Friday

6th Aug 2021

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

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe 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.

News in Brief

  1. EU secures deal with Novavax for potential Covid-19 vaccine
  2. France fined €10m for failing to tackle air pollution
  3. Fire near Athens forces thousands to evacuate
  4. EU to Lebanon: 'deliver results' on Beirut blast probe
  5. Belarus opposition leader demands regime end
  6. Croatia's border-monitoring of migrant rights 'falls short'
  7. Court stops Austria's Afghan deportation, as conflict worsens
  8. 'Missing' Belarus exiles group chief found dead in Kyiv

Opinion

Why Russia politics threaten European security

Russia could expand hostile operations, such as poisonings, including beyond its borders, if it feels an "existential" threat and there is no European pushback.

Analysis

Ten years on from Tahrir: EU's massive missed opportunity

Investing in the Arab world, in a smart way, is also investing in the European Union's future itself. Let's hope that the disasters of the last decade help to shape the neighbourhood policy of the next 10 years.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNineteen demands by Nordic young people to save biodiversity
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersSustainable public procurement is an effective way to achieve global goals
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council enters into formal relations with European Parliament
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersWomen more active in violent extremist circles than first assumed
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersDigitalisation can help us pick up the green pace
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersCOVID19 is a wake-up call in the fight against antibiotic resistance

Latest News

  1. Italy seeks EU help on migrant boat arrivals
  2. WHO calls for vaccine-booster pause to help poor countries
  3. Romania selling on its jabs, despite low vaccination rates
  4. Cyprus' Varosha is Erdogan's canary in the coalmine
  5. Europe sees drop in Covid-19 cases
  6. Burkinis and 'soul caps' - policing Olympic women back in fashion
  7. Telegram groups lure migrant hopefuls to Lithuania
  8. Third-time lucky for one Syrian grandmother in Denmark

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us