Athens distances itself from EU sanctions

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras distanced himself from the joint declaration of EU heads of state and government on new sanctions against Russia on Tuesday. Greece was not consulted, Tsipras said. The country is using foreign policy to strengthen its hand in debt negotiations, some commentators believe. Others predict that Athens won't maintain its new course on Moscow for long.

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Deutschlandfunk (DE) /

Athens endangering EU's unity

The new Greek government complained on Tuesday that it wasn't included in the voting process on sanctions against Russia. The new prime minister's strategy is obvious, the public broadcaster Deutschlandfunk comments: "Tsipras's main goal is no doubt to underline his own importance for the other EU member states. And perhaps he's also hoping to use foreign policy to persuade the Euro Group to make concessions in the upcoming negotiations, the message being: you can't get along without Greece. Tsipras is thus taking a dangerous risk. The unity of the EU against Russia in the Ukraine crisis is one of the Union's biggest political successes in years. The prime minister is recklessly jeopardising that achievement."

Lidové noviny (CZ) /

Tsipras makes Putin big winner of elections

Vladimir Putin should be jubilant over new Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras's opposition to tougher sanctions for Russia, the conservative daily Lidové noviny observes and speculates on the reasons for Athens' stance: "Greece could be trying to secure a better starting position for itself in the negotiations over debt relief. Sources in Brussels say that Athens might agree to the sanctions if Germany backs down on the debt issue. Debts and sanctions may not be directly connected but they can influence each other. The pro-Russian stance of the Greek government is not so surprising on the basis of earlier statements by Tsipras. That's why the magazine Foreign Policy described Putin as the 'big winner in Greece's elections'. Only a few hours after being sworn in as prime minister Tsipras spoke to the Russian ambassador to Athens, who presented him with a congratulatory telegram from Putin."

Helsingin Sanomat (FI) /

Athens betraying common values

EU accession candidates are subject to close scrutiny and must openly espouse Europe's values. But what to do when a EU member suddenly steps out of line, the liberal daily Helsingen Sanomat asks: "Greece has put the basic values of the EU up for discussion table. The Union has taken on members that share its values and goals. Close attention is paid to who is eligible. But what to do when values change in countries that are already members? A government that shares the EU's basic values should not openly question the fact that Russia's actions must be condemned. ... Nevertheless the government led by Syriza seems to be doing just that. The EU system is vulnerable because a single country can block an agreement at a meeting of foreign ministers."

Denník N (SK) /

Moscow can't save Greece either

Alexis Tsipras is much more open than other European politicians in adopting a pro-Russian stance but sooner or later he will feel the consequences, the daily Dennik N predicts: "Unlike Viktor Orbán, Robert Fico and Miloš Zeman,Tsipras has enough backing from his voters to be able to openly do what others only say behind the scenes without taking any action. Many of our Central European politicians are not in a position to clearly say who is the aggressor in Ukraine and who bears the responsibility for the victims of the conflict. In the Czech Republic, Hungary, and also in Slovakia to a certain extent, distrust of Russia is so deep-rooted that pro-Russian politicians are forced to be coy about their support for Putin. But in the end Tsipras will face the same problem as his Central European colleagues: Russia can't replace Western investments. It doesn't have enough money to subsidise its clientele."