Diplomatic sources respond to a Wall Street Journal report that Greece refuted pressure from Washington and European partners last month and vetoed an EU decision to renew sanctions against the largest bank in Iran, Saderat Bank.
According to a front-page story in the online edition of the WSJ, the decision was made by senior officials of the Alexis Tsipras government, as Greek and European officials mentioned, since Athens seeks to rebuild close economic ties with Iran following the historic agreement of July 2015 on the Teheran nuclear program.
As the American newspaper notes, “this move is potentially dangerous for Greece that will host US President Barack Obama this month”.
In relation to what was stated in a report in the Wall Street Journal on Greece’s stance on the issue of the renewal of the inclusion of the Iranian bank, Saderat, in a list of sanctions, diplomatic sources mention the following:
The rule of law applies in Greece, an EU member-state that ought also to act as a community of law. Greece defends the rule of law in a fragile region where there is unrest, conflict and illegal activity.
The Court decision against the European Council that judged – at first instance in May 2013 and at second instance last April – the sanctions against Saderat bank to be illegal, was not the decision of a national court, nor an Iranian court or a neutral court. It was the decision of a European court, the European Court of Justice. If we, as the EU, do not enforce judicial decisions, how will we convince the world that we respect the rule of law and that we do not apply double standards?
In April 2016 Greece had objected to the automatic renewal of sanctions for eight years and suggested, as a compromise that was adopted, the inclusion of the bank for six months so that the Council does not pre-empt the Court and so there is time to study the ruling. Greece argued in the Council last October that we cannot include anyone in sanctions lists without a presumption for entry. Meanwhile, we had requested on our part to receive evidence justifying the renewal of the inclusion.
Once, following April 2016, there were not any more data to justify the inclusion, how could the re-entry of the bank in the sanctions list be conceivable? So, in the absence of new evidence against the bank we did not provide concession in the October Council meeting for the renewal of sanctions, as this would be contrary to our principles.
Note that a compensation claim by the bank against the Council is pending because of the legally unfounded sanctions. Council member-states whose banks hold Iranian deposits are indifferent to the enforcement of the Court decision because they will lose deposits. But states such as Greece whose banks have negligible such deposits, were interested in obtaining guarantees –which were not provided – that the EU would pay future damages, because of course the non-implementation of the judgment would not only contradict the rule of law, but it would result in fresh claims of compensation against the Council member-states, therefore against Greece.
Finally, in reference to malicious comments about the country’s stance towards Iran, we categorically stress that Greece supports and respects the whole agreement on the Iranian nuclear program and does not in any way undermine it. In contrast, it promotes the implementation of the whole agreement with respect to the principles of law, signaling to all that it implements agreements fairly.
In conclusion, in the absence of new evidence at the expense of the bank, the renewal of sanctions was not legally permissible, as this would be contrary to our principles, our values and the western legal culture that obliges us to respect Court decisions and not revert to double standards. We either are a community of law as a European Union or we aren’t./ΙΒΝΑ