The EU has recently made certain amendments to its sanctions in relation to Libya and Syria. We provide further details of the changes below but, in summary:

the criteria for designating individuals and entities as subject to the Libya-related asset freeze have been amended; certain amendments have been made to the existing Libya asset freeze list; certain other non-substantive amendments have been made to the EU regulation setting out the Libyan sanctions; sanctions against Syria have been extended for another year; the list of Syrian individuals and entities subject to the asset freeze has been amended, with one addition and one deletion; and the EU prohibition on the import, export or transfer of cultural property illegally removed from Syria has been extended to cover property removed on or after 15 March 2011.

Libyan Sanctions

Following changes to the UN Security Council’s sanctions against Libya in March 2015, the EU has updated the criteria for designating individuals and entities under its asset freezing measures. The amendments are set out in Council Decision (CFSP) 2015/818 and Council Regulation (EU) 2015/813 and provide that the following categories of persons may now be subject to an EU asset freeze and visa ban:

those involved in the repressive policies of the former Qadhafi regime in Libya, or otherwise formerly associated with the regime and posting a continued risk to the peace, stability and security of Libya or the completion of its political transition; those threatening or coercing Libyan State financial institutions and the Libyan National Oil Company or engaging in any action that may lead to the misappropriation of Libyan State funds; or those who own or control Libyan state funds misappropriated during the former Qadhafi regime in Libya, which could be used to threaten the peace, stability or security of the country or the completion of its political transition.

No new designations have yet been made under these expanded grounds. However, the EU has separately amended the listing information for five individuals already subject to the asset freeze in Council Implementing Regulation (EU) 2015/814.

Regulation 2015/813 also makes certain minor amendments to the provisions regarding the Libyan Investment Authority (the “LIA”) and the Libyan Africa Investment Portfolio (the “LAIP”). These two entities are subject to a modified asset freeze which only applies to those assets belonging to the LIA/LAIP on 16 September 2011 and located outside Libya on that date. Whilst these assets must remain frozen, there is no prohibition on dealing with post-September 2011 assets, or making new funds available to these entities. The substance of these prohibitions has not changed, however, the two entities are now listed in a new Annex VI to Council Regulation (EU) 204/2011 and article 5(4) of that Regulation has been amended to refer to entities listed in Annex VI, rather than to the LIA and LAIP by name. The EU has also made minor amendments to the listing information for the LIA and LAIP.

HM Treasury has issued notices in relation to the LIA/LAIP and the amendments to individuals’ listing information.

Syrian Sanctions

On 29 May 2011, the EU published Council Decision (CFSP) 2015/837 which amends Council Decision 2013/255/CFSP (the main Council Decision setting out restrictive measures against Syria). In addition to providing for the change to the trade restrictions on cultural property described in more detail below, this Decision extends the period of application of the sanctions against Syria to 1 June 2016. The EU’s press release regarding this development recalls comments by the Council in December 2014, indicating that “the EU [will] continue imposing and enforcing sanctions that target the regime and its supporters as long as repression continues”.

In other changes to the Syrian regime, Council Implementing Regulation (EU) 2015/828 amends the asset freeze list set out in Regulation 36/2012 (as amended) by (a) adding General Muhamad to the list of asset freeze targets, (b) deleting Rustum Ghazali from the list, and (c) updating the listings of ten other individuals. HM Treasury have also published a notice regarding these amendments.

Council Regulation (EU) 2015/827 amends the existing prohibition on the import, export and transfer of cultural property (and the provision of related services), where reasonable suspicion exists that the property has been illegally removed from Syria. The original prohibition referred to suspicion that the property had been removed from Syria on or after 9 May 2011; this period has now been extended to cover property removed on or after 15 March 2011.