It was a confusing day for Europe, for the new Greek foreign minister, and now for Greece's new finance minister who hours ago posted a question on his blog to the world's journalists:
A question of respect (or lack thereof)… – the Greek veto over Russia that never was
On the first day in our ministries, the power of the media to distort hit me again. The world’s press was full of reports on how the SYRIZA government’s first foreign policy ‘move’ was to veto fresh sanctions on Russia. Now, I am not qualified to speak on foreign affairs but, nonetheless, I must share this with you at a personal level. Our Foreign Minister, Nikos Kotzias, briefed us that on his first day at the job he heard in the news bulletins that the EU had approved new sanctions on Russia unanimously. The problem was that he, and the new Greek government, were never asked! So, clearly, the issue was not whether our new government agrees or not with fresh sanctions on Russia. The issue is whether our view can be taken for granted without even being told of what it is! From my perspective, even though (let me state it again) I am certainly not qualified to speak on foreign affairs, this is all about a question of respect for our national sovereignty. Could journalists the world over try to draw this important distinction between protesting our being neglected from protesting the sanctions themselves? Or is this too complicated?
All fair questions. And then at almost the same time we read the following, first from Bloomberg:
- EU DECISION ON RUSSIA SANCTIONS WAS UNANIMOUS, MOGHERINI SAYS
And then from Reuters:
European Union foreign ministers extended existing sanctions against Russia on Thursday, holding off on tighter economic measures for now but winning the support of the new left-leaning government of Greece, whose position had been in doubt.
The run-up to the Brussels talks was dominated by Greece, whose new prime minister, Alexis Tsipras, took power on Monday and complained that his government had not been consulted before tighter sanctions were threatened. But at the meeting, colleagues said new foreign minister Nikos Kotzias had swiftly dispelled suggestions that Greece would automatically torpedo any sanctions effort.
According to Italy's foreign minister, Kotzias announced to the meeting: "I am not a Russian puppet."
It appears Greece was consulted after all:
While the Greeks did call for the decision on tighter sanctions to be delayed, they were not alone: other countries such as Italy and Austria also favored a delay, diplomats said, while Britain and the Baltic states wanted a clearer commitment to imposing new sanctions quickly. "We are not against every sanction," Kotzias said later. "We are in the mainstream, we are not the bad boys."
And even Germany is now "less concerned"
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier expressed frustration with the ambiguity of the Greek position before the talks: "It is no secret that the new stance of the Greek government has not made today's debate any easier," he said. After he met Kotzias in private, German officials said he was less concerned.
So following all this, we too have a few questions of our own: i) was or wasn't Greece consulted; ii) if yes, did Greece agree to join the unanimous European statement while declaring it is "not a Russian puppet"; and finally iii) while Greece may not be a Russian puppet, is Greece still a European puppet?