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Controversial think-tank #ODF in Brussels move

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Despite being banned from the EU, Lyudmila Kozlovska (pictured), president of the Open Dialogue Foundation, has relocated her HQ to Brussels, writes James Hipwell.

The controversial human-rights activist, banned from the European Union by Poland, has moved her think tank to Brussels, where she is living ten minutes from the European Parliament.

Lyudmila Kozlovska, president of Open Dialogue Foundation (ODF), was deported following an investigation by the Polish government which revealed her organization received funding from “criminal origins” through “offshore tax havens”.
On its website, the ODF describes itself as a human-rights organization focused on the post-Soviet area but critics say it operates an “image washing” service for criminals from the region, thanks to its championing of infamous fraudsters Mukhtar Ablyazov and Veaceaslav Platon.

Kozlovska, a Ukrainian, was deported in August after the Polish Internal Security Agency said it had “serious doubts regarding the funding of the Open Dialog Foundation Ms Kozlovska is running”.
“As a result, Ms Kozlovska has been banned from entering the territory of Poland and the EU,” the agency wrote in a statement.

Kozlovska’s supporters say the deportation was politically motivated and point to the fact that she and her Polish husband, Bartosz Kramek, had criticised the government for what they see as its efforts to undermine the country’s democracy.

However, banning her from the European Union appears to have had little practical effect, with Kozlovska since appearing at a string of events at national parliaments and other venues across the European Union.

In September, she spoke on a platform with German MP Frank Schwabe at the Bundestag in Berlin and later the same month with Guy Verhofstadt, former Belgian prime minister and president of the ALDE Group, at the European Parliament in Brussels.

In October, she was seen with Ana Gomes of the European Socialists & Democrats alliance (S&Ds), at the parliament, while in November she met Petras Auštrevičius of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe and Dariusz Rosati of the European People’s Party.

In the same month she was at the parliament in Brussels again to meet Frans Timmermans, first vice president of the European Commission, who is widely tipped to replace Jean-Claude Juncker as president of the commission later this year. Also in November she was invited by Alex Sobel, a UK Labour MP, to speak at an event at the House of Commons in London.

In December, Kozlovska gatecrashed the Polish embassy’s Christmas party in Brussels where she drank wine with Polish politicians. She was photographed beside Artur Orzechowski, Poland’s ambassador to Belgium, but the Polish embassy said she was not invited and that she took “advantage of an opportunity to unfairly manipulate the image of a diplomat” by arranging the photograph.

Now it has emerged Kozlovska is living permanently in Brussels and has registered the ODF with the Belgian companies register.

Her husband Bartosz Kramek, who is ODF chairman, has also set up a new company in Belgium to run the consulting business he previously ran in Warsaw and through which much of the think tank’s funding has been funnelled.

Company records show the couple live at an apartment near the Bois de la Cambre, less than a ten minute drive from the European Parliament.

Kozlovska has also been frequently seen with Bota Jardemalie, а lawyer and close associate of Kazakh fugitive Mukhtar Ablyazov, former chairman of BTA Bank. In June, the pair were seen leaving Jardemalie’s Brussels apartment and the lawyer appeared alongside Kozlovska at many of her speaking events at the European Parliament.

Jardemalie may have played a role in helping Kozlovska to gain residency in the Belgian capital. Last summer Spyker revealed how the lawyer was lobbying senior Belgian figures to gain residency in Belgium for Ablyazov.

The site claimed she had “a close and intimate relationship with a Belgium police officer called Alain De Leener” and that she was also “on intimate terms” with Daniel Schwammenthal, an influential lobbyist.

Spyker also claimed Jardamelie had been “cultivating” political activist Laurent Bonford, who has worked as a parliamentary assistant for Belgium’s governing MR party led by prime minister Charles Michel.

Ablyazov has lived in France since fleeing the UK authorities in 2012, when London’s high court sentenced him to 22 months for what the judge described as his “brazen” contempt of court.

BTA is now owned by the Kazakh government, which claims that during his time as chairman, Ablyazov siphoned off more than $5 billion through a network of companies that he owned. He denies the embezzlement charges and claims they are politically motivated. It is a view that Kozlovska and the ODF has been more than happy to endorse.

However, the Kazakh’s future in France is uncertain. In 2016, he narrowly escaped extradition on fraud charges to Russia when lawyers succeeded in overturning an earlier ruling that he should face trial there, arguing that the Kremlin was likely to hand him over to authorities in Kazakhstan.

Reports have long circulated that Kozlovska has also been working for Ablyazov and running the ODF as his special-purpose lobbying group.

In 2014, Polish newspaper Wprost reported that Kozlovska had lobbied MEPs not to engage with Kazakh opposition groups aside from for Ablyazov’s Alga! party, on the grounds that other groups were agents of the Kazakh government.
More recently, wSieci magazine claimed that “in some periods” Ablyazov had been “the main financer of ODF”. The publication concluded: “After tracking ODF’s activity from the beginning of its existence you are tempted to say it was and is a lobbying institution for rent.”

Kozlovska has always denied that her organization has received money from the Kazakh dissident.

coronavirus

EU set to add United States to safe travel list

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European Union governments agreed on Wednesday (16 June) to add the United States to their list of countries from which they will allow non-essential travel, EU diplomats said, writes Philip Blenkinsop, Reuters.

Ambassadors from the EU's 27 countries approved the addition of the United States and five other countries at a meeting on Wednesday, with the change to take effect in the coming days.

Albania, Lebanon, North Macedonia, Serbia and Taiwan will be added, while Chinese administrative regions Hong Kong and Macau will be included with a requirement for reciprocity removed.

EU countries are recommended gradually to lift travel restrictions for the current eight countries on the list - Australia, Israel, Japan, New Zealand, Rwanda, Singapore, South Korea and Thailand.

Individual EU countries can still opt to demand a negative COVID-19 test or a period of quarantine.

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Brexit

Brexit deal risks undermining Northern Ireland peace, says UK's Frost

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The historic US-brokered 1998 Irish peace agreement has been put at risk by the implementation of the Brexit divorce deal in the British province of Northern Ireland, Prime Minister Boris Johnson's top Brexit negotiator said on Wednesday (16 June), writes Guy Faulconbridge.

The United States has expressed grave concern that a dispute between London and Brussels over the implementation of the 2020 Brexit treaty could undermine the Good Friday accord, which effectively ended three decades of violence.

After the United Kingdom exited the bloc's orbit on 1 January, Johnson has unilaterally delayed the implementation of some provisions of the deal's Northern Ireland Protocol and his top negotiator has said the protocol is unsustainable.

"It's super important that we keep the purpose of the nature of the protocol in mind, which is to support the Belfast Good Friday Agreement and not to undermine it, as it risks doing," Brexit Minister David Frost (pictured) told lawmakers.

The 1998 peace deal largely brought an end to the "Troubles" - three decades of conflict between Irish Catholic nationalist militants and pro-British Protestant "loyalist" paramilitaries in which 3,600 people were killed.

Johnson has said he could trigger emergency measures in the Northern Ireland protocol after its implementation disrupted trade between Britain and its province.

The protocol aims to keep the province, which borders EU member Ireland, in both the United Kingdom's customs territory and the EU's single market.

The EU wants to protect its single market, but an effective border in the Irish Sea created by the protocol cuts off Northern Ireland from the rest of the United Kingdom - to the fury of Protestant unionists.

Frost said London wanted agreed solutions to enable the Protocol to operate without undermining the consent of either broad community in Northern Ireland.

"If we can't do that, and at the moment, we aren't making a lot of progress on that - if we can't do that then all options are on the table for what we do next," Frost said. "We would rather find agreed solutions."

Asked if the Britain would invoke Article 16 of the Northern Irish Protocol to force a rethink, Frost said: "We are extremely concerned about the situation.

"Support for the protocol has corroded rapidly," Frost said.

"Our frustration ... is that we're not getting a lot of traction, and we feel we have put in a lot of ideas and we haven't had very much back to help move these discussions forward, and meanwhile ... time is running out."

Ireland's foreign minister said in response that the province's trading arrangement's were not a threat to the territorial integrity of the United Kingdom, but simply a means of managing disruption from its exit from the EU.

"Don't know how many times this needs to be said before it's fully accepted as true. NI Protocol is a technical trading arrangement to manage the disruption of Brexit for the island of Ireland to the greatest extent possible," Simon Coveney said on Twitter.

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Brexit

Getting nothing back, UK minister says frustration is growing with EU

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Frustration in the British government is rising because London has offered a number of proposals to solve a standoff with the European Union over Northern Ireland but has not had a lot back, Brexit minister David Frost said on Wednesday (16 June), writes Guy Faulconbridge, Reuters.

"Our position is that we would like to find negotiated agreements that ... bring it back to the sort of light-touch agreement that we thought we were agreeing," Frost told a parliamentary committee.

"Our frustration ... is that we're not getting a lot of traction, and we feel we have put in a lot of ideas and we haven't had very much back to help move these discussions forward, and meanwhile ... time is running out."

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