The European Union (EU) is often criticized for the ineffectiveness of the economic sanctions it imposes, which often affect the civilian population rather than the governments it targets. Within the framework of a binational research project, researchers from universities in Poznan (Poland) and the University of Konstanz have now proven that these hypotheses are only correct to a limited extent. With the support of the German Research Foundation (DFG) and the Polish National Science Centre (NCN) as part of the joint Beethoven funding initiative, the research team led by Dr Paulina Pospieszna (Adam Mickiewicz University of Poznan) and Professor Gerald Schneider (University of Konstanz) systematically investigated threatened as well as actually imposed coercive measures by the EU, the United States and the United Nations between 1989 and 2015.
At a joint event with the German Institute of Global and Area Studies (GIGA) on 17 and 18 September 2019 in Berlin, the results of the project “EUSANCT: Does Supranational Coercion Work? Onset, Impact and Effectiveness of EU Sanctions” will be presented.
The German-Polish research team points out that almost two-thirds of the 81 sanctions imposed by the EU achieved the goals in full or in part. Around 70% of the sanctions in which the EU was involved were imposed by the EU alone or in cooperation with the USA. In the remaining cases, the United Nations was in charge, with the accompanying measures of the EU and the U.S. often being stronger than those of the UN. The U.S. sanction success rate of 41% was much lower than the EU’s rate. The research team attributes the lower effectiveness of the U.S. measures to the fact that the military superpower is often already successful with threats. About half of the 325 sanctions threatened and imposed by the EU, the UN and the U.S. were successful.
The protection of democracies and respect for human rights have been the most common objectives of coercive measures since the end of the Cold War. As Dr Christian von Soest of the GIGA notes, the majority of these so-called democracy sanctions have promoted these liberal values and not strengthened the sanctioned autocracies, as is often expected. He also shows that in almost half of the cases the sanctions were lifted, even though the target country did only partially, or not at all, meet the demands of the three sanction senders. Close trade links with the target country is one of the main reasons why unsuccessful sanctions are ended.
There are similar reasons why the EU and the USA often do not impose sanctions or weaken them to such an extent that the damage to both the target country and the senders is as low as possible. According to the Konstanz team, the EU often defuses measures against rich countries and thus economically interesting partners when imposing sanctions on them. The EU renounced to sanction Russia before the invasion of the Crimea although the behavior of this country would have justified coercive measures.
Often the U.S., the UN or the EU are accused that the coercive measures affect the civilian population instead of the political elites. The statistical estimates of Gerald Schneider's team show that a sanction-induced increase in child mortality and a reduction in the life expectancy of the adult population on average cannot be completely ruled out. At the same time, however, the proven effects are relatively small.
In order to alleviate the suffering of the civilian population, many of the newer sanctions are aimed at the political and economic elites. The Russian sanctions researched by Paulina Pospieszna and her team are aimed at individual sectors and individuals. The Russian regime around President Putin tried to weaken the effect of the sanctions by means of counter-sanctions. Overall, these sanctions have strengthened the market power of agricultural exporters outside the EU and strengthened Russia's agricultural production. Interviews have shown that the sanctions against Russia, an important trading partner, are mainly due to the diplomatic efforts of Germany and France.
Media representatives are cordially invited to the closing event with the German Institute of Global and Area Studies (GIGA) on 17 and 18 September 2019 in Berlin. Interviews with the project leaders can be arranged on request.
- EUSANCT Project: Does Supranational Coercion Work? Onset, Impact and Effectiveness of EU Sanctions
- Binational research project of the Konstanz political scientist Professor Gerald Schneider and Polish colleagues on the effectiveness of EU sanctions in comparison to those of the USA and the UN
- Supported by the German Research Foundation (DFG) and the Polish National Knowledge Centre (NCN)
- Joint closing event with the German Institute of Global and Area Studies (GIGA) on 17 and 18 September 2019 in Berlin.