2024 Euro SIFMANet Summit, Riga: Sanctions at the EU’s External Borders

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Discussions held in Riga in March 2024 highlight the difficulties of sanctions enforcement.


In the wake of the sanctions imposed on Russia, the landscape of customs enforcement has undergone a significant change in the EU. Customs authorities in the EU now face a challenge: how to balance the need to facilitate legitimate trade and the meticulous monitoring of restricted goods passing through their borders. Previously focused on expediency, customs operations have moved towards a more thorough and cautious approach, often resulting in prolonged inspection times demanding substantial resources. As one participant at the roundtable noted, the classic approach to customs has changed: ‘we have moved from do your job quicker, to do your job more carefully’.

The complexity is particularly pronounced for EU member states sharing their borders with Russia and Belarus, where monitoring the flow of goods has become a very significant burden. To effectively navigate this new terrain, customs agencies increasingly rely on manual and labour-intensive methods to examine individual consignments, verify customs documentation, and identify the real end-user. The lengths to which border controls must go to prevent the flow of high-priority battlefield items from the EU into Russia’s military–industry complex thus demands a reassessment of the existing approaches and to identify solutions that strengthen the capacity of member states’ ability to monitor the EU’s external borders.

With this background in mind, the European Sanctions and Illicit Finance Monitoring and Analysis Network (SIFMANet) convened a roundtable discussion to discuss these customs and border management concerns as part of its international ‘Making Sanctions Work in 2024’ summit in Riga in March 2024. The roundtable gathered representatives from different national competent authorities, including customs officials, financial intelligence units (FIUs) and government ministries from across the EU, as well as private sector representatives from the financial and corporate sectors.


Gonzalo Saiz Erausquin

Research Fellow

Centre for Finance and Security

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