The members of the European Union on Monday agreed to make sanctions evasion a crime. File Photo by European Union/ EP/UPI | License Photo
Nov. 28 (UPI) -- Members of the European Union have unanimously agreed to add sanctions evasion to its list of EU crimes as the bloc continues to seek ways to punish Russia over its war in Ukraine.
The 27-member bloc said it agreed Monday to add the violation of restrictive measures to its list of crimes included in the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU.
The move is expected to ensure member states share the same legal definition of what constitutes a violation of restrictive measures and what penalties should be applied.
It is expected to alleviate concerns that varying degrees of sanctions enforcement by each individual country could increase the risk that the EU measures are circumvented, allowing designated people and companies to access their assets and support those targeted by the bloc.
The agreement comes as the EU has approved an unprecedented number of sanctions targeting Russia in response to its invasion of Ukraine in late February.
Since the Kremlin annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014, the EU has imposed asset freezes and travel restrictions on 1,241 people and 118 entities.
The EU says the sanctions target Russia's economy in an effort to thwart its ability to continue to make war.
"To succeed, their implementation requires a joint effort, and today's decision is an essential tool to ensure any attempts to circumvent these measures will be stopped," Pavel Blazek, the minister of justice for Czech Republic, said in a statement.
The European Commission, the union's executive branch, is now tasked with presenting a proposal on the definition of criminal offenses and penalties of violations that will then be discussed and adopted by the EU council and the European Parliament.