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EU Policy. MEPs call to seize Russia’s hundreds of billions in frozen assets

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell (left) meets Ukraine's Volodymyr Zelenskyy in February 2023
EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell (left) meets Ukraine's Volodymyr Zelenskyy in February 2023 Copyright AP Photo
Copyright AP Photo
By Jack Schickler
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Lawmakers want to see more support for Ukraine as US and UK counterparts advance.

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EU lawmakers have called for Russian state assets to be seized to support Ukraine, saying existing plans worth billions of euros don’t go far enough.

EU countries are already discussing plans to deliver an aid package worth around €3bn a year to Ukraine by using the interest from capital held within the bloc by the Russian central bank.

But EU lawmakers want to go further, as US counterparts finalise a €57 billion aid package for the war-torn country.

“Europe needs to seize all of Russia's underlying assets and it needs to do so now,” Włodzimierz Cimoszewicz (Poland/Socialists and Democrats) said at the final European Parliament session ahead of June elections, warning that otherwise Ukraine “may run simply out of money”.

He’s joined from across the political divide by lawmakers who think existing measures, proposed by the European Commission in March and currently being mulled by EU members, don’t go far enough.

“Every day brings new damages to Ukraine,” said Andrius Kubilius (Lithuania/European People’s Party), adding: “Russia needs to pay.”

After significant political wrangling, the US House of Representatives on Saturday agreed a significant support package for Ukraine, winning plaudits from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

But the lion’s share of Russian extraterritorial assets, some €210bn, are held within the EU, chiefly at the Euroclear depositary in Belgium.

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell has argued the bloc should be able to profit from Russia’s holdings so Ukraine can defend itself, rather than using expropriated assets only to fund reconstruction.

But he also warned of legal problems with wholesale confiscation – echoing concerns raised by the likes of the European Central Bank’s Christine Lagarde.

“Everything has to be done in accordance with international law,” Borrell told lawmakers. “Otherwise it would be double standards.”

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