding the EU Presidency, and the European Commission (OLAF) attended the meeting. The representatives discussed ways to strengthen measures targeted at disrupting circumvention of EU sanctions against Russia and Belarus.

The participants agreed to deepen co-operation on sanctions implementation, strengthen the uniform application of customs controls, work towards harmonising the granting of authorisations and increase regular exchanges of information and best practices. As a result, the parties agreed to produce a joint guidance for economic operators to detect sanctions evasion and circumvention.

The meeting ended with a dedicated discussion on export control related questions also involving experts from the US Bureau of Industry and Security.

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