BRUSSELS—The European Parliament has called for further sanctions against key figures in the Venezuelan regime including asset freezes and restrictions of their movements, as well as those of their families.
European lawmakers sitting in Strasbourg voted through a new resolution on March 28 that also stated that the EU should provide emergency funding to neighboring countries that are taking in large numbers of refugees.
They passed the measure as a Brussels-backed International Contact Group on Venezuela, which has been set up to help find a way toward new elections in the crisis-torn country, met for the second time in Ecuador.
It came together as the EU condemned the presence of Russian military personnel in Venezuela, with a spokesman for the European Commission accusing Moscow of being a destabilizing presence in the region.
Europe has struggled to agree on a tough and united line on how to deal with Nicolás Maduro’s regime amid splits within the bloc over whether to get involved in a foreign country’s internal affairs.
In its March 28 resolution, which was carried by 310 votes to 120, the EU Parliament delivered a rebuke to capitals that have not recognized National Assembly leader Juan Guaidó as Venezuela’s legitimate interim leader.
It encouraged them to “do so urgently” and asked member states to consider new sanctions on members of Maduro’s regime to ratchet up pressure on Caracas.
The resolution “calls for additional sanctions targeting illegitimate state authorities’ assets abroad and those individuals responsible for human rights breaches and repression.”
European lawmakers also floated the idea of an “international donors’ conference with the aim to provide broad financial support for reconstruction and the transition to democracy” in Venezuela.
On March 27, the EU Commission announced $56 million of emergency funding for extra aid efforts in the country, especially targeting vulnerable groups like the young, the elderly, and new mothers.
The EU Parliament also criticized the effectiveness of the International Contact Group, which met for the first time in Uruguay in February, saying it “regrets the lack of any tangible result of the contact group so far.”
The group met for the second time on March 27, bringing eight European countries—France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, and the UK—together with South American nations Bolivia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, and Uruguay.
Brussels’ foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini, who chaired the meeting, said, “I praise the reception efforts of the region, including Ecuador, which has received millions of Venezuelan refugees and migrants, and our solidarity is full.
“We have been working well together and we will continue our joint efforts with the objective of helping the Venezuelan people find a peaceful and democratic solution.”
However, the meeting was overshadowed by the announcement that nearly 100 Russian troops had landed in Caracas and disembarked from military planes.
Moscow acknowledged their presence in Venezuela with a foreign ministry spokeswoman saying they were “tasked with the practical implementation of provisions of military-technical cooperation agreements.”
Reacting to the move, a Commission spokesman said: “The situation in Venezuela is very polarized. All actions and gestures that further escalate tensions will only create more obstacles to a peaceful, democratic, and Venezuela-owned resolution to this crisis.”