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EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice President of the European Commission
Remarks by EU Commissioner Štefan Füle on behalf of HRVP Catherine Ashton on asset recovery
22 May 2013
President, honourable Members,
During the Arab Spring, the European Union froze the assets of senior figures from the former Tunisian, Egyptian and Libyan regimes.
Today, as everyone who travels to the region can attest, the return of misappropriated and frozen assets is of great political importance. For the people of Tunisia, Egypt and Libya this is a matter of justice and dignity. They want an end to the impunity and corruption of the past; they want the misappropriated assets to be returned and invested in their countries.
Although the competence of the European Union is limited in this matter, it is a priority for the High Representative and for me. Let me highlight some of the actions taken over the last few months:
We have renewed our sanctions for a further 12 months to give Egypt, Tunisia and Libya time to achieve the return of assets.
We have modified our sanctions legislation to ensure that information sharing on assets can be facilitated.
We have simplified the process for transferring assets to Tunisian, Egyptian and Libyan authorities once a judgment is obtained.
We co-organised an expert seminar bringing together members of the Tunisian judiciary, international organisations and the Member States which allowed our Tunisian colleagues to improve their expertise and rethink their asset recovery strategy.
As part of the follow up to the European Union-Egypt Task force, we are developing a roadmap for asset recovery.
We also use the European Union’s influence to raise the profile of this issue. Internally, we have addressed asset recovery in the Council and in several meetings and events organised with the Parliament. Externally, we have raised asset recovery at the G-8’s Deauville Partnership.
Unfortunately, despite our efforts, progress on asset recovery has not been what we hoped for. The political will is there. But the ownership of these assets has been deliberately obscured, and judicial procedures must be followed. Therefore, the frozen assets cannot just be released overnight.
Ownership must rightfully be transferred to the new state structures. This is a complex legal process which must be resolved bilaterally between Tunisia, Egypt and Libya and the individual European Union Member States concerned. The European Union is ready to facilitate this process as much as our competences allow.
We must not use complexity as an excuse for delay. However, due process must be respected while we all work together. The European Union will continue to work with our partners, Member States and international organisations to accelerate the process so that the money returns where it belongs.