Monday

25th Mar 2019

EU diplomats: Slovenia put hotel deal before human rights

Fellow EU countries have blamed Slovenia for denigrating the rights of political prisoners in Belarus in order to protect a business deal on a luxury hotel in Minsk.

The country's foreign minister, Karl Erjavec, on Monday (27 February) in Brussels blocked the EU from adding the name of Belarus oligarch Yuriy Chizh to a new list of 21 jurists and policemen to be put under a visa ban and asset freeze.

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.

... or join as a group

  • Photo from Kempinski website. The firm is proud of its luxury brand (Photo: kempinski.com)

His line was that the Union should hold more internal talks about the merit of economic sanctions.

"We aren't objecting to the sanctions as such. But there is only one businessman on the list and we want there to be general criteria why some businessmen are on the list and others are not," a Slovenian diplomat told this website.

Diplomats from other EU countries say Erjavec took the step to protect a business deal between Chizh and Slovenian firm Riko Group to build a five-star hotel for Swiss chain Kempinski in the Belarusian capital in 2013.

"Everybody knows that's why they did it. It sets a very bad precedent for the EU to take these kinds of decisions based on economic interests," one contact noted.

Another EU diplomatic source told EUobserver: "They even suggested that France put Chizh on the list to get revenge because a French firm lost the tender [on the hotel]. In fact, the French firm pulled out when it discovered that Chizh was involved."

He added: "On the one hand you have hunger strikes by political prisoners and on the other hand you have this luxury hotel ... It's not like the value of the contract would have had any impact on Slovenia's economy, so unless someone in the Slovenian government has close ties with this company [Riko Group], I just don't get it."

Riko Group noted in an email to this website the hotel project is part of two contracts with Triple worth €157 million.

Its spokeswoman, Polona Lovsin added that the firm did not ask Erjavec to block sanctions. "We informed them that there are rumours about the intentions of the EU ... We do not interfere in the profesional work of the bodies of the government, but we trust that they know what to do to be effective in protecting the interests of all Slovenian companies," she said.

A Kempinski spokeswoman added that the group "does not comment on or take any political position."

Meanwhile, Latvia, which has business ties with Chizh companies, also voiced concerns about putting him on the blacklist, but EUobserver understands it did not threaten to block the move.

For her part, EU foreign relations chief Catherine Ashton said on Monday that EU ministers will look again at the issue of Belarus economic sanctions in March.

This story was updated on 28 February, adding the Riko Group and Kempinski remarks

Slovenia shields Belarus oligarch from EU blacklist

Belarus oligarch Yuri Chizh could get off the hook after Slovenia stalled the latest round of EU sanctions, prompting concern it is putting petty commercial interests before the welfare of political prisoners.

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.

EBRD funds pocketed by Lukashenko henchmen, politician says

Money from the London-based European Bank for Reconstruction and Development has been distributed to individuals connected to Belarus’ President Alexander Lukashenko, according to a career politician in the regime.

Romania presidency shatters EU line on Jerusalem

Romania will move its embassy to Jerusalem, its prime minister has said, shattering the EU line on the Arab-Israeli conflict while the country holds the EU rotating presidency.

News in Brief

  1. Orban vows more EU 'information campaigns'
  2. May 'effectively out of power', says Scottish leader
  3. May under pressure to resign over Brexit endgame
  4. Million march against Brexit, five million sign petition
  5. Italy first G7 country to sign China Belt and Road deal
  6. EU leaders at summit demand more effort on disinformation
  7. Report: Corbyn to meet May on Monday for Brexit talks
  8. Petition against Brexit attracts 2.4m signatures

EU migrants sneaking into US from Mexico

Almost 1,000 Romanian nationals were caught trying to sneak into the United States in 2017, of which around half attempted to cross via Mexico. Nationals from countries like Hungary and the UK were also intercepted.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  4. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  5. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  8. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID

Latest News

  1. Romania presidency shatters EU line on Jerusalem
  2. The Spitzen process - a coup that was never accepted
  3. Russia and money laundering in Europe
  4. Italy takes China's new Silk Road to the heart of Europe
  5. What EU leaders agreed on climate - and what they mean
  6. Copyright and (another) new Brexit vote This WEEK
  7. EU avoids Brexit crash, sets new date for 12 April
  8. Campaigning commissioners blur the lines

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us