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Top Belgian lawmaker condemns EU Council over Libya payments

The Address | Benghazi – Libya

BRUSSELS – A top Belgian parliamentarian has slammed the Council of the EU for failing to explain why it told EU countries in 2011 that they are free to release interest payments from frozen Libyan funds, the POLITICO reported.

The U.N. concluded in September that Belgium had broken international sanctions by allowing interest to be paid from frozen accounts in Brussels that once belonged to Libya’s former dictator Muammar Gaddafi. The Belgian government has not been able to publicly identify the final recipients of the hundreds of millions of euros that flowed out between 2011 and 2017.

The payments are an increasing source of controversy in Belgium and Foreign Minister Didier Reynders will have to face questions on them in parliament on Friday, along with his predecessor Steven Vanackere.

Belgium’s government argues that it was allowed to make interest payments from funds under sanctions because it had received assurances from the Council of the EU’s legal service that such transfers are permissible. The Council’s legal service provides advice for the 28 member countries. Specifically, in the Libyan case, the topic was raised at a meeting of national experts called RELEX on October 20, the day that Gaddafi was killed near his home city of Sirte.

In an interview with POLITICO, Eric Van Rompuy, a lawmaker presiding over a committee looking into why Belgium released the funds, complained that the Council had failed to explain why the EU signed off on Belgium freeing the Libyan funds during a time of great instability in the country.

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