Leg. Dev.: Prohibiting the Sale and Supply of Petroleum and Certain Petroleum Products to Certain Parts of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia

6 Colum. J. Eur. L. 133 (2000)

Catherine S. Hoist.

On October 4, 1999, the European Council adopted Regulation (EC) 2111/1999 prohibiting the sale andsupply ofpetroleum and certain petroleum products to certain parts of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY) and repealing Regulation (EC) 900/1999. The regulation is the latest version of the European Union’s oil embargo on the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, first implemented one month into NATO’s 11 – week bombing campaign on Serbia. It amends and “[flor reasons of transparency and simplicity” repeals Regulation (EC) 900/1999, which banned the sale, supply or export of petroleum and petroleum products to all parts of the FRY effective May 1, 1999. In the aftermath of the NATO bombing campaign, regulation 2111/1999 formalizes the European Union’s decision to ease restrictions on petroleum and petroleum products in Kosovo and Montenegro.

The original embargo under Regulation (EC) 900/1999 was prompted by the determination not to tolerate Yugoslavia’s “extreme and criminally irresponsible policies” in Kosovo, specifically the killing and deportation of ethnic Albanians. Its provisions are all retained in Regulation (EC) 2111/1999. They prohibit the sale, supply, or export, either directly or indirectly, of petroleum and petroleum products to any person or body in the FRY, as well as any related activity to promote such transactions (Article 1). Exceptions may be authorized, but only to facilitate diplomatic and consular missions, the international military peacekeeping presence, or strictly humanitarian purposes on a case-by-case basis (Article 2). The circumstances under which the original embargo was adopted still exist. The Commission writes, “The Government of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia has continued […] to pursue extreme and criminally irresponsible policies.. .which constitute serious violations of international humanitarian law.”Regulation (EC) 2111/1999 is but one of several measures adopted in the last two years that register EU disapproval of government policies in the FRY. Prior to the ratification of Regulation (EC) 900/1999, the EU began inconveniencing the Milogevid regime. In April of 1998, for example, the Council adopted Regulation (EC) 926/98 concerning the reduction of certain economic relations with the FRY. This reaffirmed the embargo on arms established in 1996 by Common Position 96/184/CFSP, which forbade supplying the FRY with any equipment that might be used for “internal repression or terrorism,” and issued a moratorium on government-financed export credit for trade and investment, including government financing for privatization in Serbia. Similar to Regulation (EC) 2111/1999 and Regulation (EC) 900/1999, Regulation (EC) 926/98 was issued in response to the FRY’s “criminally irresponsible policies, including repression against citizens.” Further, the oil embargo under Regulation (EC) 900/1999 was accompanied by the prohibition of new investment in Serbia and an extensive freezing of funds held abroad by the FRY governments. In May of 1999, a comprehensive ban on all flights between the EU and the FRY, with the exception of those for strictly humanitarian purposes, was issued.

Regulation (EC) 2111/1999, as did Regulation (EC) 900/1999 before it, allows each Member State to determine the sanctions to be imposed where the terms of the embargo are violated. Article 5 stipulates only that “[s]uch sanctions shall be effective, proportionate and dissuasive” and that in cases where legislation to this end is pending, sanctions shall be in accordance with Article 5 of Council Regulation (EC) 926/98 concerning the reduction of certain economic relations with the FRY. A recent example of the weight given Article 5 of Regulation (EC) 2111/1999 and the oil embargo in general concerns the Czech Republic’s preparation for EU membership. In an October 12, 1999 article by the Czech News Agency, the Czech Foreign Minister, Jan Kavan, admonished the legislature that its failure to adopt the oil embargo would be mentioned in a Commission report on the Czech Republic’s progress. “The observance of the sanctions is attentively monitored by the EU and the non-existence of the relevant law is perceived negatively,” he reported.”

For all the attentiveness of the EU, one inevitable consequence of the embargo has been the reemergence of the black market in oil present during the Bosnian War in 1992. This was foreseen and was calculated to vastly drive up the price President Miloševic would have to pay for oil. Critics charge, however, that the embargo has served to line the pockets of the Miloševic regime, which controls the black market in gasoline. Diplomats from most EU countries agree that the sanctions have hurt the majority of Serbs, while benefiting the privileged ruling class around Miloševic.

Nonetheless, the European Union’s imposition of an oil embargo on the FRY played an integral role in NATO’s bombing campaign against Serbia. NATO was reluctant to send ground troops into Kosovo and viewed cutting Serbia’s oil supplies as a key war strategy. In addition to NATO’s oil blockade and bombing of oil refineries and other oil-related targets, the embargo was designed to severely curtail Belgrade’s ability to sustain military operations.