Sunday

27th Sep 2020

Ukraine's ex-PM trying to get his EU money back

  • Mykola Azarov (l) in the EU parliament before losing his post (Photo: europarl.europa.eu)

Diplomats have revealed that the former Ukrainian regime members trying to get off an EU visa ban and asset freeze are ex-PM Mykola Azarov and his son Oleksii.

Three diplomatic sources told this website on Thursday (3 April) the so-called Coest working group in the EU Council is considering their request.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

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

... or subscribe as a group

EUobserver previously reported that a German law firm, Alber & Geiger, is working for at least two people on the sanctions register. It declines to say who they are.

But the diplomatic contacts said the firm sent a letter on the Azarovs’ behalf to the Council on 5 March, the same day the EU sanctions entered into force. The letter refers to Mykola and his “family members,” with 32-year-old Oleksii, also a politician, the only other Azarov on the blacklist.

The 5 March letter was just the beginning.

The firm sent a second note to the Council on 25 March with “points for consideration” by Coest. It sent similar letters to all 28 EU countries’ embassies in Brussels on 26 March. It also approached at least one MEP, British Conservative Charles Tannock, for a meeting.

The Azarovs’ current whereabouts are unknown.

Mykola left his post in January. According to Austria's Krone newspaper, he immediately flew to Austria, where he and his family have real estate and business interests.

In terms of procedure, all 28 EU countries must agree to delist the men. The EU foreign service and the European Commission then draft a text to formalise the decision.

If they say No, Alber & Geiger can take the case to the EU courts in Luxembourg.

One EU diplomat said it is “very rare” for the Council to back down without a courtroom scrap. But Alber & Geiger believes a court ruling this week plays in its favour.

The court on Wednesday said Mehdi Ben Ali, a nephew of the former Tunisian leader, should be taken off a separate EU blacklist on a technicality.

Its ruling notes the EU sanctions on Tunisia, from 2011, were imposed on people “responsible for misappropriation of state funds,” but Ali’s name was listed merely “because he is subject to a ‘judicial investigation’.”

The Azarov case mirrors the Ali case.

The Ukraine sanctions were also introduced against people “responsible for the misappropriation of Ukrainian state funds,” but the Azarovs were listed as “subject to investigation in Ukraine for … the embezzlement of Ukrainian state funds.”

Whatever the legal merit, Alber & Geiger is not having an easy time on the political front.

Tannock refused to meet what he called Azarov’s “lobbyists” and told this website he has “every reason to believe that government ministers were responsible for the swindling of state assets and engaging in widespread corrupt practice, so the EU sanctions and repatriation of assets is perfectly justified.”

Meanwhile, EU diplomats note the firm’s attempt to involve politics and media in the legal process is highly irregular.

“I think this could be some kind of test by the former Ukrainian regime. If they get any traction, we are likely to see complaints from other people [on the blacklist] flood in,” one contact said.

Feature

The Hagia Sophia and the global battle of symbols

The Turkish president's decision to restart Islamic worship services in Istanbul's Hagia Sophia last Friday is not innocent. So how should we react? By doing the opposite - and make Cordoba's famous Mosque/Cathedral in Cordoba a museum.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council meets Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tichanovskaja
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to invest DKK 250 million in green digitalised business sector
  3. UNESDAReducing packaging waste – a huge opportunity for circularity
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCOVID-19 halts the 72nd Session of the Nordic Council in Iceland
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersCivil society a key player in integration
  6. UNESDANext generation Europe should be green and circular

Latest News

  1. Berlin repeats support for EU human rights sanctions
  2. China's carbon pledge at UN sends 'clear message' to US
  3. Far right using pandemic to win friends in Germany
  4. Visegrad countries immediately push back on new migration pact
  5. Why no EU progress on Black Lives Matter?
  6. EU migration pact to deter asylum
  7. 'Era of EU naivety ends', MEP pledges on foreign meddling
  8. Anti-mask protesters pose challenge for EU authorities

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNEW REPORT: Eight in ten people are concerned about climate change
  2. UNESDAHow reducing sugar and calories in soft drinks makes the healthier choice the easy choice
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersGreen energy to power Nordic start after Covid-19
  4. European Sustainable Energy WeekThis year’s EU Sustainable Energy Week (EUSEW) will be held digitally!
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic states are fighting to protect gender equality during corona crisis
  6. UNESDACircularity works, let’s all give it a chance

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us