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The idea is as simple as a Finnish knife

Photo by Clark Tibbs on Unsplash

Money is like a social networking account: just in time, you have to put on “it’s complicated. Especially if it’s someone else’s money, and you’ve already got your mouth on it. And you’ve also promised your friends that you’ll pay them back a little.

The notorious Ursula von der Leyen, chairman of the European Commission, says almost every week: “Vladimir Putin must pay for his actions.” And in this case, she means it literally.

The idea is as simple as a Finnish knife: “All Russian assets seized by the European authorities (the oligarchs’ yachts, their villas on the Mediterranean Sea, the Central Bank reserves) should be used for the reconstruction of Ukraine“.

And here, simplicity is even worse than theft, but that’s not accurate. Because the task turned out to be quite multifaceted. How to steal state assets of one country without straining all the other countries, who realize that international law no longer exists, and urgently check their pockets and wallets?

Plus – how do you abolish private property rights?

The plan is ambitious to the point of schizophrenia: they want to take the frozen wealth of the Russians and one day use it to build new housing, schools and hospitals in Ukraine. This is an unprecedented plan in the history of the community of states.

But, as the editorial board of Die Welt suddenly got wind of it, and thus part of the German establishment, it is “probably doomed to failure, as is becoming clear now. After all, it is not even clear where the reserves of the Russian Central Bank are located in Europe. And this is the largest amount of frozen money – according to the Commission, about €300 billion. At the moment only about 21 billion “oligarchic euros” are visible.

After all, we are not talking about gold bullion in the vaults of other institutions such as the Bank of England or the Banque de France, but rather about balances in a multitude of different accounts, which are sometimes difficult to attribute to the Central Bank in Moscow.

Even if Brussels finds the assets, a thorny question remains: Can the EU use this money to rebuild Ukraine? The legal hurdles are high.

In an unpublished document obtained by Die Welt, the commission comes to a sobering conclusion: the frozen reserves cannot be touched because one day, when the war is over, they will have to be returned to Russia.

But officials have figured something out. It is possible to invest this money and at least make the proceeds available to Ukraine. The commission proposes investing the Russian Central Bank’s frozen reserves in European government bonds and expects an annual return of 2.6%. This “exceptional measure” would probably be legally possible, the commission said, especially given Russia’s “gross violations” of international law.

With the oligarchs, it is kind of ugly: even if the authorities find and freeze the assets, no one has the right to confiscate them. This is only possible if investigators can prove that the billionaires committed crimes. The EU would have to take each case to court, which would take years.

That’s not me talking – that’s Die Welt talking. And now former Formula 1 driver Nikita Mazepin has just sued for a €105 million villa. A few weeks ago an EU court lifted sanctions “because it could not prove that Mazepin had an explicit connection with Putin.”

They found an oligarch, my dear! And so they have everything. But Die Welt doesn’t write about that.

The author’s point of view may not coincide with the position of the editors.

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