TALLINN - The Estonian government on Thursday approved the proposal by Minister of Foreign Affairs Eva-Maria Liimets to establish a national sanction against mineral oils, or commodity group 2707, from Belarus, which does not fall under the EU's sector-based sanctions and the transit of which through Estonia has thus far been possible.
The European Union imposed sanctions on Belarusian oil products in June 2021; however, the import of goods categorized under commodity code 2707 to Estonia has been growing from November 2020, according to Statistics Estonia, spokespeople for the government said.
"We discussed in the Cabinet how to better organize not just the establishment of sanctions but also their correct implementation," Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas said at the government's press conference. She underscored that the state's principles in its foreign policy and at home must be compatible.
"In the current security situation, in particular, we cannot afford any loopholes or inconsistencies. The effectiveness of the sanctions against Lukashenko's regime as well as our own international credibility and influence depend on it," the prime minister said.
"The government's decision from today to establish in Estonia a supplementary sanction against oil products from Belarus, in addition to EU sanctions, plugs a significant gap. We will also draw attention to this gap at an international level -- Estonia will propose that a sanction be introduced against this commodity group across the European Union and I will also raise this issue at the Baltic prime ministers' meeting tomorrow," Kallas said.
The foreign minister, Eva-Maria Liimets, said that the Belarusian goods transported through Estonia are not on the list of sanctioned products, therefore, no rules regarding sanctions have actually been breached. The minister acknowledged, however, that the transit of said goods is not in line with Estonia's foreign policy direction or the country's values-based policy.
The large-scale transit of cargoes similar to sanctioned goods has attracted great attention and disapproval in the Baltic states and elsewhere, and for a good reason, Liimets said.
"Thus, the only possible solution is to bring the content of the restrictions into line with the point of the sanctions by banning such transport operations," she added.
"As there is no full embargo on the Belarusian state, there are always goods and people that are not subject to the sanctions in force. Therefore, we must also ensure at the level of the Baltic states and the European Union that the existing sanctions be appropriate at all times and work as intended," he added.
The Estonian Tax and Customs Board is responsible for carrying out the inspection of goods required for ensuring the monitoring of sanctions, including the sanctions against Belarus. Samples are also collected from goods declared under the code 2707. The Tax and Customs Board's laboratory analyses have not shown petroleum oil having been transported instead of coal oil. According to the tax and customs authority, no tricks have been played with codes. Goods from Belarus are subject to broad random inspections and no violations have been detected in the course thereof.
"The purpose of the sanctions is to influence Belarus to comply with international agreements and law, particularly when it comes to the observance of human rights," the foreign minister said at the government's press conference.