Main conclusions and a summary of the conference “EU Sanctions Against Belarus: Overcoming Implementation Challenges”

02.12.2021

On November 25-26 Financial Intelligence Unit of Latvia (FIU Latvia) hosted conference “EU Sanctions Against Belarus: Overcoming Implementation Challenges”. The aim of the conference is to bring together competent state institutions and high-level international experts to share information and experience on the effective implementation of EU sanctions against Belarus, its impact on the financial sector in Latvia, the Baltic States and the EU.

The online conference this year gathered almost 300 participants from more than 17 countries.

 

The main conclusions 

The first day of the conference was dedicated to academic discussions about international sanctions featuring multiple prominent scholars in the fields of law, political science and legal sociology. The second day of the conference featured representatives of institutions directly involved in implementation of sanctions, discussing various aspects of the EU sanctions in general and EU sanctions against Belarus in particular.

 

  • The rising use (and abuse) of unilateral sanctions around the world was summarized concisely, which was followed by a deeper dive in the practice of imposing sanctions by the EU, the US and the UK and how the imposition of sanctions can be challenged in courts. Later on, the impact of sanctions on economic operators was discussed.
  • The second day of the conference featured representatives of institutions directly involved in implementation of sanctions, discussing various aspects of the EU sanctions in general and EU sanctions against Belarus in particular. Implementation challenges were voiced and experts shared experience on how some of the challenges may be overcome.
  • There was a consensus among the speakers that sanctions as an instrument of foreign policy “are here to stay” and appears that they will be used more often by more state and regional actors and in a wider variety of forms. For example, the use of so-called “horizontal” sanctions that aim to sanction a particular action rather than targeting a specific country is growing (for instance, sanctions in response to human rights violations or proliferation of weapons of mass destruction)).
  • The participants of the conference concluded that implementing sanctions can be costly not only for the target state but also for those who impose sanctions. Especially so, in the case of the EU sanctions against Belarus – country on the external border of the EU.
  • The most important focus of the conference was the impact of sanctions on the economic operators (especially, in terms of implementation of financial restrictions), including possible de-risking and overcompliance.
  • The role of financial institutions in ensuring sanctions compliance has grown over the last two decades.
  • Facing risks of fines and reputational damage for non-compliance and lacking clarity and certainty about the application of certain rules, banks and businesses can be very cautious and possibly de-risk or over-comply.
  • In the context of the EU sanctions against Belarus, it was argued that there might be room for discretion and interpretation by the private sector that could lead to very cautious approach by banks and risks of overcompliance.
  • The representatives of private sector particularly emphasized the necessity of swift mechanisms in the public sector to communicate with the private sector, where reasonable business-related sanctions compliance questions arise.
  • Further, among ways to improve implementation of sanctions, private sector called upon more effective private-private and public-private exchange of information, more unified approach in sanctions implementation across the EU, clarity and certainty of the regulations and expectations, as well as mutual trust.

One of the responsibilities of the FIU Latvia is combatting of circumvention of national and international sanctions, or attempts at circumventing financial restrictions. The FIU Latvia hosts conference on the subject of sanctions for the third year, providing a platform bringing together leading experts from academia, business, government, international organizations and NGOs, to promote innovative thinking, challenge conventional wisdom, and reduce the gap between public and private sector actors.

The conference program

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