Restrictive measures or 'sanctions' are an essential tool of the EU's Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP). They are used by the EU as part of an integrated and comprehensive policy approach, involving political dialogue, complementary efforts and the use of other instruments at its disposal.

Key objectives when adopting sanctions 

  • safeguarding EU's values, fundamental interests, and security
  • preserving peace
  • consolidating and supporting democracy, the rule of law, human rights and the principles of international law
  • preventing conflicts and strengthening international security

Sanctions seek to bring about a change in the policy or conduct of those targeted, with a view to promoting the objectives of the CFSP. They can target:

  • governments of non-EU countries because of their policies
  • entities (companies) providing the means to conduct the targeted policies
  • groups or organisations such as terrorist groups
  • individuals supporting the targeted policies, involved in terrorist activities etc.

They are developed in such a way as to minimise adverse consequences for those not responsible for the policies or actions leading to the adoption of sanctions. In particular, the EU works to minimise the effects on the local civilian population and on legitimate activities in or with the country concerned.

All restrictive measures adopted by the EU are fully compliant with obligations under international law, including those pertaining to human rights and fundamental freedoms.

Guidelines on restrictive measures

In 2004, the Political and Security Committee agreed on some basic principles on:

  • the use of sanctions
  • their implementation
  • how to measure and control their impact

These basic principles are included in the "guidelines on the implementation and evaluation of restrictive measures" first adopted by the Council in 2003 and reviewed and updated in 2005, 2009 and 2012.