Judicial System of Poland

Political effort to blame for financial failure

The European Commission had started investigating violations of the rule of law in Poland, initiating infringement proceedings regarding judicial independence in the country. The Venice Commission, an advisory body to the Council of Europe, had also expressed reservations about all parts of the Polish judiciary, especially over the Polish public prosecution’s independence. Our client, the former CEO of a Polish investment bank, was caught in the middle of this battle by being at the receiving end of disproportional measures by the prosecution in Poland. The Polish government who started treating bankers in the context of the “GetBack” scandal as “banksters” created a political climate which put our client in custody without bail. Anticipating that the Polish government wanted to represent the case as an effort to protect the public by blaming the investment bankers’ business conduct, he reached out to Alber & Geiger.

Emblematic case of judicial independence failure

We approached several DGs in the European Commission and all the responsible committees in the European Parliament demonstrating that this was a practical case confirming the EU concerns stated in the infringement proceedings against Poland. We gathered thereby EU political support towards the Polish government ensuring that our client receives fair trial and proportionate treatment as to be expected from an EU member state. We did so by informing the EU institutions over the shortcomings of the legal process in Poland and the unjustifiable measures against our client, placing our case on the European Commission’s radar in the ongoing infringement proceeding against Poland and into the European Parliament’s resolution on the rule of law and democracy in Poland.

Leaving politics out of the courtroom

By introducing the Polish court case into EU politics, Alber & Geiger was able to take Polish politics out of the courtroom. The client was released from custody on bail.

Building Highway E65

Challenge

The construction of the southern section of the Central Greece motorway will improve the transport links for Greek citizens in the region, in line with EU transport policy objectives… Our decision today will allow the Greek government to support the building of this important new stretch of motorway.
Margrethe Vestager- EU Commissioner for Competition

Alber & Geiger was retained by Terna, one of the leading construction companies in Greece, who was awarded the contract to construct and operate the Greek part of the 4,400km Central Motorway (E65) connecting Malmö in Sweden to Chania in Greece. With only one section of the Greek part completed since the award of the tender in 2007, Terna relied on our support to get the approval for the southern section of the motorway that had been pending for years under the European Commission’s State aid rules.

Strategy

Alber & Geiger targeted key officials in different Directorates of the European Commission to overcome the impasse on the State aid clearance. Alber & Geiger worked in tandem with Members of the European Parliament to gain support for the completion of the remaining parts of the E65 motorway.
We attached language that emphasised the strategic European dimension of that North-South axis through the EU, an EU project that actually had been planned for decades. We also pointed out the contribution of the E65 motorway to competition and regional development. Moreover, we focused on the E65’s strategic importance for Greece, the South-East Europe region and the European transport road network, as well as its positive impact on jobs, tourism and investment.

Results

Experienced and with a good knowledge of how the European system works
Konstantinos Lamprou- Communications Director, GEK TERNA Group of Companies

Our ability to combine legal, economic, social and political arguments ensured that on 19 October 2018, the European Commission cleared the funding – under EU State aid rules – for the construction of the southern part of the E65 motorway.

Protecting American Energy Interests in the Balkans

Challenge

Alber & Geiger was retained by a US corporation specialising in power generation. Our client had purchased an important coal power plant in Bulgaria through a long-term power purchasing agreement. After Bulgaria’s accession to the EU, the client faced complaints over EU State aid. They turned to Alber & Geiger to assist in finding a solution with the Bulgarian authorities that would have the backing of the EU institutions.

Strategy

ag-wins-map-sofia-brusselsBy demonstrating the bigger picture of Bulgaria reaching out to Russian nuclear energy investments on the back of chasing out Western investors, we were able to create a strategy that targeted the European Commission and the European Parliament, dealing with energy security, environmental standards and compliance as well as the rule of law and investment protection, and shift away from a EU State aid consideration only.

Results

As a result, the European Commission opened the door to finding a solution for the client that would solve the past through a future oriented energy agreement.

Pushing Biofuels in Europe

Challenge

Agrisoma
Agrisoma
Alber & Geiger was hired by Agrisoma to promote Carinata, it’s crop designed for biofuel production, in the European Union. Our team was required to pave the way for Carinata’s classification as a feedstock for the production of advanced biofuels.

Strategy

"They dug right into a complex issue and hit the ground running. They helped provide feedback to the EU institutions to make sure we get the best policy framework."
Glenn Johnston- Executive Director Regulatory Affairs, Agrisoma
Alber & Geiger targeted key lawmakers in the European Parliament and officials in the European Commission. Presented arguments highlighted Carinata’s remarkable benefits, especially in producing high-quality and low greenhouse gas fuels. Carinata’s sustainability was emphasised during our outreach, while concerns over threatening food production and land-use were mitigated.

Results

Our direct communication with EU officials and lawmakers increased understanding of the properties and benefits of Carinata. Also, it helped create advocates for a review of the existing list of advanced biofuels, and laid the groundwork for the inclusion of all crops that fulfil the criteria, to create a level playing field.

China’s Corporate Image in Europe

Chinese Credibility Gap

Huawei
Huawei
China’s corporations and their business takeovers have instigated political fear in both the USA and the EU. The USA started banning several Chinese products from the American market under alleged security concerns. So despite adherence to EU standards and a strong commitment to Europe, Huawei was starting to have a credibility problem in the EU as well. The main concern was over the cyber security of Huawei products in Europe, and the risk posed to personal information and data. This would damage Huawei’s reputation and hamper business development in Europe. Huawei reached out to Alber & Geiger to mitigate concerns and build support in Europe.

Fend Off Reputation Damage

"Strategic, accessible and determined in promoting our legislative agenda"
Tony Graziano- Vice-President, European Public Affairs and Communications Office, Huawei
Alber & Geiger targeted key Members of the European Parliament in all relevant committees and across the political spectrum, to emphasize Huawei’s commitment to Europe, adherence to EU standards and contribution to the European economy through leading products and services, jobs creation and investments in research and development. The goal was to show to the EU law makers that there was no Chinese government involvement in Huawei’s business strategies, let alone any cyber security issue with Huawei’s devices.

ag-wins-map-china
In that context we also established an alternate strategy with the European Commission and related EU agencies to show that Huawei is fully integrated in the EU market and successful for business reasons only. By doing so, we advanced Huawei’s business interests in Europe.

Greece and the European Central Bank

Restoring investor confidence

Early in 2016 the European Central Bank’s (ECB) single supervisory mechanism decided to carry out its first audit of Greece’s four systemic banks since it was set up in 2013. Greece’s leading bank turned to Alber & Geiger for help amid shareholder complaints over irregularities during the last round of capital raising. Assistance was required to ensure a standard and short regulatory scrutiny that would have not weakened further the image and investor confidence in the bank and its management.

Pressing EU banking regulators

Alber & Geiger approached directly the European banking regulators. We emphasized the importance of having a short investigation that would not harm the image of the bank and its management. Our team pressed the European Commission to explain to the European banking regulators that the respective departments in the European Commission had cleared the alleged irregularities, which were now the focus of their investigation.

ag-wins-map-financial-crisisA&G prepared a clear and concise message addressed to EU and German lawmakers and administrations that put the spotlight on the bureaucratic approach of the European banking regulators and the implications of a lengthy investigation on the bank itself, the Greek banking sector in general and ultimately on EU taxpayers’ money. We took the message to all the lawmakers seating in the relevant committees in the German Bundestag and European Parliament to highlight our concerns with the reasons that led to the investigation in the first place and the manner how it was being carried out. Alber & Geiger underlined also the failure to look at the big picture at a time when the Greek and European financial sector desperately needed confidence. We pressed lawmakers and officials in Germany and Europe to force the European banking regulators to commit to a short investigation and put the emphasis on stability. Failure to do so would have led to economic and social instability and would have required more EU taxpayers’ money to the rescue.

Maintaining financial and social stability

Six months into the mandate, the media campaign against our client and repeated calls against its management came to a halt. We helped facilitate the exchange of views between our client and the European banking regulators at the highest political level. By doing so, we helped prevent another wave of economic instability in Greece’s largest systemic bank.

Azerbaijan and Human Rights

Alber & Geiger’s representation secures release of political prisoners

They helped us through a sensitive period navigating the political landscape in Europe.
Farhad Aliyev- Former Minister of Economic Development, Republic of Azerbaijan
On October 14, 2013, the Azerbaijani President, Ilham Aliyev, signed a pardon decree to free around 134 prisoners. Among them, Farhad and Rafig Aliyev were also finally released from prison, following an intensive lobbying campaign in Brussels and Washington DC. The European Commission and US government welcomed the pardon decree and “were encouraged by the release of Farhad and Rafig Aliyev” while at the same time “urging the Azerbaijani authorities to free more activists and journalists”. Alber & Geiger was central to their pardon and release. By combining our political and legal expertise, we reinvigorated the campaign. Clear, innovative and tailored messages were sent across several jurisdictions to key players. Good management and immaculate coordination ensured the success that culminated with their release from prison.

Promoting human rights through EU cooperation

Azerbaijan
Azerbaijan
Farhad Aliyev, the Former Minister of Economic Development in Azerbaijan, and his brother Rafig Aliyev, the former CEO of Azpetrol, were arrested and detained on the eve of parliamentary elections in October 2005, on charges of attempting a coup d’état. They were sentenced to 10 years in prison. The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled that their arrests were illegal. Farhad and Rafig Aliyev were denied rights of due process, a fair trial, adequate medical care and proper legal counsel. European and international institutions, including the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), as well as renowned human rights groups, such as Human Rights Watch (HRW), identified injustices in their cases. International recognition of the matter and the ECHR judgments did not ensure the hoped outcome. Farhad and Rafig Aliyev remained imprisoned in Azerbaijan. Azerbaijani authorities were not willing to comply with the ECHR judgments and ignored calls for their release. Through a variety of channels and tactics, they kept refusing that Farhad and Rafig Aliyev were political prisoners. Instead, Azerbaijani authorities repeated the charges of embezzlement and corruption.

Was there an additional hurdle? Europe needed to negotiate with Azerbaijan on energy. Azerbaijan was fundamental to end Europe’s over-reliance on Russian energy. With the EU political climate eager to deal with Azerbaijan, it was easy to close an eye on human rights. It also made sense to lay low on a matter that was so closely connected with the government. Our client’s pleas could have been ignored or moved down the agenda since it was not a clear-cut case of political prisoners and a matter that had received attention in the past. With the odds stacked against Farhad and Rafig Aliyev, Alber & Geiger went to work planning and executing a campaign that put the focus on making the case for Farhad and Rafig Aliyev, among numerous and competing interests and considerations. This helped secure what initially seemed impossible.

Clients at the top of the political agenda

Alber & Geiger was mandated to help Farhad and Rafig Aliyev formally organize and raise the visibility of their matter in a more substantive and sustained effort before the EU institutions and Member States governments. The ultimate objective was, of course, their release from prison.

Our message was aimed at dealing with all the concerns and competing interests. Alber & Geiger focused on restoring the image of Farhad and Rafig Aliyev. It highlighted Farhad’s record in government, particularly the reforms he undertook to bring Azerbaijan closer to Western democracy. Similarly, we shed light on Rafig’s achievements as a businessman in Azerbaijan. It also focused on making Farhad and Rafig classic cases of political prisoners. Any concerns about corruption and embezzlement were mitigated. Additionally, it clearly shed light on all the human rights violations against Farhad and Rafig Aliyev. And, finally, it called for the release of Farhad and Rafig Aliyev based on the existing cooperation mechanisms.

Legal and political arguments for maximum impact

ag-wins-map-azerbaijanOur strategy exposed the role that Farhad’s pro-Western values played in his imprisonment. We turned Farhad and Rafig Aliyev into emblematic cases of political prisoners in Azerbaijan. Several messages were delivered in a timely and efficient manner making the legal and political case for their release. The messages were tailored and adapted according to the context on which they were delivered.

Armed with the compelling facts and arguments, Alber & Geiger crafted a highly targeting advocacy campaign to inform and shape the opinions of key decision-makers in Brussels and Strasbourg. That effort was reinforced and amplified by going after the individual Member States, international specialised NGOs and various media outlets.

Alber & Geiger’s approach, understanding of the EU cooperation with Azerbaijan and legal expertise made an unlikely shift that ultimately put the focus on our clients and the spotlight on Azerbaijan’s human rights record.

Targeting The Right Audience

Our political lobbying on behalf of Farhad and Rafig Aliyev secured their release. Our messages on the evidence, reputation of the clients and the responsibility of the EU and Council of Europe to make their case emblematic and demand their release during the negotiations with Azerbaijan, reached all the important decision-makers. Many Members of the European Parliament raised concern about their imprisonment, highlighted Farhad’s record in government and urged the European Commission to call for their release.

The campaign did more than just secure the release of Farhad and Rafig Aliyev from prison. It also helped restore their image before the EU institutions and facilitate their return to the business undertakings.

Release ensured, image restored 

Farhad and Rafig Aliyev were released from prison on October 14, 2013. This was done through the prominent placement of their cases at the centre of the human rights discussions and bilateral negotiations, as well as the preparation and distribution of several policy papers. Alber & Geiger arranged for numerous parliamentary questions across the political spectrum addressed to the EU executive on the cases of Farhad and Rafig Aliyev. The President of the European Parliament wrote an appeal letter to the Azerbaijani President calling for the release of Farhad and Rafig Aliyev. And finally, the European Parliament passed a resolution “on the human rights situation in Azerbaijan”, which included Farhad and Rafig Aliyev as prominent cases.

It was our team’s unique combination of sound legal arguments and political lobbying that enabled us to achieve the desired result for Farhad and Rafig Aliyev. After our relentless lobbying work, the Aliyev brothers were both released. In Mr Farhad Aliyev’s words, „Alber & Geiger helped us through a sensitive period navigating the political landscape in Europe”.

Morocco and the Western Sahara

Alber & Geiger’s lobbying strengthens EU – Morocco relations

Kingdom of Morocco
Kingdom of Morocco
Alber & Geiger has played a key role in strengthening the bilateral relations. What started as lobbying to ease the renewal of two bilateral cooperation instruments quickly transformed into a political lobbying to eliminate the political impasse. Alber & Geiger helped improve Morocco’s strategic position in relation to Europe. Former Commissioner Füle acknowledged the EU-Morocco relation as the “terms of reference” in the southern neighbourhood.

The dispute that threatened bilateral relations

Valuable EU support and advise.
H.E. Menouar Alem- Ambassador to the EU, Kingdom of Morocco
Alber & Geiger had to emphasize to the European institutions the strategic importance of Morocco in the southern neighbourhood. The progress made between the EU and Morocco over the last two decades was truly impressive. The Agricultural Agreement and Fisheries Partnership Agreement – the two contentious areas – needed to build on that progress instead of compromising it.

The EU-Morocco relationship is a ‘success-story’ in the region.
Stefan Füle- Former EU Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy
Morocco had an image problem with regard to Western Sahara. It was viewed as the occupier of Western Sahara that was unscrupulously using the natural resources of the invaded territory to the disadvantage of the Saharawi people. For this reason, several Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) had demanded that the EU use the political clout and resources to bring the Agriculture Agreement and the Fisheries Partnership Agreement to an end with Morocco. This movement culminated in a resolution on the “Situation in the Western Sahara,” condemning the actions of the Kingdom of Morocco in the region. This was not the sort of image Morocco wanted to have in the EU.

Agriculture and fisheries agreements at risk 

EU/Morocco and the Western Sahara: renewal of the Agricultural Agreement and Fisheries Partnership AgreementThe goal of our lobbying was simple: renewal of the Agricultural Agreement and Fisheries Partnership Agreement to stress that the EU-Morocco cooperation instruments could not be jeopardised by political interests.

Our message was complete with regard to every detail. It made the case to put the process back on track for the approval of the Agricultural Agreement and Fisheries Partnership Agreement. It emphasized the benefits of the two agreements for the actual integration of Morocco into the EU economic and social area. It eliminated any concern about the funds’ end receivers by providing factual evidence that the income generated was being used to the advantage of the Saharawi people. And, finally, it stressed Morocco’s strategic importance in the region and made the case for finding a long and lasting international solution to the Western Sahara conflict.

The necessary message to the relevant decision-makers

ag-wins-map-moroccoOur strategy made use of several dynamics over the course of the representation. Alber & Geiger compiled and delivered a series of detailed, tailor made messages on specific technical issues regarding the Agricultural Agreement and Fisheries Partnership Agreement. Detailed fisheries, agricultural and environmental arguments were advanced with the relevant European Commission and Council officials, as well as MEPs in the involved Committees, to tackle all the concerns of a technical nature.

The co-ordinated multi-faceted approach also involved an appeal to specific Member States and organisational interests in fishing and agriculture sector. These parties were encouraged to help improve the media image of the agreement.

Alber & Geiger’s analytical competence allowed it to create an effective narrative for the agreements legality under public international law. This argument was subsumed into our broader narrative that the agreement would enhance the region’s stability in the aftermath of the Arab Spring and benefit the local population.

Partnerships renewed, regional status elevated

EU/Morocco and the Western Sahara: renewal of the Agricultural Agreement and Fisheries Partnership AgreementBy any measure, the work on behalf of Morocco was a success. Our messages about the benefits of the agreements, the strategic importance of the EU-Morocco relations, and the need to find a lasting solution to the Western Sahara conflict with the international community, reached all the key decision makers. Several MEPs decided to speak out in support of the agreements and stress Morocco’s vital role in the region.

Our lobbying with the EU institutions did more than pave the way for the approval of the Agriculture Agreement and the Fisheries Partnership Agreement. Alber & Geiger had to tread lightly and optimise all its knowledge, skills and multi-professional techniques to not only save the talks, but also reinforce Morocco’s relations with all the EU institutions, including the European Parliament.

Political Opposition in Iran

Promoting the programme and leadership of opposition parties

Council for a Democratic Iran (CDI)
Council for a Democratic Iran (CDI)
We were hired by the Council for a Democratic Iran (CDI) to raise political awareness and build support for the CDI before the EU. The hurdle here was to promote the very specific foreign policy position of the CDI, with the Member States governments, with conflicting positions on Iran. The subtle CDI policy locus fell in between confrontation and accommodation. This had to be done in a universal, politically neutral manner.

Connecting with the relevant stakeholders

ag-wins-map-iranThe strategy relied on a data collection and dissemination process based on our distinct EU lobbying infrastructure. We gathered a detailed pool of information from a holistic range of institutional, local, NGO and inter-governmental sources. Subsequently our team translated the data to be compatible with the policy structures of the EU institutions. We tailored the message to different audience catchments of Member States. Overall the strategy outlined an accurate overview of the scale of repression and human rights violations in Iran. Concurrently it promoted positive transnational tools to tangibly shape policy accordingly.

Ensuring better communication and awareness

CDI’s message was successfully transplanted into the divergent attitudes of the EU Member States and EU institutions. We helped CDI contribute to greater coherence in the perception of Iranian politics and policies. Ultimately we prevented the subtleties of diplomacy from concealing the human rights violations in Iran. This created a context for more constructive and bold communications from media outlets and government officials with respect to the repressive actions.

Slot Machines and Gambling Bans

Protecting gaming industry via EU law

Gauselmann Group
Gauselmann Group
The Gauselmann Group, one of the largest producers and operators of games of chance in Europe, called on Alber & Geiger when faced with a number of threatening gambling regulations in several Member States – the impact of which would have been devastating. Alber & Geiger had to convince the European Commission to make a counterintuitive political risk in confronting a powerful Member State, Germany. The precariousness of EU competence over gambling law, when compared to the centuries of incrementally developed German gambling norms, would have stalled most legal professionals. We had to fill in the gaps of the law and concurrently convince the European Commission that our interpretation would stand up to CJEU scrutiny. Also, on behalf of the Gauselmann Group, we were called upon to limit and remove the effects of the legislation on the prevention of the use of the financial system for the purpose of money laundering or terrorist financing on legitimate gambling activity. In addition, we were tasked with similar national Member States’ gambling laws and their potential breach of EU law, namely in Austria, Hungary, Netherlands, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia and the Czech Republic.

EU competence and national gambling laws

ag-wins-map-gambling-industryGiven the limited scope of directly ascertainable EU competence, the strategy had to delve deeply into the substantive legal framework underlying EU competence and gambling law. It employed an abstracted analytical formula to show that the various regulations were legally incoherent. It demonstrated that the laws of the Member States contradicted their own main goals on a substantive level. It utilized the jurisprudential architecture of the CJEU in lieu of their crystallization. The multifaceted strategy also incorporated an economic dimension. It showed the long-term macro-consequences of the legal uncertainty and incoherence, caused by the indefinite prolonging of the ‘Gentlemen’s Agreement’ with Germany. Concurrently, the same technique allowed us to demonstrate that the money laundering directive could not arbitrarily encompass all the gambling operators without distinction of risk volume and activity. On both front we showed that private gambling halls and gambling machines should not be singled out.

Upholding the internal market rules

Sophisticated EU Lobbyists
Meik Sellenriek- CFO & Managing Director at Merkur Casinos, Gauselmann Group
Ultimately, we managed to convince the European Commission to act. Its omission to launch infringement proceedings had been rebuked. Alber & Geiger was able to safeguard fundamental liberties and freedoms by bringing EU instruments into a new field and challenging archaic but powerful structures. We were also able to hold the scope of the money laundering directive back, establishing a distinction between casinos and other gambling operators. The fluidity of Alber & Geiger’s grasp of CJEU methodology and its jurisprudential entrepreneurship allowed it to reconstitute a fair balance in the internal market.