December 1, 2022

EU sanctions violations to be crimes under TFEU

On November 28, 2022, the Council of the European Union voted unanimously to include the violation of restrictive measures among the enumerated European Union crimes for purposes of Article 83(1) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.  The decision follows the adoption of a series of restrictive measures in response to Russian aggression against Ukraine.

Until now, Article 83(1) TFEU has allowed the European Parliament and European Council to establish rules governing the definition of criminal offenses and the penalties attached to those offenses in the areas of terrorism, human trafficking, drug trafficking, arms trafficking, corruption, counterfeiting, money laundering, organized crime, computer crime, and the sexual exploitation of women and children.  The ground was laid for adding violations of restrictive measures to this list with a resolution proposed in May 2022, in which the European Council determined that “the developments in crime witnessed following Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine” constituted an exceptional circumstance, and therefore eligible to be added to Article 83(1) crimes.

The purpose of the resolution is to ensure more uniform sanctions enforcement throughout the European Union, and to prevent the circumvention of restrictive measures adopted by the EU.  Following the adoption of the resolution, the European Commission will draft a directive for minimum rules regarding the definition of criminal offenses and penalties for the violation of restrictive measures; the draft will be debated and adopted by the European Parliament and the Council of Europe.

EC press release | Council decision