Tue, 03 Oct 2023

Greece has joined Hungary in blocking the next round of sanctions on Russia

Negotiations over the EU's 11th package of sanctions on Russia have stalled due to opposition from Athens and Budapest, which want their companies removed from a list of 'war sponsors' compiled by Kiev, according to Politico.

Two rounds of talks in Brussels this week ended with no deal in sight, the publication reported on Saturday citing multiple anonymous diplomatic sources.

The main roadblock is said to be Kiev's notorious list of "sanctions-evaders" and "international sponsors of war," which features many European companies simply because they refused to cut all business ties with Russia. Compiled by the National Agency on Corruption Prevention (NACP), the list includes such giants as German wholesaler Metro, French retailer Auchan, Italian cement company Buzzi Unicem and Austrian banking group Raiffeisen, among others.

Hungary was the only EU state to voice objections during a foreign ministers' meeting on Monday, expressing concerns that Kiev's baseless accusations against OTP Bank could be formalized with the bloc's next round of sanctions. On Wednesday, however, Greece reportedly stepped into the forefront of the discussion, saying that allegations of sanction circumvention could be "very damaging" to its economy as well.

"Greece reiterated that, should there be concrete evidence of violation of sanctions, these should be brought to the attention of the member states concerned, at the technical level, so that this be adequately investigated and then due action will be taken," an unnamed EU diplomat told the publication.

Politico claimed that the Ukrainian list and the EU's next sanctions package are "not linked" and Athens and Budapest were simply holding the talks hostage for "political leverage." However, European diplomats are hesitant to publicly name and shame those who stall the negotiations, allegedly out of fear that other member states, whose companies are in Kiev's crosshairs, could also rebel.

In the meantime, two sources said that the EU's top diplomat, Josep Borrell, acknowledged the problem and "it is now up to him to work with the Ukrainians on a solution."

Budapest has taken a neutral stance in the ongoing conflict between Moscow and Kiev, as it refused to provide military aid to Ukraine or allow Western aid to pass through its territory. Although Hungary had largely taken part in the existing EU sanctions against Russia, it has repeatedly criticized the restrictions and opposed those that might affect its own economy, including its conventional and nuclear energy sectors.

Athens also defied the bloc's efforts to cut all economic ties with Moscow, with imports of Russian goods by Greece more than doubling to a record 9.33 billion ($10 billion) last year. However, the trade balance between the two countries in 2022 was negative, with the value of Greek exports to Russia decreasing to 156.4 million from 206.6 million in 2021.

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