As the US and the EU consider tougher, coordinated  economic sanctions against President Vladimir Putin’s annexation of Crimea and possible, similar plans for  other Russian-speaking regions, Pascal Lamy, who stepped down as head of the World Trade Organization last autumn, told members March 24 that sanctions have not worked in most previous cases and doubts they will work now.


“Sanctions did work against South Africa’s apartheid policies and Iran’s military nuclear program, but they rarely work,” Lamy said at the headquarters of the Notre Europe think tank he helped establish. He cited economic interdependence as the main reason for the continuing hesitation by Brussels and Washington to go beyond mild sanctions on Russian and Ukrainian leaders now in place and that were quickly brushed off by Russian leaders.

“The economic reality here is also that the US and the EU do not have the same composition (of economic trade and investment) interests,” and you cannot just push them (the Russians) out of the G8 group,” Lamy, formerly EU Trade Commissioner, added. “Once you’re in, you’re in; it’s a club.”

On other issues raised during our 90-minute breakfast session, he defended continuing EU integration, and convergence, but conceded that developing a credible, workable “European identity” will “take time,” and that a common, influential EU foreign policy remains “far down the road.”

Lamy, who served two full terms as director general of the WTO, defended its overall track record in successfully reducing trade barriers around the world, and criticized the “Made in France” campaign of fellow-Socialist, French Industry Minister Arnaud Montebourg, who also told us just over a year ago that the multilateral trading system was “dead.”

Noting Montebourg was not the trade minister; that France’s global trade policy is decided and implemented by the EU’s 28 member-governments, his advocating “protectionism makes no sense…’Made in France’ is a political slogan,” Lamy said.

But, he also declared, “France has to change…it must adapt to globalization, and not look at the world as a threat, but an opportunity.” That is the theme of his latest book, presented to the dozen members who attended the meeting, “Quand la France s’éveillera.”

Responding to questions about the European prospects of growing, extreme-right political parties, he predicted that the European Parliament elections (May 22-25) would result in gains for them, rising probably from 120 seats currently to around 200.  “But they will not be in the policymaking EU Council of Ministers, or the EU Commission.”

-Axel Krause