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Dirty little EU games with Russia and Greece? FM Kotzias in Brussels

Newly appointed Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias is due travel to to Brussels to attend the extraordinary meeting of European Union Foreign Ministers who will discuss sanctions against Russia due to escalation of the Ukraine conflict. The meeting will convene tomorrow Thursday, January 29th,  upon an invitation by EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini.
Kotzias told media that the position of the Greek government on the issue “will be democratic”, but refrained from elaborating.
The inauguration of the new Greek government was shadowed by a jointed EU statement issued by Mogherini on Tuesday leaving Greece angry for not having being consulted on the issue.
The jointed EU leaders statement
“The EU leaders voiced concern about the deteriorating security and humanitarian situation in eastern Ukraine and condemned the killing of civilians in the “indiscriminate shelling” of Mariupol.

They asked their foreign ministers to consider possible new sanctions against Russia in response although a final decision is expected to be left until a summit next month.”

An angry statement was issues by the Greek Prime Minister’s office, saying:

“In this context, we underline that it does not have our country’s consent. Dissatisfaction with the handling of this was expressed in a telephone conversation between the prime minister and the European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs Mogherini,” the statement from  PM’s office said.
Alexis Tsipras reportedly expressed his discontent to Mogherini also per phone.
Greece and Russia may have traditionally good relations, however Greece was not the only country that raised objections to the EU communique on Russia. Austria, Hungary and Slovakia have reportedly also tried to water down the wording of the alleged  jointed EU statement, but without success.
Little Dirty EU Games?
It is very interesting what EU news website reports on the joint statement drafted by the cabinet of EU Council chief Donald Tusk, a Russia-critical Pole, on Monday evening.
“His people say he phoned Tsipras and that they contacted all the capitals’ “sherpas” – senior officials dealing with EU issues in each leader’s private office.They also say no one on the Greek side voiced objections until Tuesday morning.They then suggested adding a footnote to the statement, but “as Greece did not want such a footnote, it was clear to us that we could publish the statement as agreed in the evening”.For its part, the Greek embassy to the EU is playing down the fiasco as confusion linked to the hand-over of power in Athens.

But one EU diplomat told this website Greece had tried to remove the line blaming Russia for the Mariupol killing.”

 He said Austria, Hungary, and Slovakia also tried, and failed, to “water down” the communique.” (full article EUobserver)
Alexis Tsipras won the elections on Sunday and was sworn-in as the country’s new minister on Monday afternoon. The cabinet was announced Tuesday afternoon, it was sworn-in at 5 pm.
Nikos Kotzias, 64, is the new Greek Foreign Minister.  Prior to his appointment as foreign minister he was professor of Political Theories of International and European Studies at the University of Piraeus. He is a former Communist.
According to Greek government sources,  this case confirms the malfunction of the EU institutions, and stress that both the adoption of the joint statement as well as the Eurogroup meeting the day after the elections are a test for the new government.
I wonder, whether the EU tried to take advantage of the political situation situation and play some tricky games, knowing very well the the Greek left-wing had rather friendly relations with Moscow and would be reluctant to agree to sanctions against Russia.
Especially, when everybody knows that the EU bureaucrats are awfully slow in taking decisions.
Nevertheless, Greece could block sanctions against Russia, as sanctions request unanimity among the 28 EU member-states. No wonder, an opinion article in Bloomberg claims today that Russian sanctions are now SYRIZA’s Bargain Chip.
PS It’s high time Greece’s diplomacy wakes up from the long lethargy and starts making Foreign Policy  again.

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  1. At least this is a good tactical step, and for sure, whatever we think about it and about Mr Putin, it gives Tsipras some chances – looking from pragmatic point of view. Maybe Russia will pay some money for Greece ? This is not totally unrealistic. The first time I am surprised by pragmatism of Tsipras.

  2. Brussels must have imagined that once the announcement is made, the new government would not dare to publicly object.