Monday

18th Feb 2019

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”.

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“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.

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