© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Marked ingots of 99.99 percent pure gold are placed in a cart at the Krastsvetmet non-ferrous metals plant in the Siberian city of Krasnoyarsk, Russia March 10, 2022. REUTERS/Alexander Manzyuk
By Francesco Guarascio
BRUSSELS (Reuters) – European Union leaders are set to keep pressure high on Russia at a summit this week when they will underline that work continues on sanctions, according to a draft document, with gold being considered for a possible next round.
The EU has adopted six packages of sanctions against Russia and Belarus since the start of the invasion of Ukraine in February, but several sectors including gas remain largely untouched as EU governments try to carefully avoid measures that could damage their economy more than Russia’s.
“Work will continue on sanctions, including to strengthen implementation and prevent circumvention,” EU leaders will say at the end of their regular summit on June 23-24, according to the latest version of their draft conclusions dated June 20 and seen by Reuters.
The text is a compromise between Nordic and Eastern countries who pushed for a clear reference to a seventh package in the summit statement, and nations such as Germany and the Netherlands who instead cautioned to focus on applying existing measures rather than immediately add more.
In a previous version of the text there was no mention of more work on sanctions, with the tweak representing a win for hawks. But the new text does not explicitly refer to a seventh package, as wished by Berlin.
Although no new package is currently being prepared, work is ongoing to identify sectors that could be hit, officials said.
Gold is one of the possible next targets, according to officials familiar with the discussions.
At a closed-door meeting of EU envoys last week, Denmark suggested the next sanctions could concern gold among other sectors, according to a spokesperson for the Danish ambassador to the EU.
A person familiar with the work on sanctions told Reuters the European Commission was working on adding gold to a possible next round of sanctions, although it was not yet clear whether the measure could ban export to Russia, imports from Russia or both.
Gold is a crucial asset for the Russian Central Bank, which has faced restrictions to accessing some of its assets held abroad because of Western sanctions.