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European Parliament declares Russia a terrorist state – a first step

Russia on Wednesday took a step closer to becoming an international pariah state.

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European Parliament declares Russia a terrorist state – a first step

Russia on Wednesday took a step closer to becoming an international pariah state. In a far-reaching joint resolution, the European Parliament has branded Russia's massive attacks on Ukrainian civilians and civilian infrastructure as "acts of terrorism" and recognized Russia as "a state sponsor of terrorism and a state using terrorist means." The EU parliament is thus following the example of Poland and the Baltic states, whose MPs had previously also declared Russia a terrorist state.

Russian officials have said publicly in recent weeks that their massive bombing campaign against critical infrastructure in Ukraine, which constitutes serious war crimes, aims to force the Ukrainian leadership to negotiate along Russian lines. One of the classic definitions of terrorism includes acts of intimidating the population to achieve political ends, which indeed seems to fit perfectly with Russian attacks on civilian targets that do not follow any military logic.

The European Parliament's non-binding decision is an important symbolic act that further highlights the criminal nature of the Russian regime. But what does that mean in practice? In contrast to the USA or Canada, no states in the EU have been included in the Commission's terror list.

Parliament has therefore called on the Commission and EU member states to create a legal framework for declaring countries terrorist states, which would then "trigger a number of significant restrictive measures against these countries and have profound consequences for the EU relations with these countries,” as the resolution states. In the case of Russia, Parliament is also concerned, among other things, with creating a legal basis for the confiscation of frozen Russian funds in Europe in order to use them to repair war damage in Ukraine.

In fact, the EU lags far behind on these issues – behind the US, for example. There are already four states on the list of terror sponsors. One of the consequences of this is that the international immunity of these states before US courts is restricted and victims of terrorist acts can sue the perpetrators of these acts. The same applies to Canada, which has now created a legal basis for the confiscation of frozen Russian funds. There is nothing comparable in the EU so far.

International law and international adjudicatory practice have set a high bar for confiscating funds from foreign states traditionally considered immune. The designation as a terrorist state seeks to undermine this tradition and follows a legal philosophy that can be summarized as follows: A state that uses terrorist means clearly and seriously goes beyond the norms of international law - and should therefore not be allowed to claim the protection of these standards. However, the US government has so far refused to officially put Russia on the list of terrorist states.

The European Parliament, on the other hand, is now calling on the Commission and Member States to "work towards the creation of a comprehensive international compensation mechanism" and it is calling on the Commission and national parliaments to create a legal regime that will prevent the confiscation of frozen goods by the EU Russian assets to be used to repair the damage Russia's war has caused in Ukraine and to compensate victims of Russian aggression. The Commission and the Council should develop special US-style legal instruments that are currently lacking in the EU, said former Lithuanian Prime Minister Andrius Kubilius, Parliament's Russia rapporteur.

Meanwhile, the EU Commission has announced that it will take at least a small step in this direction. Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders said in the "Irish Times" that the Commission would present a directive in a few days that would make it possible to freeze funds from companies or private individuals who have violated the EU's anti-Russia sanctions confiscate. That would affect a large part of almost 18 billion euros in corresponding assets. “If it is possible to confiscate that, then it will also be possible to return the money to the Ukrainian people. And that's what we're trying to do," Reynders said.

However, this would not affect funds frozen in the EU by the Russian state, which is the actual originator of the terrorist attacks on Ukraine. In the EU, around 30 billion of the Russian National Bank have been frozen, which would not be affected. However, Reynders said it was examining whether those funds could be used as a "guarantee" to pressure Russia to pay for Ukraine's reconstruction. "It's quite logical after such aggression that part of the funding for reconstruction comes from Russia and not from the international community," Reynders said.

In principle, this is a view shared by all Western countries. However, experts are racking their brains about how this can be implemented in a legally watertight form in view of the immunity of states in international law. The designation of Russia as a terrorist regime by the EU Commission, as demanded by the EU Parliament, could in any case be an important part of finding a legal basis for the confiscation of state Russian funds – and then using them for the reconstruction of Ukraine .

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