The European Council today adopted a law covering EU-wide minimum rules for the prosecution of violation or circumvention of EU sanctions in member states, Report informs, citing the council.

Certain actions will now be considered criminal offences in all member states, for example helping to bypass a travel ban, trading in sanctioned goods or performing prohibited financial activities. Inciting, aiding and abetting these offences can also be penalised.

Member states must ensure that violating EU sanctions is punishable by effective and proportionate criminal penalties, which vary depending on the offence. However, intentional violation of sanctions must give rise to a prison sentence as the maximum penalty. Those who have violated EU restrictive measures may additionally be subject to fines.

Legal persons (i.e. companies) can also be held liable when an offence has been committed by a person with a leading position in the organisation. In such cases, sanctions may include the disqualification of business activities and the withdrawal of permits and authorisations to pursue economic activities.

The directive will enter into force on the twentieth day following publication in the Official Journal of the EU. Member states will have 12 months to incorporate the provisions of the directive into their national legislation.

Restrictive measures are an important instrument in the EU’s foreign and security policy. Member states are responsible for their enforcement, which is why penalties can range from criminal prosecution to administrative sanctions depending on the country.