December 10, 2014 / 4:03 PM / in 3 years

Exclusive: EU considers tightening ban on energy, tourism in Crimea

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Union is considering widening its ban on investment in Crimea to include barring the sale of technology for oil and gas exploration and stopping EU firms running tourist businesses there, according to a draft document seen by Reuters.

The proposals, being worked on by EU officials, would also ban EU citizens from buying or financing companies in Crimea, a region of Ukraine which Russia annexed in March, prompting the worst East-West stand-off since the Cold War.

“The sale, supply, transfer and export of goods and technology ... shall be prohibited,” the draft document said, citing transport, telecommunications, energy and oil, gas and mineral exploration and production.

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said on Wednesday the return of Crimea was Russia’s destiny, echoing the sentiments of President Vladimir Putin.

It was not yet clear whether officials would have finished work on the measures in time for them to be adopted by foreign ministers who meet in Brussels on Monday, an EU official said.

However, a separate draft statement to be delivered by EU leaders at their Dec. 18-19 summit refers to next Monday’s meeting as strengthening “the Union’s policy of not recognizing the illegal annexation of Crimea”, suggesting there could be agreement among the bloc’s 28 countries.

Polish Prime Minister Ewa Kopacz also warned on Tuesday that the European Union should be ready for a new round of sanctions against Russia.

The sanctions aim to punish Russia over the annexation of Crimea and what the West sees as Moscow’s support, with arms and troops, for pro-Russian rebels in the east of the country.

The EU’s most recent tightening of tough economic sanctions imposed in July was on Nov.29, targeting Ukrainians accused of organizing rogue elections in eastern Ukraine.

But there is little appetite among most EU governments for further tightening of economic sanctions against Russia, because of its potential impact on the EU’s fragile economy.

The European Union has previously banned the import of goods from Crimea and barred new investment in infrastructure projects in the transport, telecommunications and energy sectors and investing in oil and gas ventures.

Europe is seeking to weaken Russia’s ability to develop the energy industry at the heart of its economy.

The annexation of Crimea gave Russia rich oil and gas resources in the Black sea, depriving Ukraine of energy resources. Russian state-owned energy company Gazprom has proposed to develop Crimea’s oil and gas sector, officials said in March following the annexation.

The new ban under consideration would likely ban oil and gas drilling in the Black Sea from further development.

Additional reporting by Adrian Croft and Barbara Lewis

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