While the West keeps on waging the “sanctions war” against Russia over its reunification with Crimea, more and more European politicians and businessmen come to the peninsula to look at the situation there with their own eyes.
A foreign delegation comprising 11 Norwegian politicians and businessmen, as well as two German lawmakers, has wrapped up its visit (October 5-12) to Crimea. The program included a meeting with Crimean parliament speaker Vladimir Konstantinov and the local government, a visit to the international children's camp Artek, the regional children's hospital and contacts with common people on the streets.
The delegation was led by Hendrik Weber who heads the organization “Public Diplomacy. Norway”. This is not the first time Weber has visited Crimea. The Norwegian had come to the peninsula last year as part of a German delegation. He liked the place and decided to come back. The Norwegian delegation underlined the necessity of establishing partnership and friendly ties with the region.
Weber complained that Norwegians lacked reliable information about Crimea, and stated that one of the goals of the delegation was to tell people the truth. According to him, the team did not find violations of human rights and intends to repeat the visit. In late September, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Office (OHCHR) released a report, claiming that human rights violations in Crimea had multiplied since the peninsula’s reunification with Russia in 2014.
The event is one in a series of visits to Crimea by foreigners. A delegation of 11 French lawmakers and senators arrived in Crimea on July, 2016, to take part in celebrating Russian Navy Day in Sevastopol. In October 2016, a delegation of MPs and businessmen from five Italian regions - Veneto, Liguria, Lombardy, Tuscany and Emilia-Romagna – visited Crimea to discuss with local authorities and business community the issues of cooperation and the prospects of lifting the Western sanctions. The regional parliaments of these regions had adopted resolutions earlier the same year calling to recognize Crimea and cancel sanctions against Russia. On March 19, 2017, a group of foreign politicians from Serbia, Montenegro, the Czech Republic, Kyrgyzstan, Brazil, the United Kingdom, and the US landed in the peninsula.
220 participants from 46 countries, including France, Austria, Japan, Iran, China, participated in the Third Yalta Economic Forum which took place in April, 2017. More than 30 contracts valued at $1.8 billion were signed at the event.
A delegation from Germany, mainly the representatives of two parties: Die Linke [the Left Party] and Deutsche Mitte (the German Center) visited Crimea this August to take part in the events commemorating the 76th anniversary of the deportation of Crimean Germans.
Nice Mayor Christian Estrosi, Italy’s former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, Matteo Salvini, the leader of Italy’s Lega Nord (North League) party, and Kimura Mitsuhiro, the leader of the Japanese socio-political organization Issuikai are among the politicians who have also visited Crimea since the Western sanctions were imposed in 2014. In late September, Crimean Deputy Prime Minister Georgy Muradov said that over 100 foreign delegations along with prominent political and public figures had visited Crimea over the past year and a half.
According to a report released by a UN Special Rapporteur to the UN Human Rights Council on September 13, 2017, the anti-sanctions have been ineffective in that they have done only marginal damage to the Russian economy and have been significantly more costly to the EU’s economy than to Russia’s. The European Union has been losing at least $3.2 billion every month due to the anti-Russian penalties. The sanctions have produced $100 billion loss to the EU. Russia’s loss is as low as one half of that sum - $55 billion. The figure includes the losses incurred as a result of plunging oil-prices, which weren’t due to the sanctions. There is silver lining here - the punitive measures prompted the long-awaited economic reforms in Russia to boost its economy. As a result of sanctions, Russia is on the way to achieve food autonomy.
The restrictions also violate international law because only the UN Security Council is authorized to impose sanctions in accordance with Article 41 (Chapter VII) of the UN Charter. The EU has no international legal authority to impose sanctions without obtaining a mandate from the UN Security Council (UNSC). Doing so challenges the authority of the UNSC.
Speaking at the session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) on October 10, Czech President Milos Zeman said the standoff over Crimea could be resolved by Moscow paying compensation to Kiev. He urged European politicians to accept the secession of the peninsula from Ukraine as “fait accompli.” In his speech, Zeman repeated his call to lift the sanctions against Russia. Paying Ukraine is out of question but Zeman’s statement reflects the growing sentiments against the restrictive measures. The very fact that foreign delegations visit Crimea increasingly frequently confirms this fact.