Thursday

20th Feb 2020

Greece says No to EU statement on Russia

  • Tsipras - one EU diplomat said he tried to water down the EU text (Photo: europarl.europa.eu)

The new far-left government in Greece dropped a bombshell on its first day in office by abjuring an EU statement on Russia.

It said in a press communique on Tuesday (27 January): “the aforementioned statement was released without the prescribed procedure to obtain consent by the member states and particularly without ensuring the consent of Greece”.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or join as a group

“In this context, it is underlined that Greece does not consent to this statement”.

It added that its new PM, Alexis Tsipras, expressed “discontent” in a phone call to EU foreign relations chief Federica Mogherini.

The EU statement on Russia, published on Tuesday morning, claimed all 28 leaders had agreed Russia bears “responsibility” for a rocket attack on the Ukrainian city of Mariupol, which killed 30 people.

It also called on foreign ministers to “consider any appropriate action” - further sanctions on Russia.

It was 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”.

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 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.

An EU Council official noted that the situation - a retroactive abjuration of an EU text - has “never happened before”.

“I guess this means it’s now a statement of 27 EU heads of state or government instead of 28 and we will have to add the footnote”, he said.

“But it’s not a legally binding document anyway, so it doesn’t become invalid in that sense”.

Fellow traveller?

Tsipras had earlier attracted comment for meeting with the Russian ambassador to Greece on Monday, a few hours after being named PM.

The Russian diplomat hand-delivered a telegram from president Vladimir Putin, saying Putin “is confident that Russia and Greece will continue to develop their traditionally constructive co-operation”.

It is part of normal protocol, with China following suit on Tuesday.

But the EU bombshell and the Russian meeting come in the context of Tsipras’ pro-Russia track record.

He visited Moscow last May to meet with Russian MPs and Putin associates.

He voiced support, at the time, for Crimea’s “referendum” on independence. He said the EU “is shooting itself in the foot” by imposing sanctions and complained that the pro-EU government in Kiev contains “neo-Nazis”.

His MEPs have voted against almost every Russia-critical act or resolution in the European Parliament.

The list includes EP ratification of the EU-Ukraine association pact, criticism of Russia’s crackdown on Memorial (an NGO), and criticism of the annexation of Crimea.

EU ministers to expand Russia blacklist

EU foreign ministers are keen to add names to the Russia blacklist and to launch counter-propaganda measures, according to draft conclusions seen by EUobserver.

Analysis

Who's next on the EU's Russia blacklist?

The EU’s next round of Russia sanctions is to be limited to blacklisting more names, with diplomats and kremlinologists helping EUobserver to identify potential targets.

News in Brief

  1. EU unveils white paper on AI and data strategy
  2. Dutch court rules against Russia in €46bn Yukos case
  3. Britain to bar 'Polish plumber-type' migrants
  4. Greece seeks EU help to get back classical statues from UK
  5. HSBC to cut 35,000 jobs worldwide
  6. Regions chief appeals against cutting EU cohesion funds
  7. Verhofstadt criticises UK Brexit negotiator
  8. Turkish court acquits Gezi park activists

Opinion

Trump's 'plan' for Israel will go against EU values

As someone who has been personally targeted by Benjamin Netanyahu's incitement against Arabs and Palestinians, Christians, Muslims and Druze, I still believe that peace is possible. But Donald Trump's 'plan' will be a gift to Netanyahu's campaign.

China spy suspect worked for EU for 30 years

The former EU ambassador suspected by German prosecutors of spying for China was Gerhard Sabathil, according to EU officials speaking on condition of anonymity.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersScottish parliament seeks closer collaboration with the Nordic Council
  2. UNESDAFrom Linear to Circular – check out UNESDA's new blog
  3. Nordic Council of Ministers40 years of experience have proven its point: Sustainable financing actually works
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Baltic ministers paving the way for 5G in the region
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersEarmarked paternity leave – an effective way to change norms
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Climate Action Weeks in December

Latest News

  1. EU leaders face major clash on rule of law budget link
  2. North Macedonia warns EU on 'dirtiest ever' election
  3. Western 'endarkenment' and the voodoo politics of Europe
  4. Warning of agricultural 'digital arms race' in EU
  5. Cayman Islands put on tax-haven blacklist after Brexit
  6. Boris' Brexit bluff? - UK will resist alignment to the end
  7. US still open to Kosovo-Serbia land swap
  8. EU countries enter final phase of budget talks

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us