In September 2023, Dr James Devaney was awarded a re:constitution fellowship for a project entitled “Using EU Sanctions on Russia to Compensate Ukraine: Norm Collision and the Protection of the International Rule of Law in Europe”. This will see Dr Devaney undertake two mobility periods, the first with the Berlin-Potsdam Research Group (KFG) “International Law: Rise or Decline?” at the Freie Universität Berlin, and the second with the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The first Fellows Meeting took place at the Forum Transregionale Studien in Berlin from 19-21 October.

Using EU Sanctions on Russia to Compensate Ukraine: Norm Collision and the Protection of the International Rule of Law in Europe

In February 2023 the Swedish Presidency of the Council of the European Union announced the setting up of a Working Group to examine the possibility of using frozen Russian assets to compensate Ukraine. Swedish Prime Minister Kristersson stated at the time, “Russia must pay for the reconstruction of Ukraine. At the same time, this poses difficult questions. This must be done in accordance with EU and international law, and there is currently no direct model for this.” The current research project asks: can such a model be developed, and crucially, can it be implemented without jeopardising the international rule of law in Europe?

The implementation of EU sanctions runs up against legal protections afforded by the law of state immunity, the human right to property, or the protection of foreign investments. In certain situations, it may well be that the law does not provide a clear answer as to which norms should apply – leading to decisions based on moral and political rather than legal justifications. This highlights the pressing need for the humanity-focussed framework developed in this project, which provides a principled legal justification for choosing certain norms while at the same time safeguarding the international rule of law.