This page was archived on October 2020.


European security issues

21 - Crimea

Grade: B+
Unity 5/5
Resources 3/5
Strategy 4/5
Impact 3/5
Total 15/20
Scorecard 2015: B+ (15/20)

The EU does not recognise Russia’s annexation of Crimea and has imposed sanctions, but it needs a clearer policy

The EU stuck throughout 2015 to the line that Russia’s annexation of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol is illegitimate, and that it will not recognise it. However, the issue did not feature significantly on the EU’s agenda during the year.

Life has been transformed on the ground in Crimea since Russia completed its takeover in 2015. The laws, currency, and even school curricula have changed. Most Crimeans have received Russian passports and re-registered their properties under Russian legislation. Economically, the situation is dire: the peninsula is isolated, and tourism is largely dormant, with links to Ukraine cut or risky to use. Handouts from Russia alleviate the situation a little. Crime and human rights abuses are rampant, with the indigenous Crimean Tatar population – who were not in favour of the takeover – often targeted, though arbitrary law-enforcement affects all groups.

The EU’s ability to influence the situation on the ground remains limited. The EU has imposed two sets of sanctions that are related to Crimea: in March 2014, the first set of sanctions against individuals was introduced, followed by a set of economic sanctions adopted in June 2014.

However, there is a need for a more comprehensive non-recognition policy that would include clear Crimea-related guidelines for a wider range of European actors – even if only in the form of recommendations. This should include a clear stance on visits to the peninsula: in 2015, a delegation of French MPs went to Crimea, as did some members of the European Parliament. In September, Italy’s ex-Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi met with Putin there. While these visits probably do not constitute a formal breach of sanctions, they are clearly unhelpful, as they allow Moscow to claim that European policymakers are not boycotting Crimea.

The current sanctions regime also includes some important loopholes. Some European car producers have found ways to continue business in Crimea; and, of Crimea’s big ports, some – for example, the port of Yalta – are not covered by sanctions at all.