France’s warship volte-face raises legal questions

David MonniauxHere is my latest piece published on the IBA Global Insight newsfeed:

As Western sanctions against Russia stepped up a further gear last week, a contractual dispute brewing between France and Russia threatens to have legal and economic ramifications.

It all started back in 2011 when Russia commissioned France to build two Mistral navy assault ships (bâtiment de projection et de commandement, or BPCs) for a cost of €1.2 billion. However, in recent months France’s participation in the venture has been brought under increasing scrutiny amid growing tensions over Russia’s continued involvement in the unrest in eastern Ukraine.

The French government initially resisted pressure to halt the delivery, saying it would respect the existing contract.

Despite this unwillingness to budge, the mood suddenly changed on the eve of the NATO summit in Wales on 3 September, when France announced it would suspend delivery of the two ships due to concerns over the ongoing unrest, saying in a statement:

‘The recent actions of Russia in the east of Ukraine violate basic security in Europe. The President…has found that, despite the prospect of a ceasefire, which has yet to be confirmed and implemented, the conditions for France to authorise the delivery of the first BPCs are not in place.’

Published on 19-09-14. Read on here

Better together? Ukraine and Russia’s contrasting trade alliances

Ukraine Photo Ivan BanduraHere is my latest column for IBA Global Insight:

After months that have seen widespread demonstrations, bloodshed, Russia’s annexation of Crimea, snap elections and ongoing turmoil in Ukraine, it is easy to forget that it was the decision by former President Viktor Yanukovych to pull out of a much-anticipated trade pact with the European Union that sparked the protests in the first place.

Wind on nine months and the EU has signed an association agreement with Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova. Russia has also forged ahead with expanding its own trade relationships and signed the Eurasian Economic Union (EaEU) with Belarus and Kazakhstan. As the fallout from the tragic downing of flight MH17 over Ukraine on 17 July continues and relations across the EU and beyond become increasingly strained, the question remains: is it always better, together?

Lourdes Catrain, Vice-Chair of the IBA International Trade and Customs Law Committee and director of Hogan Lovells’ European international trade and investment group, believes the June association agreement signed between the EU and Ukraine is a significant step for European trade relations. ‘It’s important to remember that it was the proposed Ukrainian association agreement with the EU that triggered the Russia-Ukraine crisis, and which shows that Ukraine has made a strong bet for the EU,’ she says.

‘The association agreement with the EU shows that at least, a very large part of the population in Ukraine is prepared to follow the EU. Given the size of Ukraine that’s an important message. [Although] Georgia and Moldova have much smaller economies, it’s significant that the three of them have joined what could become a very deep association with the EU.’

Published on 04-08-14. Read on here

Five key takeaways on Russia’s relations with the West

Here’s my latest blog for Huffington Post UK:

After months of fraught relations between Russia and the West which have seen a flurry of tit-for-tat sanctions triggered by the growing unrest in Ukraine, the final straw seemed to come with the suspected downing on 17 July of flight MH17 over Ukraine by pro-Russian separatists.

Under growing international pressure to act, on 29 July the EU finally confirmed it was imposing ‘stage three’ sanctions against Russia. Here are the five key takeaways on Russian relations with the West in recent weeks:

1. Press reaction to MH17 disaster – differing views

Many of the European, American and Asian newspapers led with the story:

Guardian front pageAlthough as UK broadsheet The Guardian was quick to point out, many Russian newspapers relegated news of the accident to the bottom of the page:

Rossiskaya GazetaAlthough pro-Kremlin Russian tabloid Tvoi Den did lead with a more dramatic image, the caption told a startlingly different story: Donetsk People’s Republic Authorities Claim Plane Destroyed by a Ukrainian Buk Missile:

Tvoi Den front pageReflecting the shockwaves felt across the Netherlands, which suffered the most losses, Dutch daily nrc•next was noticeably more reserved: Last night in eastern Ukraine, a plane crashed. On board were 300 people, 154 of them were Dutch:

nrc.nextPublished on 01-08-14. Read on here

Russia’s WTO accession brings hope of reform

Here is my latest piece published in the IBA Global Insight newsfeed:

In December 2011 Russia’s entry to the World Trade Organization (WTO) was approved, after 18 years of hard-fought negotiations. Although the country has been close to entry several times in the past, obstacles had always arisen. In 2008, the war between Russia and Georgia’s breakaway republic of South Ossetia caused Georgia, an existing WTO member, to block Russia’s entry. After a Swiss-brokered deal late last year, however, Russia was finally accepted, and the country became the 156th member of the trade body on 22 August 2012.

Negotiating Russia’s accession to the WTO has by no means been a simple process, notes Salans partner Edward Borovikov, who has been one of the primary lawyers advising the Russian government on joining the WTO since the early 1990s.

Published on 11-09-12. Read on here

Russian elections: Putin again despite the protests

Here is my latest piece published in the IBA Global Insight newsfeed:

Scenes of protests wracked the streets of Moscow in December 2011 following widespread public outcry over alleged voting fraud in Russia’s parliamentary elections.

More protests followed in the run-up to the elections in March this year but Vladimir Putin finally emerged triumphant with an estimated 64 per cent of the vote.

While the West may remain sceptical of Putin’s intentions during his third term as president, a number of Russians believe his tenure will see a continuing focus on boosting the country’s economy, particularly in relation to the oil and gas sector.

Published on 29-03-12. Read on here

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