On 18 March 2014 the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the City of Sevastopol were illegally annexed by the Russian Federation.
The European Union does not recognise and continues to strongly condemn this violation of international law, which remains a challenge to the international security order. This position is based on the UN Charter, which clearly states that the territory of a State cannot be acquired by another State resulting from the threat or use of force, as well as on the Helsinki Final Act in which the signatories declared their intention to respect the inviolability of frontiers and territorial integrity.
On 27 March 2014, the General Assembly of the United Nations affirmed its commitment to Ukraine’s sovereignty, political independence, unity and territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders, underscoring the invalidity of the 16 March "referendum" held in Crimea.
By a recorded vote of 100 in favour to 11 against, with 58 abstentions, the Assembly adopted a resolution titled “Territorial integrity of Ukraine”, calling on States, international organisations and specialised agencies not to recognise any change in the status of Crimea or the Black Sea port city of Sevastopol, and to refrain from actions or dealings that might be interpreted as such. The EU member states support Ukraine at the sites of key international organizations - the UN, the OSCE, the Council of Europe - where documents related to the temporary occupation of Crimea are reviewed and approved annually.
The EU policy of non-recognition consists of a broad range of measures. The goal is to demonstrate that the EU does not accept the illegal annexation, using tangible measures in addition to regular political and diplomatic action.
The commitment not to recognise the annexation was first made at the European Council in March 2014. Since then, it has been reaffirmed by the Council on multiple occasions:
Information Note to EU business on operating and/or investing in Crimea/Sevastopol
To facilitate compliance with these restrictive measures and other elements of the non-recognition policy, on January 25, 2020 the EU compiled an Information Note to EU business operating and/or investing in Crimea/Sevastopol.
Asset freezes and visa bans
Asset freezes and visa bans apply to 177 persons while 48 entities are subject to a freeze of their assets in the EU. This includes persons and entities responsible for action against Ukraine's territorial integrity, persons providing support to or benefitting Russian decision-makers. The sanction list is regularly updated. For example, on 15 March 2019 the EU added 8 Russian individuals involved in the actions that led to the detention of Ukrainian seamen and the seizure of vessels in the Kerch Strait on 25 November 2018. On 1 October 2020 the Council added two individuals and four entities involved in the construction of the Kerch railway bridge.
Restrictions for Crimea and Sevastopol
As part of the EU's non-recognition policy of the illegal annexation of Crimea and Sevastopol, the EU has imposed substantial restrictions on economic exchanges with the territory. These include:
To facilitate compliance with these restrictive measures and other elements of the non-recognition policy, the EU has compiled an Information Note to EU business operating and/or investing in Crimea/Sevastopol.
The consulates and embassies of the EU Member States in Ukraine and in the Russian Federation are implementing guidelines on lodging Schengen visa applications by the residents of Crimea and Sevastopol. According to the Guidelines, which were issued in May 2014, residents of Crimea and Sevastopol who wish to travel to the Schengen area should in principle obtain their visas at Schengen consulates located in Ukraine.
Guidelines for the non-recognition of certain categories of Russian passports
In June 2016, the European Commission and the European External Action Service, while acknowledging that the recognition of travel documents is a national competence, issued guidelines recommending a common approach to be taken by Member States towards Russian passports issued in Crimea. The guidelines recommend the non-recognition of two types of documents:
Russian ordinary international passports which have been issued by the Russian administrative authorities established in Crimea and Sevastopol after the illegal annexation of these territories;
Russian ordinary passports issued by Russian administrative authorities in the Russian Federation to residents of Crimea and Sevastopol after the illegal annexation of these territories, provided that these persons did not hold Russian citizenship before the annexation.
When a passport is not recognised, no visa should, in principle, be issued to the holder of such document.
It should be underlined that there is no travel ban against Crimean residents. All who hold a travel document recognized by Member States are free to apply for a Schengen visa.
EU programmes and projects
Crimean public entities are not eligible to participate in EU programmes that Ukraine has joined, such as Creative Europe (the EU programme for support for the cultural and creative sectors) and Horizon 2020 (the biggest ever EU Research and Innovation programme). Crimean entities are not eligible to participate in Erasmus+ (the EU programme for education, training, youth and sport).
These limitations pertain to entities, not to people. Crimean students, who undertake studies in the EU, are still eligible for Erasmus Mundus Joint Master Degree scholarships.
The Commission and Member States have in principle suspended all projects in Crimea, with the exception of a few small-scale projects and exchanges aimed at improving people-to-people contacts.
Agreements with Russia
The EU has officially notified Russia that it considers bilateral agreements between the EU and the Russian Federation to be applicable only to the internationally recognised territory of Russia, and thus not to Crimea and Sevastopol.
The European Union condemns the actions of the Russian occupation authorities in Crimea and regularly issues the EU statements (https://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/press/press-releases/).
Key EU Statements on Crimea in 2020
Moreover, whenever Russia refers to Crimea and Sevastopol as part of the Russian Federation in multilateral fora, such as the UN, the OSCE, the Council of Europe and WTO, the EU makes a statement in response to remind the world that it does not recognise the illegal annexation.