Athens, April 28, 2016/ Independent Balkan News Agency
By Spiros Sideris
Producing foreign policy, especially in a period of geopolitical changes and powerful crises, if not impossible is at least very difficult. And it becomes even more difficult for country like Greece to produce policy, which was located on the fringe of developments, trapped and “scared” by the economic crisis plaguing the country in recent seven years.
Upon the formation of the Syriza – ANEL coalition government, and the appointment of Nikos Kotzias as Foreign Minister, the wind change in Greek foreign policy was evident from the very beginning. The Foreign Ministry’s reaction to the EU’s decision on new sanctions on Russia, without the consent of Greece, caused various comments. Most were negative and spoke of changing alliances of Greece and other imaginative things, which put Greece in danger. Of course, the proposal of the Greek diplomacy was approved in the end and there that an initial vindication.
Of course the war against the Foreign Ministry continued, with the visit of General Secretary Giorgos Tsipras to Iran and the visit of the Iranian Foreign Minister to Athens. Obviously, the proactive and multidimensional foreign policy is not understood by some or they do not want to understand it for their own reasons.
And it isn’t only inside Greece that it isn’t understood that diplomacy is primarily negotiation, but also in the European Union foreign policy has preconceptions and obsessions, which do not work for the greater good, which is what it all should be about.
A very interesting story which is unknown to the general public, about how the EU, but also how a country like Greece, can influence things for the – national and European – benefit unfolded in recent weeks in the community labyrinth of Brussels and Luxembourg.
The story is about one of the major Iranian banks, Saderat. The Bank had been included for years on the list of EU sanctions against Iran. Saderat was vindicated by the EU General Court via a decision canceling its inclusion in the sanctions list. The final decision on the ratification of this decision was expected in late April by the EU Court, on the appeal that had been filed against the judgment of the General Court.
The Council of EU Ministers, instead of waiting for the judgment, tried from January 2016 to place Saderat in a new list of sanctions until 2023! And all this while the prospect of the lifting of Western sanctions on Iran was already clearly looming.
Athens spoke common sense on a subject that combined international-political developments, European and national interests as well as the proper functioning of the EU, pointing out that such a decision of the Council will preempt and “cancel out” the Court. So, it counter-proposed the inclusion of the Iranian bank in the list of sanctions for a few months, to allow for the judgement to follow and sufficient time to study the court ruling.
What was the result? Partners realized that Greece was right and the Greek proposal was adopted with Athens convincingly arguing that the EU cannot operate with vested reflexes and no critical thinking.
The complete vindication of the Greek and European stance came on April 21, when the EU Court dismissed the appeal against the General Court decision, claiming no less, that the Council did not provide justification for the inclusion of Saderat on the sanctions list.
In other words, the Greek stance not only protected the national and European interests and served the European principles of law, but it also saved the Council of EU Ministers from a grand blunder.
Serving the national interests in the European Union requires mastery. Obviously, you should not be taken for granted, and your positions must combine national interests with the European spirit and common sense. And it is encouraging when we learn that this is being achieved.