SPITS Publications

Human rights, Geostrategy, and EU Foreign Policy, 1989-2008

Kreutz, Joakim (2015) "Human rights, Geostrategy, and EU Foreign Policy, 1989-2008" International Organization 69(1): 195-217.

Is foreign policy influenced by humanitarian concern, or are concepts such as human security merely rhetoric for traditional power politics? In this paper, I systematically explore whether military and economic interventions by the European Union are conducted in response to humanitarian atrocities. Using a multilevel modelling technique and a unique dataset of military and economic EU intervention 1989-2008, I find that this is the case, but that geostrategic concerns also influence EU action. Whilst the EU consistently is more likely to act against countries with greater civilian victimization, the size of the effect is influenced by spatial considerations. The EU is most attentive to human rights violations in non-EU European states, followed by countries in sub-Saharan Africa, while it has been least active in Asia and the Americas.

Improving the Effectiveness of Sanctions: A Checklist for the EU

Anthonius W. de Vries, Clara Portela and Borja Guijarro-Usobiaga, CEPS Special Report: Thinking adhead for Europe. No. 95 / November 2014

The increasingly frequent imposition of sanctions by the EU over the past decade has not been accompanied by a thorough pre-assessment and contingency planning stage, which has led to the formulation of suboptimal sanctions regimes. This paper argues for establishing a pre-assessment and contingency planning of sanctions, departing from the ‘ad hoc-ism’ of current decision-making on sanctions. To this end, it proposes the development of a ‘checklist’ composed of key questions that need to be tackled to optimise the design of sanctions. These questions include the identification of resources linked to the objectionable policies; the leverage of the EU; the costs to the EU; the legality of the measures; their unintended effects; the expected contribution towards EU goals; their coherence with overall EU external relations; and the communication of these policies.

New Publication about Targeted Sanctions

Peter Wallensteen and Helena Grusell: "Targeting the Right Targets? The UN Use of Individual Sanctions", Global Governance, Vol. 18, No. 2, Apr.-June 2012.

This study focuses on the United Nations’ use of sanctions that target particular individuals. This practice is one of the smart sanctions that are standard UN strategy since the mid-1990s. It has given rise to a debate on human rights of those listed. This study is one of the first to analyze the ability of such sanctions to achieve compliance. The theory behind this strategy is identified, based on social and behavioral science insights. More than 400 individuals from eight non-terrorist cases since year 2000 are studied, based on publicly available information. They are studied with respect to their closeness to decision-making, demonstrating some flaws in the present application of such sanctions. Suggestions are made for a more focused UN targeting strategy.  

Iran: Sanctioned into Submission?

Three sanctions researchers discuss critically the experience of sanctions on Iran. Peter Wallensteen, Uppsala University; George Lopez, University of Notre Dame; and Linda Gerber-Stellingwerf, Fourth Freedom Foundation raise internal, international and historical aspects of the sanctions policies. The comments are published in the January issue of Peace Policy, the Kroc Institute's online policy journal.

See http://peacepolicy.nd.edu/

Sanctions in Africa

Wallensteen, Peter (2012). Sanctions in Africa: International Resolve and Prevention of Conflict Escalation in Ohlson, Thomas (ed.): From Intra-State War to Durable Peace. Conflict and its Resolution in Africa after the Cold War. International Relations Series Studies Volume 12. Republic of Letters Publishing BV, Dordrecht, pp. 121-143.

The EU Sanctions Operations in Syria

The EU Sanctions Operations in Syria: Conflict Management by Other Means, Clara Portela, Singapore Management University

Since May 2011, the EU has crafted one of its most far reaching and sophisticated sanctions operations in support of the anti-regime protests against the current regime in Syria. The present article examines the measures wielded by the EU, its expected impact and its implications for the EU’s relations with its global partners. While seriously undermined by the lack of support of Russia, the sanctions are having a noticeable economic impact. Yet, the choice of measures is ill-suited to stop the bloodshed. The sanctions have also served to (re)define partnerships with other powers, both in the Middle-East and globally.

Sanctions in Peace Research: Theory and Practice

In Wallensteen, Peter, 2011 Peace Research: Theory and Practice, London: Routledge, 278 pages, Part IV holds three articles on sanctions:

  • Wallensteen, Peter (2011). Sanctions and peace research, pp. 173-182,

  • Wallensteen, Peter (2011). A century of economic sanctions,  pp. 183-206 

  • Wallensteen, Peter (2011). Sanctions and peacebuilding. Lessons from Africa, pp. 207-228.

A New Start for EU Peacemaking? Past Record and Future Potential

Johansson, Emma, Joakim Kreutz, Peter Wallensteen, Christian Altpeter, Sara Lindberg, Mathilda Lindgren and Ausra Padskocimaite (2010). “A New Start for EU Peacemaking? Past Record and Future Potential” UCDP Paper No 7. Uppsala: Department of Peace and Conflict Research.

The Lisbon Treay has equipped the European Union with more tools in the field of foreign and security policy and provides for a new beginning for Europe in international peacemaking. In this report, a team of researchers at Uppsala University provide a unique inventory of EU participation in armed conflict, peacemaking, third party action, mediation, human rights, democracy building and sanctions. The report finds the record to be below expectations, and asserts that there is a potential for the EU to take on a more significant international role.

In Search of a Due Process - Listing and Delisting Practices of the European Union

By Mikael Eriksson

The study examines current listing and delisting procedures of the European Union (EU), both with regard to autonomous sanctions measures and to the implementation of United Nations Security Council (UNSC) actions. The aim is to identify recent legal as well as administrative concerns. While much attention has been devoted to UN targeted sanctions, less attention has been given to recent EU practices. This study looks at the most recent developments to strengthen the sanctions tool on a European level. Focus of the study is on measures applied on individuals and legal persons. The study forms part of a more general scientific debate on the rationale of imposing targeted sanctions as a mean to address threats to peace and security on the one hand, while preserving human rights on the other. The report was originally commissioned by the Sanctions and Security Research Program at The Fourth Freedom Forum. Financial assistance was also provided by the Swedish Research Council

Full report 

In addition to an overview of current EU sanctions practices, this research project has also created an overview of national practices of sanctions in 11 countries of the European Union (“National Sanctions Practices in 11 European Countries”). This additional part, dealing more exclusively with national practices, is published separately as a PDF. The online overview should be considered a work in progress.

Web appendix

Angola Sanctions Work Revisited in 2009

The UN Angola Sanctions Committe led by Ambassador Robert Fowler, Canada, was a breakthrough in active diplomacy for international sanctions. In this report Swedish Ambassador Anders Möllander recounts his experience as Chair of the Panel of Experts and tells what made the Angola Committee a novelty. He concludes with recommendations for furthering targeted sanctions.

The Report

EU Policy towards Belarus and Cuba: A Comparative Analysis

Kreutz, Joakim (2009). “EU Policy towards Belarus and Cuba: A Comparative Analysis.” European Parliament Committee on Foreign Affairs Briefing Paper EXPO/B/AFET/2008/53.

This briefing paper explores the EU policy towards Belarus and Cuba, with a particular focus on the promotion of human rights and democracy. Relations between the EU and Belarus and Cuba has at several occasions been promising for further positive developments, but  has been interrupted by high-profile undemocratic behavior and human rights violations. The EU has acted coherently and condemned these events, and imposed sanctions primarily against the leaderhip in the two countries. These measures have largely been symbolic in nature but that has proven to have an effect on the Cuban government, while the sanctions escalated with additional economic restrictions on Belarus in 2007.

Save the Arms Embargo!

Peter Wallensteen is summarizing the results of the SPITS-SIPRI report on UN Arms Embargoes in a policy brief published by the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies, University of Notre Dame. The brief was disseminated at the pre-Coarm meeting at the European Union, Brussels, February 21, 2008. 

Full report


Targeting the Leadership of Zimbabwe: A Path to Democracy and Normalization?

by Mikael Eriksson, Uppsala University

This report is based on a set of interviews and observations from a research mission undertaken in Harare, Zimbabwe in September 2006. As part of a broader dissertation project conducted at the European University Institute in Florence, Italy, this field trip to Zimbabwe was designed to study the impact of targeted sanctions. Of particular concern was the impact of the travel bans and assets freeze measures on targeted individuals applied by the European Union (EU). Other sanctions measures in place, such as the arms embargo or other indirect trade restrictions, are omitted in this study.

A set of interviews were conducted with different members of the civil society (both national and international); key representatives of the government of Zimbabwe; political parties (ZANU-PF and MDC factions), foreign embassy representatives, as well as researchers. .All interviews had an open-en­ded character with guiding questions. Anonymity was granted to those interviewed. Additionally information public reports, news-articles and monthly bulletins covering African and Zimbabwean issues were used (also news articles from state owed papers) in order to include government perceptions.

For a hardcopy of the report, contact the author or the Department of Peace and Conflict Research, Uppsala University.




On Monday 26 November 2007 SPITS and SIPRI launch the joint report "United Nations Arms Embargoes: Their Impact on Arms Flows and Target Behaviour". The event takes place at the UN in New York. On Tuesday 27 November, 08.00-10.00, the report will be presented and discussed at a second event organised by the International Peace Academy.



In this joint project, researchers of SPITS at Uppsala University and SIPRI (Stockholm International Peace Research Institute) investigated the effects of UN arms embargoes. 27 embargoes since 1990 are focused. The Uppsala team concentrated on the impact on target behavior, while the SIPRI team dealt with the effects on arms flows. Joint conclusions were developed. The study was financed by the Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs. Researchers Daniel Strandow and Peter Wallensteen were involved from the Uppsala side.


Ban Ki-Moon appreciates work at Uppsala University and points to some of its conclusions.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon introduced a workshop on targeted sanctions in the UN Headquarters, April 30, 2007. The event was organized by the Permanent UN Mission of Greece, in cooperation with the Kroc Institute ofor International Peace Studies, University of Notre Dame.

The sanctions work done in Uppsala was presented by Professor Peter Wallensteen. Among other researchers introducing their work were the Kroc Institute's David Cortright and George Lopez, as well as Sue Eckert of Brown University. Ban Ki-Moon noted the Uppsala work on West African sanctions and the observation that they 'have had a restraining effect on their targets'.

Read the final report.

Ban Ki-Moon appreciates work at Uppsala University and points to some of its conclusions.

Targeting-Efficiency of Sanctions Strategies

This new project, funded by the Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, was initiated at SPITS in December 2005.

Sanctions for Conflict Prevention and Peacebuilding. Lessons Learned from Côte d’Ivoire and Liberia, by Peter Wallensteen, Mikael Eriksson and Daniel Strandow.

Short description



The second report, authored by Daniel Strandow, is accesable as a pdf file and will be available as a printed publication in late October 2006.

It investigates the impact of UN targeted sanctions on the settlement of intra-state conflicts, for the cases of Liberia and the Ivory Coast. The impact of sanctions is analysed when taking into consideration the important role played by battles between the targeted actors.



International Sanctions - Between Words and Wars in the Global System.

New publication on international sanctions. See pdf-flyer for further information and how to order.

Hard measures from a soft power? Sanctions policy of the European Union

Kreutz, Joakim (2005). ‘Hard measures from a soft power? Sanctions policy of the European Union.BICC Paper 45, Bonn: Bonn International Center for Conversion.

This paper provide the first systematic data on EU joint sanctions during the time period leading up to the first programmatic sanctions policy in June 2004. The first EU sanctions were imposed in 1981 which coincided with the “London Report” of the European Political Co-Operation in October 1981. In addition to an overview of institutional and policy developments in the European cooperation that influenced the process of joint sanctions, the paper discusses the reasons for sanctions, the type of measures, and brief individual case histories.

The 2004 Roundtable on UN Sanctions against Iraq: Lessons learned

Executive Summary

The Roundtable has identified, discussed and analyzed experiences from the Iraq sanctions, particulary in implementation and monitoring. It brought together 18 international sanctions experts. In this report main points on sanctions strategies, monitoring issues, regional effects and impacts on the target country are summarized.

Burma / Myanmar Report

The pilot study has examined the current sanctions, the future of targeted sanctions and the possibilities of supporting the democratic dialogue in the case of Burma / Myanmar. The study was completed by April 2004. 

Read the report

Report on UN ways of operating

On December 2, 2004 the UN High-Level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Changes presented their report. The report contains some of the proposals presented in the Stockholm Report concerning the improvement of the sanctions instrument. The report also refers to an idea introduced in the report mentioned below of a UN commission under the Security Council, tasked with conflict management and peacebuilding activities. 

Read the Executive Summary


Building on the experience of UN ways of operating facing international emergencies and post-conflict situations, a special assignment was extended by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Sweden in 2004 to the Department of Peace and Conflict Research to study the commitment gaps of the UN and what to do about them. This was in relations to the High-Level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Changes appointed by the UN Secretary General. This was a joint project with NUPI, the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs.

The report was presented in June 2004. The Uppsala paper was done by Carina Staibano and Peter Wallensteen.

Read the Executive Summary 


Reviewing the EU Arms Embargo on China: the Clash between Value and Rationale in the European Security Strategy

Kreutz, Joakim, (2004) “Reviewing the EU Arms Embargo on China: the Clash between Value and Rationale in the European Security Strategy”, Perspectives: The Central European Review of International Affairs 22: 43-58.

The European Security Strategy of 2003 argues that an important aspect of the EU foreign and security policy is the interplay between the development of military capabilities and the use of other means such as sanctions. This paper provide a case analysis of the decision in December 2003 to review the EU arms embargo on China, which was imposed following the Tiananmen Square events in 1989. The paper finds that the debate regarding the potential review of the China sanctions highlight an important contradiction in EU foreign policy, namely whether the promotion of respect for human rights or the strategic relationship with China is more important. 

New EU Principles on the use of sanctions: From symbolism to effectiveness?

Portela, Clara and Joakim Kreutz (2004). ‘New EU Principles on the use of sanctions: From symbolism to effectiveness?’, European Security Review, no 23, July: 11-12.

At the European Council on 17 June 2004, the EU adopted ‘Basic Principles on the Use of Restrictive Measures (Sanctions)’, jointly drafted by the Secretary General/High Representative and the Commission. The document sets out a policy framework for a more effective use of this foreign policy instrument and follows the adoption of a document entitled “Guidelines on the implementation and evaluation of restrictive measures (sanctions) in the framework of the EU Common Foreign and Security Policy’ last December. This article examines to what extent these documents represent a new policy development and, more importantly, their likely impact on sanctions effectiveness.