EU urges Switzerland to intensify cooperation on Sanctions

Trade Compliance, Export Control, Sanctions, Embargos

On February 28th 2017, the EU urged Switzerland to further harmonize it's sanction program with EU sanctions, and to intensify its activities to prevent circumvention via Switzerland. Furthermore, the Council of the European Union requests more specifically that Switzerland shall continue and even intensify its harmonization with EUs restrictive measures in regards to the situation in Ukraine and the conflict with Russia. The wording of the communique of the Council of the European Union can be found here: "Council conclusions on EU relations with the Swiss Confederation".

This explicit reference to the Swiss sanctions program causes some irritation since the Swiss Sanctions program has been harmonized with the EU measures for years. Article 1 of Swiss embargo regulations explicitly allows harmonization of the federation's enforcement measures with the United Nations, Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) as well as with the most important trading partners. Only in November 2016 the federation updated the Regulation on Measures to Prevent the Circumvention of International Sanctions related to the Situation in Ukraine (946.231.176.72). This changes were meant to ensure harmonization with international- and EU measures.

The discussion of Swiss sanctions in the above-mentioned EU communique shows that Swiss sanctions policy (also) in regards to support and enforcement of international sanctions is closely monitored by the EU. The statement at hand can be perceived as a reaction on the possible changes in US foreign policy especially in regards to Ukraine and Russia. A potential shift in US policy under the Trump administration could result in a misalignment between EU and US sanctions. For Switzerland, this could lead to the question which policy to follow, both EU and US are important trading partners. Such a dilemma would not only be a challenge for the regulator but also for Swiss companies which must ensure compliance with Swiss export control regulations - but usually also with the respective EU and US. Both foreign regulations have a certain degree of exterritorial character which must be considered by Swiss companies (more on extraterritoriality of EU and US export controls can be found here).

* Peter Henschel | Prof. Dr. Andreas Furrer

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