Recently, the Dutch government published a report summarizing the Dutch arms export policy in 2019. As regards to foreign matters, the German government issued a press report confirming that Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny has been poisoned with a chemical nerve warfare agent. The European Union (“EU”) declared on this matter that it condemns the assassination attempt and that the use of chemical weapons constitutes a serious breach of international law and reserves the right to take restrictive measures. In the United States of America (“US”), TikTok has chosen Oracle as US ‘technology partner’, thereby rejecting Microsoft’s bid. Moreover, China imposed new restrictions on the export of 23 technologies. This, and more, in this newsletter.
1. The Netherlands
- The Dutch Arms Export Policy in 2019
On 4 September 2020, the Dutch Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation published a report on the export of military goods. The report outlines the Dutch defence- and security industry; procedures and assumptions for the export of military and dual-use items and changes in export policy in 2019; transparency in arms export policy; what kind of licenses for arms export were issued (and denied) in 2019 and for which countries; and relevant developments in the EU and internationally.
- Interview with Yvo Amar in Het Financieele Dagblad, 10 September 2020
On 10 September 2020, Yvo Amar, was interviewed by Dutch newspaper Het Financieele Dagblad. In this interview Amar discusses the increasing tendency of Dutch banks to terminate banking relationships with an increased risk, according to the banks.
- Progress report on trade agreements (September 2020)
On 11 September 2020, the Dutch government published an overview of trade agreements of the EU that have not yet entered into force definitively and EU trade agreements as regards to which the parties involved have already expressed their intention to look at the options of a trade agreement.
2. European Union & United Kingdom
A. European Union
- Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia / Belarus – On 31 August 2020, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia imposed travel bans on Alexander Lukashenko, the President of Belarus, and 29 other officials on the basis of their contribution to “violations of international electoral standards and human rights, as well as to repression against civil society and the democratic opposition”, according to the Ministry of the Interior of the Republic of Lithuania.
- Germany / Russia – On 2 September 2020, the German government issued a press release confirming that Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny has been poisoned with a chemical nerve warfare agent from the Novichok group. The German government notes that it “condemns this attack in the strongest possible terms” and that it will “inform its partners in the EU and NATO about the results of the investigation through the Federal Foreign Office in the channels provided for this purpose. It will discuss an appropriate joint reaction with the partners in the light of the Russian agreement”.
- EU / Russia – On 3 September 2020, a declaration of the High Representative of the EU, on behalf of the EU, was published as regards to the poisoning of Alexei Navalny. The declaration states that “the [EU] condemns in the strongest possible terms the assassination attempt on Alexei Navalny, who was poisoned by a military chemical nerve agent”. The EU notes that “the use of chemical weapons is complexly unacceptable under any circumstances, constitutes a serious breach of international law and international human rights standards. The [EU] calls for a joint international response and reserves the right to take appropriate actions, including through restrictive measures” and “calls upon the Russian Federation to fully cooperate with the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons to ensure an impartial international investigation”.
- EU / Belarus – On 7 September 2020, a statement by the High Representative of the EU, Josep Borrell, was published, confirming Belarus sanctions after recent arbitrary and unexplained arrests and detentions on political grounds, saying that “the EU will impose sanctions on individuals responsible for violence, repression and falsification of election results”.
- Greece / Turkey – On 9 September 2020, the Prime Minister of Greece, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, published an article in The Times about Turkey’s recent gas deposit exploration activities in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea. Mr. Mitsotakis warned that if Turkey does not cooperate, he “see[s] no option but for my fellow European leaders to impose meaningful sanctions”. He notes: “the choice is stark. Turkey can engage, and find common ground, or it can contribute to behave as the aggressor, posturing on the fringes of Europe, and pay a significant economic price for doing so. It can choose between Greece being a bridge or being a barrier to partnership and progress”.
- EU / Russia, Ukraine – On 10 September 2020, the Council of the EU decided to extend “the sanctions targeting persons and entities that continue to undermine or threaten the territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence of Ukraine, for a further 6 months until 15 March 2021”. According to the press release the existing restrictive measures provide for both travel restrictions and the freezing of assets, and apply to 175 persons and 44 entities.
- UK, France, Germany / Iran – On 10 September 2020, the E3, the UK, France and Germany, got together for a meeting, where the three reaffirmed their commitment to preserving the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (“JCPOA”). The ministers underlined that Iran urgently needs to return to full compliance and reverse actions incompatible with its nuclear commitments under the deal.
B. United Kingdom
- On 3 September 2020, the UK’s Office for Financial Sanctions Implementation (“OFSI”) issued a template form and notice providing background and guidance for the 2020 frozen asset reporting exercise, which the HM Treasury (the UK government’s economic and finance ministry) carries out every year to update the record. As part of this review, HM Treasury requires all persons that hold, or control funds or economic resources belonging to a designated person to complete the reporting form and submit it to OFSI, by 16 October 2020.
3. United States of America
A. US – China Relations
- On 13 September 2020, according to a Washington Post news article, TikTok has chosen Oracle as US technology partner, thereby rejecting Microsoft’s bid. Recently, TikTok put forward a proposal to the US government that would “allow its Chinese parent company, ByteDance, to retain ownership but outsource cloud management of the data”. TikTok then chose Oracle as its US “technology partner”. According to the news article, Oracle never seemed like a logical acquirer of TikTok’s US assets. However, “it had one thing going for it during its pursuit: a close relationship with Trump”. The details of the deal are yet to be published.
B. US – North Korea Relations
- On 1 September 2020, the US published an advisory on North Korea’s ballistic missile procurement activities. According to the Office of the Spokesperson, the advisory “identifies key procurement entities and deceptive techniques used by North Korea’s missile program, provides an overview of relevant provisions under US law, including sanctions authorities, related to DPRK proliferation activities, and lists relevant resources. The advisory also contains annexes listing key items used in North Korea’s ballistic missile program, as well as DPRK persons and entities currently subject to sanctions by the US Government”.
C. US – Russia Relations
- Frequency Electronics, Inc., a New York-based satellite communications company, has published its Annual Report 2020, in which it discloses that the OFAC has commenced an investigation into certain sales to and payments from Morion. Morion is a subsidiary of Gazprombank, a state-owned Russian bank, which became subject in July 2014 to US sectoral sanctions. The report notes that, in light of Morion’s relationship with Gazprombank, “the Company recently evaluated […] certain sales to Morion and the timing of payments by Morion to the Company in connection with those sales to determine whether payments by Morion may have inadvertently constituted extensions of credit in violation of Directive 1 under Executive Order 13662”. The Company determined that certain payments by Morion were not timely. Following the determination, the Company voluntarily disclosed its findings to the OFAC. The civil investigation on the matter is currently still ongoing so possible penalties cannot yet be estimated.
- On 8 September 2020, the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the US House of Representatives send a letter to the US government, making a formal request to “investigate Russia’s use of chemical weapons in the poisoning of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny”. This request triggers an investigation into Russia’s alleged violation of international law. In the letter it is urged that the administration enacts additional sanctions if it is determined that chemical weapons were used against Navalny.
- On 10 September 2020, the OFAC designated four people said to be linked to Russian efforts to influence the US 2020 presidential elections According to the press release, “Russia has used a wide range of influence methods and actors to target our electoral process, including targeting US presidential candidates”. The OFAC designated Andrii Derkach, a Member of the Ukrainian Parliament, which allegedly “has been an active Russian agent for over a decade, maintaining close connections with the Russian Intelligence Services”. According to the OFAC, Derkach has “directly or indirectly engaged in, sponsored, concealed, or otherwise been complicity in foreign interference in an attempt to undermined the upcoming 2020 US presidential election”. The OFAC moreover designated 3 actors from the Internet Research Agency (“IRA”) for “having acted or purported to act for or on behalf of, directly or indirectly, the IRA, an entity designated pursuant to E.O. 13694”. According to the press release, the IRA “uses cryptocurrency to fund activities in furtherance of their ongoing malign influence operations around the world”.
D. US – Belarus Relations
- On 8 September 2020, the US Department of State published a statement saying that the US is “deeply concerned by the reported abduction on September 7 in Belarus of [three important opposition leaders] and the attempted forced expulsion over the border to Ukraine on September 8”. The statement notes that “the United States, in coordination with [its] partners and Allies, is considering additional targeted sanctions to promote accountability for those involved in human rights abuses and repression in Belarus”.
- On 19 August 2020, the US Bureau of Industry & Security (“BIS”) issued a final order imposing a USD 31,425,760.00 penalty on “Singapore based Nordic Maritime Pte. Ltd. (“Nordic”) and its Chairman, Morten Innhaug (“Innhaug”). The order imposing a civil penalty followed an earlier decision to impose a 15-year denial order against Nordic and Innhaug. This penalty was recommended by US Coast Guard Administrative Law Judge Dean C. Metry based on a BIS investigation into the unlawful use of US origin subsea survey equipment in Iranian territorial waters”.
- On 1 September 2020, the US Department of Justice released a press release stating that a foreign national who was arrested at an airport in Florida, pleaded guilty to national security offenses. “Colin Fisher, a citizen of the [UK], pleaded guilty to federal charges of violating the International Emergency Economic Powers Act and attempted smuggling in relation to exporting power generating equipment to Iran”, according to the press release. “Exporting technology to Iran is prohibited for a very good reason, yet this defendant chose to put his own self-interest above global and national security”, US Attorney Keefe said.
- On 2 September 2020, the US Department of Justice published a news release stating that the US seized two domain names used by foreign terrorist organizations. “The [US] has seized “Aletejahtv.com” and “Aletejahtv.org,” two websites, which were unlawfully utilized by Kata’ib Hizballah, a Specially Designated National and a Foreign Terrorist Organization”, according to the news release.
- On 3 September 2020, the OFAC amended its regulations to adjust for inflation its civil monetary penalties for failure to comply with certain recordkeeping and reporting requirements, which are contained in OFAC’s Economic Sanctions Enforcement Guidelines in OFAC’s Reporting, Procedures and Penalties Regulations. The regulatory amendment will take effect on 5 October 2020.
- On 9 September 2020, the OFAC announced two settlements with Deutsche Bank Trust Company Americas (“Deutsche Bank US”), which resolve investigations into violations of Ukraine-related sanctions regulations. According to the notice, Deutsche Bank US “agreed to pay 157,500 US Dollars for processing a large payment, related to a series of purchases of fuel oil, through the United States that involved a property interest of a designated oil company in Cyprus. At the time it processed the payment, [Deutsche Bank US] had reason to know of the designated oil company’s potential interest, but did not conduct sufficient due diligence to determine whether the designated oil company’s interest in the payment had been extinguished. Separately, [Deutsche Bank US] agreed to remit 245,600 US Dollars for processing payments destined for accounts at a designated financial institution”.
- On 10 September 2020, the White House published a statement with respect to foreign interference in or undermining public confidence in US elections. President Trump stated the following: “I am continuing for one year the national emergency declared in Executive Order 13848 with respect to the threat of foreign interference in or undermining public confidence in United States elections”.
4. Around the Globe
- UNSC / Mali – On 31 August 2020, the United Nations Security Council (“UNSC”) announced its decision to renew sanctions in Mali for one year, until 31 August 2021. Moreover, the UNSC announced its decision to extend the work of the panel of experts overseeing the sanctions regime, until 30 September 2021. The sanctions (travel ban and asset freeze) target those “who are hobbling progress on implementing the Agreement of Peace and Reconciliation in Mali”.
- JCPOA – On 1 September 2020, a meeting of the Joint Commission of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (“JCPOA”) took place in Vienna. This Commission is responsible for overseeing the implementation of the agreement. The meeting was attended by representatives of China, France, Germany, Russia, the UK and Iran. According to the press release of the EU, “all participants reaffirmed the importance of preserving the agreement recalling that it is a key element of the global nuclear non-proliferation architecture, as endorsed by United Nations Security Council Resolution 2231 (2015). Full implementation of the agreement by all sides remains crucial”. The Joint Commission moreover addressed sanctions lifting issues under the agreement. Experts will continue discussions on all issues of concern.
- US / ICC – On 2 September 2020, the US Department of State announced the designation of International Criminal Court (“ICC”) Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda “for having directly engaged in an effort to investigate US personnel”, and the ICC’s Head of the Jurisdiction, Complementarity and Cooperation Division Phakiso Mochochoko “for having materially assisted Prosecutor Bensouda”. According to the US Secretary of State, Michael Pompeo, the US is not a party to the Rome Statute that created the ICC, nor has the US ever accepted its jurisdiction over US personnel. On this basis, the ICC can, according to the US, not be allowed to follow though with “its politically-driven targeting of US personnel”.
- EU / US / ICC – On 3 September 2020, the EU’s High Representative of Foreign Affairs, Josep Borrell, published a statement, saying that “the sanctions announced by the United States administration on 2 September against two Court staff members, including its prosecutor, are unacceptable and unprecedented measures that attempt to obstruct the Court’s investigations and judicial proceedings”. Josep Borrell furthermore notes that it is important that “the ICC must be able to work independently and impartially, free from outside interference”. According to the EU, the US should reconsider tits position and reverse the measures.
- China – On 11 September 2020, Reuters published an article regarding the decision of China to impose new restrictions on the export of 23 technologies, which are either based on China’s intellectual property or are data-based personalized products that have become sensitive due to geopolitical assessment or foreign government scrutiny. “The new list of technologies under export controls announced on 28 August 2020 came as an unwelcome surprise to an industry already grappling with the uncertainty posed by trade tensions between China and the US”, according to Reuters.
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