Financial Sanctions

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Immobilised Assets, Extraordinary Profits: The EU Council Decision on Russia’s Central Bank Reserves and Its Legal Challenges

On 28 February 2024, the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, announced that ‘it is time to start a conversation about using the windfall profits of frozen Russian assets to jointly purchase military equipment for Ukraine’. This statement comes on the heels of a decision adopted by the Council of the European Union (EU) on 12 February 2024, which was hailed as the ‘first step to use Russia’s frozen assets for Ukraine’. According to this decision, Central Securities Depositories (CSDs) holding more than EUR 1 million in assets and reserves of the Central Bank of Russia (CBR) that are frozen (‘immobilised’) under EU sanctions are mandated to account for them separately and prohibited from using profits generated by these assets. This move paves the way for a future financial contribution to the EU budget from these profits, which – at least, until von der Leyen’s statement – was expected to be directed to assist Ukraine’s reconstruction through the newly established ‘Ukraine Facility’.

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Caught in a Geopolitical Crossfire: Questioning the Legality of US-Imposed Export Controls on Dutch Computer Chip Machines

For years now, the US has lobbied with the Dutch government to institute controls on the export to China of chipmaking machines produced by ASML, Europe’s most valuable tech company. In 2019, Washington effectively pushed the Netherlands to prevent the export of one of ASML’s most advanced “Extreme Ultraviolet” (EUV) lithography machines to China. And…

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Revisiting Coercion

The prohibition of intervention, requiring States to refrain from coercively interfering in the internal or external affairs of other States, is widely recognized as a cardinal rule of customary international law. There is also widespread agreement about the constituent elements of the rule: (1) an interference with a State’s internal or external affairs which is (2) coercive in…

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Energy Lessons from the Ukraine Crisis

It is a cliché that wars are fought over energy access.  It is just as trite to point out the illegality of military action to secure energy resources for oneself or to deny energy access to adversaries.  As sanctions against Russia and against Ukrainian separatist regions come into focus, energy access again comes front and center.  Germany’s…

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Secondary Sanctions: A Weapon out of Control? Part III: Looking beyond the WTO – possible avenues to raise a Judicial Challenge against Secondary Sanctions

Judicial remedies at the domestic and international level In our two previous posts we examined the legality of secondary sanctions in light of customary law on the exercise of State jurisdiction, on the one end (here), and conventional law, specifically the IMF Articles of Agreement, on the other hand (here). Having established that, depending…

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