Find out more about sanctions in the UN Security Council and in the European Union, the Belgian sanctions policy, and the contact details of the Belgian authorities responsible for applying restrictive measures in the European Union.

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What are sanctions?

Sanctions (or restrictive measures) are an instrument of a diplomatic or economic nature which seeks to bring about a change in activities or policies such as violations of international law or human rights, or policies that do not respect the rule of law or democratic principles.

Sanctions may target governments of third countries, or non-state entities, companies and individuals, such as terrorist groups and terrorists. They may comprise arms embargoes, other general or specific trade restrictions (import and export bans), financial restrictions such as an asset freeze, restrictions on admission (visa or travel bans) and other measures, as appropriate. Sanctions targeted at a certain country may also have consequences for third countries, or for their enterprises and companies.

Over the years, generic, or so-called comprehensive sanctions have been replaced by more specific sanctions. As a matter of fact, it has become apparent, for example, that widespread economic boycotts could have a negative effect on the living conditions of the general population, but at the same time these measures insufficiently affected the interests of the instigators of the conflict. Hence the development of so-called "smart" sanctions or measures aimed at influencing the behaviour of individual persons who are playing a major negative role in a conflict situation. For example, the decision to freeze these people's bank assets or refusing them a visa if they wish to travel.