The EU has no power over Russian citizens -- the only 'sanctions' it can introduce are against citizens of EU states
Restrictions EU passed following the crisis in Ukraine and Crimea invariably get billed "Russia sanctions", "sanctions on Russia" and "sanctions against Russia". -- This is an enormous misnomer.
Such designations imply EU can punish and sanction Russia as if Russia was its disobedient child. But in fact EU has no overt power or jurisdiction over Russia.
With the sole exception of asset freezes and travel bans for some Russian officials EU sanctions do not institute restrictions on Russians, but instead on the citizens of EU's member states.
"Russia sanctions" mean that EU has declared it illegal for the citizens of its member states to engage in a host of commercial activities with Russian partners. Should any citizen or company from the EU attempt such a banned transaction they will be sanctioned -- fined, shut down and possibly imprisoned. The sanctions then are not on Russians, but on Europeans.
It is the freedoms of EU Europeans, not of Russians, which are being taken away here.
Yes Russians are also affected, but only indirectly and as collateral damage. The trickle-down outcome of sanctions is that there is less mutually beneficial commerce between EU citizens and Russians. The direct result is that EU instructs costumed men with guns to crack down on and persecute citizens of member states who would continue to cooperate with individuals and companies in Russia in ways now suddenly deemed impermissible.
The debate on whether the EU should withdraw "sanctions against Russia" invariably centers on questions such as does Russia deserves them, whether they're needlessly alienating Moscow from the west, whether they're undermining Putin or actually helping him -- and at the end of it all -- how much they're costing big business in Germany, Italy and France.
All of these questions are red herrings. The first and foremost problem with "Russia sanctions" isn't the negative effect on relations between Brussels and Moscow, nor the costs for German industries. The foremost problem with "Russia sanctions" is that they constitute an assault on civil liberties of citizens of EU member-states.
The question those of us who live in the shadow of Brussels should ask ourselves is: does the EU have the right to enlist our lives and fortunes into its financial-economic war with Russia?
The answer should be no. EU's "Russia sanctions" are an attack on our rights, an insult to our intelligence, and a slight against our dignity.
Think about it. Because Russia has made Crimea a part of Russia, which the EU disagrees with, EU citizens woke up one morning with fewer rights. Suddenly it was no longer permissible for an Irishman who owns a travel agency to cooperate with a hotelier in Crimea (only with hoteliers in others parts of Russia). Why should that be so?
If Brussels wants to enact a posture of moral superiority over Moscow, to lecture and sanctions Russia and to undermine its economy that is one thing. However, there is no reason the rest of EU citizens be dragged into this against our will.
Any Europeans who wish to join the elites in ostracizing Russian companies and people are of course free to do so -- by not engaging with them. But for many of us this isn't our fight.
The fact a Jean-Claude Juncker or an Angela Merkel have a problem with a Vladimir Putin and a Sergei Lavrov hardly means we should lose our right to work with an Ivan Ivanov in Simferopol.
Our "elites" don't seem to understand this. Instead they are determined to conscript our liberties for their fight.
EU sanctions on citizens of EU states who cooperate with individuals who live under Kremlin must end. Not because of what they mean for Russia or even for Russian-EU relations, but because of what they mean for the rights and dignity of all the people under EU.