Thursday

14th Dec 2017

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.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

  • 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.

Feature

Lebanon crisis overshadows EU aid for Syrian refugees

Lebanon hosts over one million Syrian refugees, and has received some €1bn in EU funds. Caught in a geo-political tug of war between Saudi Arabia and Iran, Lebanon's domestic politics have cast a longer shadow over its Syrian 'guests'.

EU complicit in Libyan torture, says Amnesty

The EU and its members states have signed up to 'Faustian pact' with Libyan authorities in the their effort to prevent migrant and refugee boat departures towards Italy, says Amnesty International.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Dialogue PlatformThe Gülen Community: Who to Believe - Politicians or Actions?" by Thomas Michel
  2. Plastics Recyclers Europe65% plastics recycling rate attainable by 2025 new study shows
  3. European Heart NetworkCommissioner Andriukaitis' Address to EHN on the Occasion of Its 25th Anniversary
  4. ACCACFOs Risk Losing Relevance If They Do Not Embrace Technology
  5. UNICEFMake the Digital World Safer for Children & Increase Access for the Most Disadvantaged
  6. European Jewish CongressWelcomes Recognition of Jerusalem as the Capital of Israel and Calls on EU States to Follow Suit
  7. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Boost Innovation Cooperation Under Horizon 2020
  8. European Gaming & Betting AssociationJuncker’s "Political" Commission Leaves Gambling Reforms to the Court
  9. AJC Transatlantic InstituteAJC Applauds U.S. Recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s Capital City
  10. EU2017EEEU Telecom Ministers Reached an Agreement on the 5G Roadmap
  11. European Friends of ArmeniaEU-Armenia Relations in the CEPA Era: What's Next?
  12. Mission of China to the EU16+1 Cooperation Injects New Vigour Into China-EU Ties

Latest News

  1. Estonia completes two out of three priority digital bills
  2. EU countries are not 'tax havens', parliament says
  3. Tech firms' delays mean EU needs rules for online terror
  4. Slovak PM: Human rights are not a travel pass to EU
  5. British PM limps to EU capital after Brexit defeat
  6. US pleads for clarity on Brexit aviation 'black hole'
  7. Tusk migration note prompts institutional 'hysteria'
  8. Migration looms over summit, as Africa pledges fall short