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Publication | 2020

Commission guidance note on the provision of humanitarian aid to fight the COVID-19 pandemic in certain environments subject to EU restrictive measures

EU restrictive measures (sanctions) may consist of the freezing of funds or economic resources of certain persons, entities and bodies, as well as in some cases in restrictions to trade in certain goods and services. The purpose of these restrictions is to attain the objectives of the Union’s Common Foreign and Security Policy, which include in particular preserving peace, strengthening international security and consolidating and supporting democracy, the universality and indivisibility of human rights and fundamental freedoms, respect for human dignity, the principles of equality and solidarity, and respect for the principles of the United Nations Charter and international law (Article 21 of the Treaty on European Union).

EU sanctions are targeted. They focus on those whose actions endanger the abovementioned values, while avoiding negative consequences on the civilian population. In particular, EU sanctions are not meant to stand in the way nor impede the supply of humanitarian aid, including medical assistance. EU measures comply with all obligations under international law, in particular international human rights law, international refugee law, and international humanitarian law.

Sanctions may alter a country’s ability to fight COVID-19 by affecting the procurement of certain goods and technologies, either because such goods are subject to restrictions (for instance, dual-use goods which can also be used for military purposes), or because the persons involved in their procurement are sanctioned. In addition, there may be an indirect, but significant effect caused by certain operators’ unwillingness to engage in transactions related to a sanctioned country or individual, even if those are legitimate (over-compliance), for fear of accidentally violating the sanctions, or a lack of economic incentives to engage in comparison to the risks stemming from those transactions. In addition, those targeted by restrictive measures may pass on to the civilian population the economic consequences of international sanctions imposed on them, thus increasing hardship for the non-targeted civilian population. The EU sanctions in force and the complete lists of persons and entities designated under EU sanctions are reflected in the EU Sanctions Map. The list of persons and entities is also available in the Financial Sanctions Database. Both tools are freely accessible to Humanitarian Operators.