Two leading political figures of the Syriza government have gathered the attention of domestic and global media for visiting Moscow and Beijing respectively. Minister Panagiotis Lafazanis and Vice President of the government Yiannis Dragasakis are endeavoring to broaden and deepen bilateral relations with Russia and China in a truly unsteady European geopolitical and economic environment. But why the European Union (EU) is suspicious on that?
The misinterpretation of Greece’s Foreign Policy
Greece, as any other country in the world, has a every right to invigorate, deepen and enhance bilateral relations with any other country in the world. During the 1980s Greece launched the opening to allies and states outside the European spectrum for the first time, after the rise in power of the socialist leader Andreas Papandreou. At that time, Papandreou was considered to be the scapegoat of the European Community (EC), especially with reference to his warm stance on the fight of Palestinians for independence. The EC, being at that time skeptical on such a demand, was siding the Israelis or, to put it better, was eagerly trying to keep some balances in the Middle East. Until the last day of his chairmanship, Papandreou was a fervent supporter of the Palestinians and their leader Arafat supporting their cause. Thirty years later, Palestine still fights for that, but it has a growing support from many member-states of the European Union (EU). Things has changed impressively, and now Israel is trying to re-define its position in Middle East, counting on the decreasing backing from the United States and the EU.
Since 2007 and the strategic choice of PM Kostas Karamanlis to reshuffle bilateral relations with Kremlin with regards to the pipeline diplomacy, Greece was pushed at the corner of the ropes. For almost eight years, between 2007-2014, Greek governments were extremely hesitant or even indifferent to promote trade and investment relations with states outside the EU. In the meantime, and as the Greek economic crisis was deepening and the bailout packages were soaring the distorted economy, Greece has abandoned its foreign policy and remained attached to what the EU and its Foreign Policy Representative were saying or deciding on EU (and Greece’s, therefore) behalf. Thus Greece lost its strategic advantage having being for years a special interlocutor – and many times mediator- between EU, Russia and the Middle East.
What Syriza is doing in Moscow and Beijing?
Panagiotis Lafazanis, leading figure of the party and Minister of Productive Reconstruction, Environment and Energy, is an old communist and a really experienced politician. He was dispatched to Moscow to discuss with Kremlin the possibilities for a deeper cooperation in the field of energy, trade, agriculture, and certainly to rewarm traditional and centuries-old ties between Greece and Russia. Essentially, he is delivering the message of PM Tsipras for lowering the prices of gas supply, re-open the Russian market to Greek agricultural goods, and urge Russian entrepreneurs to invest in Greece. So far, so good.
On the other hand, Vice President of the Greek government Yanis Dragasakis, the leading, deep-rooted strategic interlocutor of Syriza domestically and abroad, visited Beijing these days for similar reasons. Cosco Group is involved in Pireaus Port and the government want to guarantee that the Chinese presence will keep smooth while expanding its presence under a close private/public partnership on the exploitation and development of this major port. In addition, being aware that the Chinese government is planning to invest trillions of euro in broadening its “silk road” towards Europe, Dragasakis wants to secure that investments in the Greek economy will increase. So far, so good.
What is the problem of the European Union ( of Germany actually) ?
The European Union has completely underestimated in practice the vital role geopolitics play. It is not only the economic crisis and recession that has turned the EU introvert and myopic in its foreign policy, but also the fact that during the last 10-12 years the entire establishment – i.e meaning the member-states- is entrenched with Germany’s hegemonic stance. Chancellor Merkel has actually decreased the regional and global influence of the EU, minimizing its voice and strategic position, and investing solely in hatred speech with Russia. At the same time, Berlin is doing business with Moscow in energy and trade.
With regards to China, Germany certainly does not want to see Beijing’s trade and investing expansion reaching the core of Europe, as national products being circulated around and inside the European continent would face a competitive, low-cost string of new products and goods, that European economies -especially considering the financial hardship- would definitely be interested to consume and welcome.
The Syriza government has already since 2012 studying and preparing its diplomatic steps with reference to Russia and China. The then financial cabinet structured under Yanis Dragasakis was developing the forms under which a close cooperation with both countries could be reached, investing on the major geopolitical role of Greece and the unparalleled potential of the country, should reforms in bureaucracy, public administration and taxation were to be implemented under a Syriza government.
In this respect, it is Syriza’s strategic choice to implement a multilateral foreign policy and increase the economic and political gains. There is nothing wrong with that – to the contrary every country in every corner of the world has and should exploit all possibilities to increase its leverage, position, and profits.
Therefore, any suspicion or resentment by the side of the EU member-states is bias-driven, unfounded, and misleading.
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