EU to name sanctions envoy to enforce curbs on Russia

The EU is to appoint a sanctions envoy to push for tighter enforcement of its penalties in countries including Turkey, as the bloc seeks to crack down on circumvention of its measures against Russia.

David O’Sullivan, a former EU ambassador to the US, has been asked to fill the new post from January, according to people familiar with the process, with a remit of spearheading the European Commission’s efforts to ensure full compliance around the world.

The commission is expected to confirm on the appointment on Tuesday, according to a senior EU official. It comes as the EU, US and other allies focus on closing loopholes in their sanctions against Russian president Vladimir Putin’s regime, after pushing through multiple rounds of penalties since the invasion.

Countries that the EU is focusing on include Turkey, which has declined to follow the EU penalties taken against the Kremlin.

The US and EU have been pushing in particular for Ankara to crack down on shipments of banned goods by traders seeking to circumvent the tight export controls on industrial and defence products imposed on Russia.

Financial services commissioner Mairead McGuinness visited Turkey in October in a bid to push the country to do more to bring the private sector into compliance with EU sanctions. Other countries including Serbia and the United Arab Emirates were also under scrutiny, said the senior EU official.

The drive comes as the EU debates ways of centralising and streamlining its sanctions regime, which has become an increasingly important foreign policy tool. Enforcement is in the hands of individual member states and new penalties can only be brought into force with the unanimous agreement of EU capitals.

McGuinness said earlier this year that officials were considering the creation of an EU version of the Office of Foreign Assets Control (Ofac), the powerful US Treasury agency that spearheaded enforcement of its sanctions, as the commission pushed for tougher and more consistent implementation of the regime.

The new EU role will partly mirror that of the US’s head of sanctions co-ordination, Jim O’Brien, whose job entails fostering collaboration with US allies on penalties.

O’Sullivan is currently director of the Institute of International and European Affairs think-tank. He previously worked as EU ambassador to the US from 2014 to 2019 and before that held senior positions in the commission including director-general for trade.

He will work as a senior adviser in the commission’s financial services wing, which is overseen by McGuinness, and will focus on the sanctions regime on Russia, the senior EU official said.

The decision comes as the EU prepares to push through its ninth package of sanctions on Russia, which will include restrictions on investments in Russian mining as well as a swath of new penalties on companies and individuals.

The new measures will include export controls on key chemicals, nerve agents, electronics and IT components that could be used by the Russian military. They will also seek to ban exports of drone engines to Russia.

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