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29/01- Greece could veto the new round of sanctions


European media widely report that the newly elected Greek Prime Minister, Alexis Tsipras, provoked the first diplomatic stand-off with the European Union by criticising the joint-communiqué, stating that is was issued without observing the correct procedure to get Greece’s support. All Greek media report that the European Council Presidency and the Greek government gave two different versions of the conflict.

Kathimerini in Greece reports that Mr Tsipras actually asked for more time to examine this issue, but that the statement was published after all, before he gave his opinion. According to Mr Tusk’s cabinet, Greece did not express any objections before Tuesday morning, Greek and Finnish media write.

Today, the European Union’s 28 Ministers of Foreign Affairs will meet for an emergency session in Brussels to discuss the escalation of violence in Ukraine and new sanctions against Moscow. Most media report that the EU’s propositions to sanction Russia are modest: adding 132 individuals to the blacklist and extend by six month the previous sanctions. But most European Media also report that all punishments must be agreed unanimously, and Athens has a veto, which it is very likely to use. The Times and Imerisia in Greece, add that Cyprus, Hungary, and Slovakia, could also use their veto.

Phileleftheros in Cyprus reports that Nicosia was also very displeased by the fact that European Council President Donald Tusk made his announcement without consulting member states and by the new round of sanctions. Nevertheless, Greek media unveil that sources from the newly elected government did not confirm that Greece was planning to veto the sanctions against Russia.

Corriere della Sera in Italia writes that Mr Putin could offer financial support to Greece in exchange for a softer stance on sanctions. Eesti Päevaleht in Estonia and De Telegraaf in Netherlands even write Greece will take a more “pro-Russian” stance. The Times recalls that last year, Mr Tsipras opposed sanctions, stating that Europe was “shooting itself in the foot.” Corriere della Sera reports that EU HR Federica Mogherini is still in favour of reduced sanctions. The director of the EU Eastern Neighbourhood and Russia Research programme, Arkady Moshes, states that the EU made a mistake by creating the impression in January that it might be willing to ease its sanctions against Russia, maintaining that this might have contributed to the expansion of hostilities in eastern Ukraine, HS in Finland reports.

The Austrian daily Kurier comments that the EU member states have lost their unity in the power struggle with Russia. In an interview with Die Welt in Germany, Latvian Minister of Foreign Affairs Edgars Rinkēvičs that Europe must stay united, and states that there can be no return to normalcy between Europe and Russia as long as the Crimea remains under Russian control. In an Interview with ZDF, Sigmar Gabriel also maintains that Europe must stay united, and claims that Europe must not give up on Russia and continue to attempt peace negotiations. He also announces he is against the implementation of a new round of sanctions.

Russian media welcome the reaction of Greece, noting that Greece taught Brussels a lesson in democracy. Polish media write that Greece’s protest against sanctions might aim at blackmailing the European Union so as to obtain remittance of part of its debt. The Financial Times and International New York Times report on other kinds of help Europe and the United States can provide to Ukraine. Since hundreds of pieces of military equipment crossed the untended Russia-Ukraine border this year, ending into the hands of the separatists, the US and the EU opened the debate on arming Ukrainian military.

The EU and US must also intensify their financial assistance to the Kiev government. The daily adds that Mr Putin’s behaviour suggests the Russian leader will not contemplate a political solution of any kind unless he calculates that the costs of continuing this conflict are too high. Handelsblatt’s Mathias Brüggmann writes that the financial supports promised by Angela Merkel and US President Barack Obama are sending the right signal. But they must be used to support the economy and reforms and not to buy more weaponry. Latvian media write that Europe is still discussing the next tranche of financial aid for Ukraine. The EU will send an additional €1.8 billion, divided into three tranches. The first tranche will be allocated by mid-2015. ©EuropeanUnion2015

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