Monday

23rd Jul 2018

Latest jailing puts Belarus oligarchs in EU crosshairs

The jailing for four and a half years of well-known human rights campaigner Ales Bilalitski in Belarus has prompted EU diplomats to get more creative in the way they handle President Aleksander Lukashenko.

The EU visa ban and asset freeze list - already numbering 245 people - is in the short term likely to be expanded to include judges and prosecutors involved in the Bilalitski trial.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... our join as a group

  • Lotto baron Peftiev is testing the limits of existing criteria in court (Photo: superloto.by)

But with the current approach doing little to change Lukashenko's behaviour, some member states want to widen sanctions criteria to include people who feed the regime money as well as those directly involved in repression or election rigging.

"There will be a discussion on this because the current criteria are too narrow. This case [Bilalitski] shows there is a need for something new," an EU diplomat told EUobserver. "With Lukashenko's best friend in the EU out of the picture, we might have a better chance than in the past," he added, referring to former Italian leader Silvio Berlusconi who fell from power last week.

Italy used to routinely water down EU sanctions against Belarus.

Another EU diplomat said Lukashenko's top financial sponsors are well known: Yury Chizh (health spas, retail); Vladimir Peftiev (arms, lotto, telecoms); Aleksander Moshensky (milk, seafood); Alexander Shakutin (construction); and Paul Topuzidis (retail, tobacco).

The EU imposed a visa ban and asset freeze on Peftiev in summer. But he highlighted the limits of existing criteria by lodging four appeals in August at the EU court in Luxembourg - one in his name, and one each in the names of his three companies.

The verdict is unlikley to come before 2013 and if he wins, he will get little more than a moral victory.

A court spokesman told this website nobody has ever won a financial damages claim against the EU because they were put wrongly on a blacklist. Damages are only awarded for serious violations of EU law. But the court has in the past said it is forgiveable if the EU gets a name wrong in an opaque regime.

Meanwhile, how much pressure the oligarchs can apply to Lukashenko if future EU sanctions hurt their business remains an open question.

Some opposition activists believe they could orchestrate his downfall.

But others say only Moscow poses a threat to the 57-year-old billionaire. "It is not correct to call them oligarchs. Oligarchs by defintion have power. They have no power at all, they have businesses and are totally dependent on Lukashenko," independent Belarusian journalist Andrej Dynko said.

Hockey-loving EU states oppose Belarus championship ban

The EU is to impose a travel ban and asset freeze on another 15-or-so Belarusian officials. But harsher measures, such as economic sanctions or blocking the 2014 hockey finals in Minsk, are not on the table for now.

Lukashenko's 'private banker' to face EU ban

A tycoon identified as Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko's personal bag man is likely to see three of his companies frozen out of doing business in the EU.

Lukashenko hurls vulgarities at Barroso

Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko has called European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso a "bastard" after being snubbed over a Chernobyl event in Ukraine.

Opinion

The EU and Belarus: Sanctions? What Sanctions?

Brussels and Paris' decision to let Belarusian interior minister Anatoly Kulyashou - a man accused of torturing political prisoners - is a a shameful betrayal of the Belarusian people.

Opinion

EU must create safe, legal pathways to Europe

As the rapporteur for the European Parliament on an EU regulation on resettlement, my colleagues and I have outlined an effective plan based on solidarity and humanitarian principles.

News in Brief

  1. Greece FM warns of Russian interference in Balkans
  2. Minister: No Franco-German disagreement on US tariffs
  3. UK Brexit minister warns of 'no-deal' preparations
  4. Munich: large protest against CSU's anti-migration line
  5. Libyan PM rejects EU migrant camps idea
  6. Italy's Salvini to sue critical anti-mafia writer
  7. EU countries send aircraft to Sweden to help with wildfires
  8. British ex-commissioner's jobs called into question

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. IPHRCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  2. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  4. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  6. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersNordics Could Be First Carbon-Negative Region in World
  8. European Federation of Allergy and AirwaysLife Is Possible for Patients with Severe Asthma
  9. PKEE - Polish Energy AssociationCommon-Sense Approach Needed for EU Energy Reform
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to Lead in Developing and Rolling Out 5G Network
  11. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Economic and Trade Relations Enjoy a Bright Future
  12. ACCAEmpowering Businesses to Engage with Sustainable Finance and the SDGs

Latest News

  1. EU will be blamed for no-deal Brexit, UK minister tells Berlin
  2. Far-right Bannon to open EU campaign group
  3. Russia sanctions: test of EU commitment to international law
  4. Malta's PM cleared of Panama Papers wrongdoing
  5. EU wants answers to de-dramatise Brexit talks
  6. Juncker White House trip trumps the agenda This WEEK
  7. Italian populists try to sink EU migrant mission
  8. EU urges no-deal Brexit preparation

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us