Belgian Court Backs Seizure of Spanish Assets in Renewables Saga

A pro-Spain demonstrator waves a Spanish national flag during a protest for Spanish unity in Barcelona, Spain, on Sunday, Oct. 29. 2017. The ousted Catalan government dismissed Madrid's direct administrative control of the region, defiantly reaffirming its proclamation of independence, even as thousands of pro-unity demonstrators gathered in Barcelona. Photographer: Angel Garcia/Bloomberg (Angel Garcia/Bloomberg)

(Bloomberg) -- A Belgian court has approved the seizure of €32 million owed to a Spanish state-owned company as part of a long-running dispute over soured investments in renewable energy, according to a court document seen by Bloomberg. 

The decision is linked to an arbitration award won against Spain, in which the country was sentenced to pay €28 million ($30.75 million) in 2021. Spain has refused to pay the sum thus far, so the amount accumulated interest.  

The Dutch-speaking Brussels Court of Appeal authorized Blasket Renewable Investments LLC to receive over €32 million that the European Organisation for the Safety of Air Navigation (Eurocontrol) owes or will have to pay to the Kingdom of Spain, directly or indirectly through its state-owned air traffic company Enaire. 

The case is one of the legal tussles linked to the way the country shifted the goalposts for investors drawn by a 2007 pledge of incentives to spur funding for renewable energy projects. After 2011, a former People’s Party government withdrew attractive terms as it sought to rein in a fiscal deficit. Because Spain has not paid amounts due in the arbitration awards it has lost, some creditors have asked to seize or freeze commercial assets of the country or its government-owned companies. 

The Kingdom of Spain has not been notified of any attempt to seize the assets in Belgium and will oppose the Belgian court decision, a spokesperson for the Spanish Ministry for the Ecological Transition and the Demographic Challenge said. The Ministry argues that paying those awards could be against European Union law and be considered illegal State aid. A representative for Enaire didn’t reply to a request for comment. 

Legal Costs

The 26 renewable energy companies affected by the non-payments said in a statement on Wednesday that the sum of compensation, interest and legal costs currently stand around €1.8 billion. 

“The affected companies wish to reach an agreement with the government and, in line with a proposal presented last May in Madrid, have proposed a constructive solution to put an end to the litigation and to articulate the payment of the outstanding obligations,” they said in the statement. “Those affected are also open to reinvestment in Spain, provided that legal certainty is re-established.”

While the original amount of compensation for the cases amounted to €10.6 billion, the country has so far won €7.6 billion of the claims and has lost €1.5 billion, the spokesperson for the Spanish ministry said. There are another €1.5 billion pending resolution.  

Blasket Renewable Investments also won a case in the UK last year, where a court froze four bank accounts tied to Spain’s Instituto Cervantes, and it asked Spain to speed up payment of a £200 million note due in 2029 after the country failed to settle about $1.2 billion in arbitration awards related to the fight over renewables incentives, Bloomberg reported at the time. 

In August, a separate group of investors were given the right to seize property owned by the Spanish government in London’s affluent Notting Hill neighborhood. 

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