Recently, growing numbers of members of European institutions have become puppets and tools of the hidden political propaganda of controversial human rights NGO ), the purpose and activities of which are concealed behind a mask of human rights advocacy, writes Phillip Jeune.
Who are you, Ms. Kozlovska? Following the emergence of the Warsaw based ODF, certain members of the Council of Europe began to engage with the NGO, and started expressing dissatisfaction with post-Soviet republics, such as Moldova and Kazakhstan.
The head of ODF, Lyudmyla Kozlovska, is a well-known personality among human rights activists and, thanks to alleged financial support from convicted fraudsters and murderers, including Vyacheslav Platon, Mukhtar Ablyazov, Nail Malyutin and Aslan Gagiyev, has become acquainted with many influential European figures.
Kozlovska represents herself as a supporter of civil society, who allegedly protects human rights, but instead acts as a lobbying force on behalf of ODF’s patrons, most of who appear to share something in common; convictions for money laundering. ODF defends these people’s interests on the political platforms of the European Union portraying them as politically persecuted oppositionists. It has been alleged that European politicians have been paid for criticizing Moldova and Kazakhstan.
ODF itself was the subject of a special investigation by the Sunday Times, published in April of this year. Journalists concluded that ODF was implicated in the laundering of more than £26 million through Scottish companies, some £1.5 million of which of which allegedly found its way into ODF coffers. At the same time, Kozlovska is the subject of investigations initiated against her in Poland, Ukraine and Moldova.
On 21 April, the British Sunday Times published an article containing the main thesis of a report prepared by the Moldovan parliamentary committee… I would like to examine the involvement of the Open Dialog Foundation in the internal affairs of this country and the financing of certain political parties. As reported by the Sunday Times journalists, Moldovan parliamentarians accuse the activists of ODF of acquiring £1.5m from Scottish front companies in exchange for lobbying for oligarchs. In their opinion, these companies had to "launder" a total of about £26m, which was intended to finance organizations suspected of cooperating with Russian intelligence and acting to destabilize countries remaining in opposition to the Russian Federation.
A commission of inquiry by the Moldovan Parliament, published last November, concluded that Kozlovska and her NGO were “involved in subversive activities directed against the institutions of the Republic of Moldova, which are funded and orchestrated by special services that are hostile to the state”.
Its report alleged Kozlovska and the ODF had been funded from transactions with Russian military companies banned from trading in America and the EU under international sanctions, as well as from “the supply of military equipment to states involved in regional conflicts”. Payments also came from offshore areas of dubious unknown routes and origins and from “Laundromat” money-laundering schemes, it said.
The report added: “The sophisticated mechanism through which the ODF is funded bears all the hallmarks of a money-laundering scheme and indicates practices involving financial intelligence which only the special services employ.
In reality, the ODF and Lyudmyla Kozlovska are a vehicle for lobbying and influencing various international institutions and for protecting and furthering the interests of certain persons with a dubious past, usually with considerable wealth originating from fraud and money laundering, contrary to the law.
The report accuses the ODF and Kozlovska of having “relationships with and obligations towards agents of the intelligence services of the Russian Federation and are dependent on them . . . making them a tool for soft power intervention which is used by the special services of the Russian Federation in the hybrid war that has begun to be waged against states regarded by it as enemies of the geopolitical interests of the Russian Federation in Eastern Europe”.
A former employee of the ODF, who for obvious reasons remains anonymous, has stated that the main focus of the foundation is on Kazakhstan. Kazakh oligarch Mukhtar Ablyazov, who was convicted of the embezzlement of some $7.6 billion from Kazakhstan’s BTA bank, as well as the murder of his predecessor, is trying through Kozlovska to create a network within the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.
Their goal is to create a climate of suspicion based on slander, and to form a network of MPs who will interfere in the political processes in Kazakhstan. It can be said that the Foundation partially managed to form an opinion among the some MPs that Ablyazov and his associates are fighters for democracy, and that in Kazakhstan there is still a dictatorial regime.
Meanwhile, French MEP Nicolas Bay at a Public Hearing of the European Parliament’s Special committee on financial crimes, tax evasion and tax avoidance (known as TAX3) openly named Ablyazov of having “launched a foundation called Open Dialogue... there are now very real questions about the funding of the activities of that Foundation”.
“All too often” the deputy continued, “perpetrators of white collar crimes are able to pass themselves off as victims”, referring to ODF’s presentation of Ablyazov and others implicated in his crimes, as persecuted political oppositionists, and victims of human rights violations.
Italian Senator Roberto Rampi, German MP Frank Schwabe, Austrian Member of Parliament Stefan Schennach, as well as Dutch parliamentarian Pieter Omtzigt, however, have accepted ODF’s version of reality.
Another figure of interest in this story is president of the Italian League for Human Rights rights Antonio Stango who last year visited Kazakhstani businessman Iskander Yerimbetov, who is currently under investigation on suspicion of money laundering in jail. Yerimbetov and his sister Bota Jardemalie, a former sidekick of Ablyazov and currently resident in Brussels. Jardemalie is also accused of money laundering offences.
For instance, Frank Schwabe, who is a chair of Socialists, Democrats and Greens Group in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, actively campaigns among party members to support all Kozlovska’s initiatives.
He appears indifferent to the facts that the head of ODF is suspected of having connections with the Kremlin and the Foundation itself is involved in money laundering activity.
Frank Schwabe helped Kozlovska obtain a temporary visa to Germany, after Poland’s Internal Security Agency expressed “serious doubts” about the financing of ODF, placing her on a Schengen blacklist, stating that she poses a security threat following allegations that she works for Russian interests.
Some of those with whom ODF cooperates are not known for the consistency of their views. Dutch politician Pieter Omtzigt, who become a member of the PACE in 2010, at first expressed his concern about the political situation in Armenia during the first two years of his deputy. Suddenly, in 2012, he completely abandoned his previous statements and began to criticize Azerbaijan, expressing concern about human rights situation in the country.
Austrian MP Stefan Schennach, another supporter of Ablyazov & Kozlovska, was himself involved in a corruption scandal in the framework of of PACE, according to the April 2018 report of the Independent Investigation Body on the allegations of corruption within the Parliamentary Assembly.
Schennach was found to have breached the Code of Conduct for rapporteurs of the Parliamentary Assembly, and the Code of Conduct of the Monitoring Committee, as well as the PACE Code of Conduct.
In addition, the Centre for the Study of Corruption and Organised Crime (OCCRP), in collaboration with Transparency International and several European media organisations, published a report, which claims that the ruling elite of Baku through fictitious companies “laundered” a $2.9 billion to bribe European politicians and purchase luxury goods.
The establishment of partnerships between deputies belonging to one or more parliamentary groups, can give a positive result. It is very important when different movements unite to protect rights, promote democracy and develop the system of government, overcoming political differences.
It is absolutely normal when representatives of civil society or non-governmental organisations participate in political debates and from time to time cooperate with parliamentarians. However, the above facts concerning the “human rights” activities of the above-mentioned MPs are far from their true desire to protect the great and noble ideals of the great European family.
In general, the statements of such politicians are used by the oligarchs Platon and Ablyazov in the struggle for power. It is clearly in the public interest to inquire into the connections of parliamentarians with controversial NGOs, such as ODF. As a result of such connections trust in the Council of Europe has been severely undermined.
Issuance of green bonds will strengthen the international role of the euro
Eurogroup ministers discussed the international role of the euro (15 February), following the publication of the European Commission's communication of (19 January), ‘The European economic and financial system: fostering strength and resilience’.
President of the Eurogroup, Paschal Donohoe said: “The aim is to reduce our dependence on other currencies, and to strengthen our autonomy in various situations. At the same time, increased international use of our currency also implies potential trade-offs, which we will continue to monitor. During the discussion, ministers emphasized the potential of green bond issuance to enhance the use of the euro by the markets while also contributing to achieving our climate transition objective.”
The Eurogroup has discussed the issue several times in recent years since the December 2018 Euro Summit. Klaus Regling, the managing director of the European Stability Mechanism said that overreliance on the dollar contained risks, giving Latin America and the Asian crisis of the 90s as examples. He also referred obliquely to “more recent episodes” where the dollar’s dominance meant that EU companies could not continue to work with Iran in the face of US sanctions. Regling believes that the international monetary system is slowly moving towards a multi-polar system where three or four currencies will be important, including the dollar, euro and renminbi.
European Commissioner for the Economy, Paolo Gentiloni, agreed that the euro’s role could be strengthened through the issuance of green bonds enhancing the use of the euro by the markets while also contributing to achieving our climate objectives of the Next Generation EU funds.
Ministers agreed that broad action to support the international role of the euro, encompassing progress on amongst other things, Economic and Monetary Union, Banking Union and Capital Markets Union were needed to secure the euros international role.
European human rights court backs Germany over Kunduz airstrike case
The ruling by the Strasbourg-based court rejects a complaint by Afghan citizen Abdul Hanan, who lost two sons in the attack, that Germany did not fulfil its obligation to effectively investigate the incident.
In September 2009, the German commander of NATO troops in Kunduz called in a U.S. fighter jet to strike two fuel trucks near the city which NATO believed had been hijacked by Taliban insurgents.
The Afghan government said at the time 99 people, including 30 civilians, were killed. Independent rights groups estimated between 60 and 70 civilians were killed.
The death toll shocked Germans and ultimately forced its defence minister to resign over accusations of covering up the number of civilian casualties in the run-up to Germany’s 2009 election.
Germany’s federal prosecutor general had found that the commander did not incur criminal liability, mainly because he was convinced when he ordered the airstrike that no civilians were present.
For him to be liable under international law, he would have had to be found to have acted with intent to cause excessive civilian casualties.
The European Court of Human Rights considered the effectiveness of Germany’s investigation, including whether it established a justification for lethal use of force. It did not consider the legality of the airstrike.
Of 9,600 NATO troops in Afghanistan, Germany has the second-largest contingent behind the United States.
A 2020 peace agreement between the Taliban and Washington calls for foreign troops to withdraw by May 1, but U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration is reviewing the deal after a deterioration in the security situation in Afghanistan.
Germany is preparing to extend the mandate for its military mission in Afghanistan from March 31 until the end of this year, with troop levels remaining at up to 1,300, according to a draft document seen by Reuters.
Digitalization of EU justice systems: Commission launches public consultation on cross-border judicial co-operation
On 16 February, the European Commission launched a public consultation on the modernization of EU justice systems. The EU aims to support member states in their efforts to adapt their justice systems to the digital age and improve EU cross-border judicial co-operation. Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders (pictured) said: “The COVID-19 pandemic has further highlighted the importance of digitalization, including in the field of justice. Judges and lawyers need digital tools to be able to work together faster and more efficiently.
At the same time, citizens and businesses need online tools for an easier and more transparent access to justice at a lower cost. The Commission strives to push this process forward and support member states in their efforts, including as regards facilitating their cooperation in cross-border judicial procedures by using digital channels.” In December 2020, the Commission adopted a communication outlining the actions and initiatives intended to advance the digitalization of justice systems across the EU.
The public consultation will gather views on the digitalization of EU cross-border civil, commercial and criminal procedures. The results of the public consultation, in which a broad range of groups and individuals can participate and which is available here until 8 May 2021, will feed into an initiative on digitalisation of cross-border judicial cooperation expected at the end of this year as announced in the 2021 Commission's Work Programme.
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