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Key facts of the case:
(Requests for preliminary rulings — Common foreign and security policy — Restrictive measures against Belarus — Freezing of funds and economic resources — Exceptions — Payment of professional fees associated with legal services — Discretion of the competent national authority — Right to effective judicial protection — Effect of unlawful origin of funds — None)
Results (sanctions) and key consequences of the case:
On those grounds, the Court (Fifth Chamber) hereby rules:
  1. Article 3(1)(b) of Council Regulation (EC) No 765/2006 of 18 May 2006 concerning restrictive measures in respect of Belarus, as amended by Council Implementing Regulation (EU) No 84/2011 of January 2011 and by Council Regulation (EU) No 588/2011 of 20 June 2011, must be interpreted as meaning that, when taking a decision on whether to grant a derogation requested under that provision with a view to bringing an action challenging the lawfulness of restrictive measures imposed by the European Union, the competent national authority does not enjoy an absolute discretion, but must exercise its powers in a manner which upholds the rights provided for in the second sentence of the second paragraph of Article 47 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union and observes the indispensable nature of legal representation in bringing such an action before the General Court of the European Union. The competent national authority may verify that the funds release of which is requested are intended exclusively for payment of reasonable professional fees and reimbursement of incurred expenses associated with the provision of legal services. It may also set the conditions it deems appropriate in order to guarantee, inter alia, that the objective of the sanction imposed is not frustrated and the derogation granted is not distorted.
  2. Article 3(1)(b) of Regulation No 765/2006, as amended by Implementing Regulation No 84/2011 and by Regulation No 588/2011, must be interpreted as meaning that, in a situation such as that of the main proceedings, in which a freezing of funds and economic resources is based on that regulation, a derogation from the freezing of funds and economic resources in order to pay for legal services must be appraised in accordance with that provision, which makes no reference to the origin of the funds or possible unlawful acquisition thereof.