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Greece - Foreign Relations - Syriza

The leftist Syriza-led government in Greece shattered the European Union's fragile opposition to Russian aggression in Ukraine. The EU failed 28 January 2015 to reach consensus on new sanctions targeting Russia for its role in the Ukraine crisis and the extension of current sanctions due to objections from Greece. Consensus among all EU member states is necessary to approve new sanctions or to extend the current ones.

Russian-Greek relations under the center-right Karamanlis-led government [2004-2009] had been relatively good but relatons under Syriza would be much more friendly. Orthodox Christianity has historically united Greeks and Russians. Greece is a soft target for Russian diplomatic initiatives. Some Greeks argued that the West should not "isolate" Russia and that Greece had a role to play as a "bridge" between Moscow and the West. The socialist PASOK government's foreign policy priorities largely tracked with those of center-right New Democracy - and the broad outlines of Greece's strategic interests didn't change. Cyprus, Greece-Turkey differences in the Aegean, and the Macedonia name issue all featured prominently.

New Democracy's Kostas Karamanlis leaned toward Russia. Karamanlis was committed to closer energy relations with Russia. Karamanlis followed a dual-track policy of supporting in words the EU's political approach to Russia, while in deed continuing to strengthen ties with Russia through energy pipelines and other economic measures. Karamanlis's moves toward Russia were viewed positively by much of the Greek press and public, which attach considerable value to the common Orthodox heritage and leftist nostalgia.

During a 17-18 December 2007 visit to Moscow, Karamanlis signed with Russian President Putin and Bulgarian President Parvanov an agreement establishing a company to construct the Burgas-Alexandroupolis oil pipeline through Bulgaria and Greece. Just before Karamanlis's visit, the Greek supreme defense and foreign policy council (KYSEA) announced Greece's intention to purchase several hundred Russia BMP armored personnel carriers, which was the first such major arms deal in many years.

The day after his election as Greeces new prime minister, Alexis Tsipras objected to calls for fresh sanctions against Russia as a result of rising violence in Ukraine. The first foreign official Tsipras invited to the Maximos Mansion in Athens on 26 January 2015 was Andrey Maslov, Russias ambassador. On 28 January 2015, Athens went further: Panagiotis Lafazanis, the energy minister and leader of Syrizas far left faction said We are against the embargo that has been imposed against Russia... We have no differences with Russia and the Russian people.

We do not agree with the spirit of the sanctions against Russia, which has adverse repercussions not only in agriculture as far as the economy of our country is concerned, but also more generally," Alternate Foreign Minister for European Affairs Nikos Chountis said in an interview with ANA-MPA 28 January 2015.

"Other EU countries have also reacted in a similar way, due to the implications of the sanctions, he noted and added: "Our objections, in essence, will be expressed by the Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias to the Council of Foreign Ministers. Some member states hastened; this haste was reflected in the declaration by which the new Greek government expressed its discontent ... as an announcement-statement of the heads of states was issued, without Greece having been informed or without the Greek Prime Minister having been consulted. They knew that we were in a transitional phase and the prime ministers opinion could have been taken into consideration, he said.

The new defense minister, Panos Kammenos of the far right Independent Greeks party, has also been a frequent visitor to Moscow. Incoming National Defence Minister Panos Kammenos said 28 January 2015 that the new government was concerned with restoring pay injustices in armed forces personnel, and listed the ministries priorities that include finding funds for new armaments programmes and maintaining current ones; restarting the defence industry, including its exports; expanding agreements with other countries; reviewing new threats to security; and reviving relations with countries not currently in NATO.

SYRIZA's 2014 governmental program: "Greece: What a SYRIZA government will do" was silent of foreign policy issues. The May 2012 program of the Greek coalition of the radical left, SYRIZA, stated in part:

10. Cut drastically military expenditures.

29. Demilitarisation of the Coast Guard and anti-insurrectional special troops. Prohibition for police to wear masks or use fire arms during demonstrations. Change training courses for police so as to underline social themes such as immigration, drugs and social factors.

33. Regulate the right of conscientious objection in draft laws.

37. Withdrawal of Greek troops from Afghanistan and the Balkans. No Greek soldiers beyond our own borders.

38. Abolition of military cooperation with Israel. Support for creation of a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders.

39. Negotiation of a stable accord with Turkey.

40. Closure of all foreign bases in Greece and withdrawal from NATO.


The capitulation of our foreign policy to the desires of the U.S. and the powerful states of the European Union endangers the country's independence, peace, and security.

We propose:

  • A multi-dimensional and peace-seeking foreign policy.
  • Disengagement from NATO and closure of foreign military bases on Greek soil.
  • Termination of military cooperation with Israel.
  • Aiding the Cypriot people in the reunification of the island.

Furthermore, on the basis of international law and the principle of peaceful conflict resolution, we will pursue improvements in Greek-Turkish relations, a solution to the problem of FYROM's official name, and the specification of Greece's Exclusive Economic Zone.

The incumbent economic and social system has failed and we must overthrow it!

The economic crisis that is rocking global capitalism has shattered the illusions. More and more, people understand that capitalist speculation is an inhuman organizational principle for modern society. It is also widely acknowledged that the private banks function only for the benefit of the bankers, harming the rest of the people. Big business and bankers absorb billions of euros from health care, education, and pensions.

An exit from the crisis requires bold measures that will prevent those who created the crisis from continuing their destructive work. We are endorsing a new model for the production and distribution of wealth, one that will include society in its totality. In this respect, the large capitalist property is to be made public and managed democratically along social and ecological criteria. Our strategic aim is socialism with democracy, a system in which all will be entitled to participate in the decision-making process.

Syriza members of the European Parliament voted against the Association Agreement with Ukraine in the autumn of 2014, which was supported by the majority of the Strasbourg chamber. They also abstained in the vote on Association Agreements for Georgia and Moldova, as well as in supporting a resolution condemning the closing of the Russian human rights NGO Memorial.

The party's foreign-affairs spokesman, Costas Isychos, even went as far in the autumn of 2014 as hailing the "impressive counterattacks" of the Russian-backed rebels in eastern Ukraine. Tsipras himself came out in support of internationally unrecognized referendums in the separatist-held territory in Ukraine.

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Page last modified: 28-01-2015 20:32:06 ZULU