aid 21 May 2020

‘Sanctions should not stand in the way of humanitarian aid,’ says European Commission

The European Commission has published a guidance note on providing humanitarian aid to fight the Covid-19 pandemic to countries subject to EU sanctions. The first iteration of the note pertains to the Syria sanctions regime, but the Commission says updates are forthcoming.

The preamble to the note says: ‘EU sanctions are not meant to stand in the way nor impede the supply of humanitarian aid. Any action not explicitly prohibited under EU sanctions is considered permitted, unless otherwise stated by a national competent authority (NCA). Over-compliance should not lead to undermining the provision of humanitarian aid.’

The guidance is expressed in Q&A format. For example, in answer to the question:

‘Can the provision of medical assistance amount to “making economic resources available” to designated persons?’, it gives the following:

‘In principle, the provision of medical assistance to persons infected by, or suspected of having contracted Covid-19, is not itself considered to have an intrinsic economic value, or be exchangeable for funds or economic resources. Consequently, it does not amount to an economic resource, and thus the involvement of a designated person in the provision of such medical assistance will not breach the Syria Regulation.’

Inter alia, it describes:

  • The circumstances in which ‘Humanitarian Operators [can] purchase fuel in Syria for transporting, into or within Syria, medical equipment to fight the Covid-19 pandemic;
  • Whether, where permitted imports of medical material into Syria are subject to taxes, those can be paid to the Syrian government; and
  • Whether humanitarian operators [can] provide humanitarian aid if the only way is to provide aid through designated persons.