EU finally to extend sanctions on Russia despite arguments; Greece again in Europe’s spotlight

Mrs Mogherini is trying hard to convince EU Ministers of Foreign Affairs to increase sanctions against Russia at the extraordinary Foreign Affairs meeting during last Thursday's Council. Her Greek colleague, Mr Kotzias, apparently is not an easy one. Mrs Mogherini is the High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy (TVnewsroom Council, 29/01/2015)

Mrs Mogherini is trying hard to convince EU Ministers of Foreign Affairs to increase sanctions against Russia at the extraordinary Foreign Affairs meeting during last Thursday’s Council. Her Greek colleague, Mr Kotzias, apparently is not an easy one. Mrs Mogherini is the High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy (TVnewsroom Council, 29/01/2015)

The European Union Ministers of Foreign Affairs agreed to extend by six months the existing sanctions against Russia. That was the main decision taken during the Foreign Affairs Council meeting in Brussels last week, 29 January 2015, as described by an official announcement released on the same day. In the document the Council notes “evidence of continued and growing support given to the separatists by Russia”. The imposed sanctions, which now will be prolonged until September, are targeting individuals and companies in Russia and eastern Ukraine, imposing travel bans and assets freeze since last year.

The EU decided to urgently call Thursday’s meeting after the situation in the separatist area deteriorated dramatically. Days before this emergency meeting, the five-month-old ceasefire, which was signed in Minsk last September, got broken. A rocket attack in the eastern Ukrainian city of Mariupol, launched by suspected rebel forces on Saturday January 24, killed at least 30 people. Ukraine openly blamed Russia for the attack, with Moscow accusing Kiev of escalating violence and tension. Since then, there has been intensified fighting and shelling along the frontline.

The decision of extending the sanctions was broadly discussed across the EU, days before the Brussels meeting, and signs of new actions to be taken were to be found all around. German Chancellor Angela Merkel had earlier referred to the Ukrainian crisis from World Economic Forum in Davos, where she positioned herself in favour of imposing sanctions against Russia as “the only peaceful European way to react on this imminent threat”.

The run-up to the Brussels meeting was largely overshadowed by Greece though. The talks over Ukraine-Russia crisis were indeed the first major contact of the EU with Greece’s freshly elected government; a government that was chosen by people with enormous consensus on a vow to reject the austerity policy long backed by Berlin. The risk that the Ukrainian crisis could have turned into an internal EU political crisis was high. It all began last Tuesday, when the EU members warned of further sanctions against Russia through an official statement. The notice said all 28 governments agreed that Russia was responsible for the shelling in Mariupol – allegations that Russia denies – but the Greek government was the only one to speak out immediately against the statement.

Even before the real cause of the Greek “veto” became clear, there was a big concern that the Greek government would block a joint decision over new sanctions . However, the new Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias denied that his country behaved like “a bad boy”, and argued that Greece distanced itself from the EU texts because it wasn’t properly consulted, not because it didn’t like the content. “The aforementioned statement was released without the prescribed procedure to obtain consent by the member states and particularly without ensuring the consent of Greece,” the country’s government officially announced on the same day.

Mr. Kotzias explained further that the sanctions created a series of financial problems in Greece in the past, and so reportedly he maintained that “when sanctions are imposed, you must be aware of the consequences”. The Greeks were not alone while expressing discontent about new sanctions on Russia, with countries such as Italy and Austria also calling for the decision about tougher sanctions to be delayed, diplomatic sources said.

Finally the situation was resolved in the end. “In the end we managed to convince our Greek colleague to back today’s text”, Germany’s Frank-Walter Steinmeier said. EU Foreign Policy Chief Federica Mogherini also appeared relieved that Greece’s concerns had not led to a crack. “Of one thing I can be happy tonight, and that is that we kept our unity which is, as we’ve always said, our strength”, the High Representative of the EU said. “Mr. Kotzias’s attitude was extremely constructive” she added, before depicting the just-gone diplomatic accident as an “extremely positive exercise” that led to “a consensual decision, a substantial decision”.

Thursday’s meeting was a rather big test on the EU’s unity concerning the Ukrainian crisis and some mixed feelings with uncertainty became apparent. The truth is that although the bloc agreed to extend the existing sanctions against individuals and companies, they actually showed little appetite for bigger new economic sanctions on Moscow. They avoided any hint concerning “further restrictive measures”, which had been discussed largely and had appeared in a pre-meeting draft. Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias’s decision to sign the EU measure came after the bloc wasn’t imminently moving toward new economic sanctions. On the other hand, there were always countries like Britain and the Baltic states warning a clearer commitment to imposing new sanctions promptly for their own reasons of course.

Last week’s agreement left the final decision to the EU government leaders, who are due to meet on February 12. EU Foreign Ministers agreed to give a final approval of the new list at the next foreign ministers’ meeting on the 9th of February, also foreseeing the possibility of adding the names of additional people who could be targeted with sanctions. The restrictions currently affect 132 people and 28 entities.

The matter looks far from closing though, with the “Greek case” still open. Yesterday Mr. Kotzias stated that the EU must halt “spasmodic” action against Russia. He told Athens News Agency that the EU needs to “finally consider what it wants to do with Russia on a long-term basis”, instead of “reacting in a morally direct, correct, but feverish fashion”.

All in all, one of Mr. Kotzias’s statements last Thursday sounds both as the perfect recap of the current situation in the EU foreign policy thriller and the biggest wild card for the future. “I don’t know what we are going to say in future negotiations,” Mr. Kotzias stressed. “I’m not excluding anything”.

the sting Milestone

Featured Stings

Can we feed everyone without unleashing disaster? Read on

These campaigners want to give a quarter of the UK back to nature

How to build a more resilient and inclusive global system

Stopping antimicrobial resistance would cost just USD 2 per person a year

3 ways to fix the way we fund humanitarian relief

Countries must make teaching profession more financially and intellectually attractive

6 ways social innovators are responding to the COVID-19 pandemic

EU27 leaders unite on Brexit Guidelines ahead of “tough negotiations” with Theresa May

COVID-19 highlights how caregiving fuels gender inequality

Commission notifies the Republic of Panama over the need to step up action to fight against illegal fishing

Amid troop build-up in Rohingya’s home state, UN appeals to Myanmar for peaceful solution

Is it just visa-free travel that Erdogan demands from the EU to not break the migration deal?

The beginning of a revolution in healthcare

‘Multiplicity’ of rights violations in Ukraine as fifth winter of conflict bites

COVID-19: Commission presents guidelines for border measures to protect health and keep goods and essential services available

Parliament approves €34m in EU aid to Greece, Poland, Lithuania and Bulgaria

Palestinian students ‘compelled to drop dreams because of financial cuts’

How private investment can boost education access and quality in the digital economy

5 facts to know about Africa’s powerhouse – Nigeria

Parliament calls on member states to fully exploit the European Youth Guarantee

‘Power is not given, power is taken’, UN chief tells women activists, urging push-back against status quo

Mosul’s ‘3D contamination’ adds to challenges of deadly mine clearance work

Doing the right thing at the worst time: this is why protecting human rights protects businesses

COVID-19 has accelerated India’s digital reset

6th Edition of India m2m + iot Forum to open its door on 14th January, in association with The European Sting

Commission publishes EU Code of Conduct on countering illegal hate speech online continues to deliver results

Services are the hidden side of the US-China trade war

4 myths about manufacturing in the Fourth Industrial Revolution

Why protectionism spells trouble for global economic growth

Brands can be a force for good and for growth. Here’s how

Mali not fulfilling its ‘sovereign role’ in protecting its people: UN human rights expert

World Migratory Bird Day highlights deadly risks of plastic pollution

‘Are we ready for the age of disruption?’, Thailand’s Foreign Minister asks UN Assembly

This is the biggest risk we face with AI, by Google CEO Sundar Pichai

European Youth Forum welcomes the European Commission’s proposed revision of the Union Code on Visas, however it does not go far enough

State aid: Commission approves €12 million Danish scheme to compensate damages caused by cancellations of large public events due to COVID-19 outbreak

Women in Iceland have walked out of work to dispute the gender pay gap

Student Tutor Ratio: at a glance

ITU Telecom World 2017 on 25-28 September in Busan, Republic of Korea

A Sting Exclusive: the EU referendum is about fighting for an outward-looking Britain

Scientists now think air pollution is fuelling violent crime

Siemens-Alstom merger: Can Germany and France lobby to circumvent EC’s rejection, against EU consumers’ interests?

Bangladesh: Head of UN refugee agency calls on Asia-Pacific leaders to show ‘solidarity’ with Rohingya refugees

European creativity and digital economy are drowning in a copyright swamp

‘Continue working together’ UN chief urges DR Congo, as country heads to polls

MWC 2016 LIVE: CEOs issue rallying call to drive ‘gigabit economy’

What the car industry has done to help fight climate change – and what it needs to do next

Speeches of Vice Premier LIU He and Vice President of the European Commission Jyrki Katainen at the Press Conference of the Seventh China-EU High-level Economic and Trade Dialogue

Does it pay for cities to be green?

Despite lagging in the Global Goals, Africa can meet the 2030 deadline: Rwandan President

A Sting Exclusive: “Paris and beyond: EU action and what COP21 should deliver”, Green MEP Keith Taylor discusses from Brussels 

What happens when you toss your water bottle in the trash?

Keep Africa’s guns ‘from firing in the first place’, UN political chief urges

Costa Rica is one of the world’s happiest countries. Here’s what it does differently

Coronavirus COVID-19 wipes $50 billion off global exports in February alone, as IMF pledges support for vulnerable nations

Frans Timmermans on the European Green Deal as a growth strategy at the Bruegel Annual Meetings

This is what great leadership looks like in the digital age

Resolving Israel-Palestinian conflict, ‘key to sustainable peace’ in the Middle East: Guterres

Security Council marks transition from 15 years of UN peacekeeping in Haiti

EU-UK Statement following the High Level Meeting on 15 June

MWC 2016 LIVE: Ingenu steps up efforts to build LPWA networks across the globe

Trump reshapes the Middle East at the expenses of Europe

Tuesday’s Daily Brief: Hunger crisis in DR Congo, Swine Fever in Asia, Venezuela death investigation call, updates on Eritrea and Syria

The European Union continues to lead the global fight against climate change

More Stings?

Advertising

Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s