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The EU, a Bogus Sanctions 'Debate' and an Anti-Nord Stream II Letter That Wasn't

Bizarre saga of letter purportedly opposing North Stream II together and weird process deciding to extend sanctions show who really runs the EU and how undemocratic it has become

This post first appeared on Russia Insider

Over the course of last week news reports circulated in the media that 9 EU countries had written a letter to the EU Commission to protest the North Stream II gas pipeline between Germany and Russia.

Poland was supposed to have been the driving force behind the letter whose signatories, apart from Poland, included Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, the three Baltic States, Romania and Greece.

I was very surprised to hear that Greece had signed such a letter and so it turned out were the Russians. 

Russian Energy Minister Novak complained to the Greek government and received an assurance that despite the media reports Greece had never signed it.

I have undertaken enquiries of my own in Greece and my sources tell me the same thing: Greece never signed the letter and it is inconceivable that it would.

I totally trust the sources that have given me this information. Unfortunately I cannot trust the information itself.  

The clear out of dissenters Greek Prime Minister Tsipras carried out in the summer means I no longer have reliable sources in the government, and - as regular readers of Russia Insider will know - Tsipras is exactly the sort of person I think capable of signing a letter one day and denying it the next.

However there are a number of facts about the letter that suggest that the information I am getting may be true.

Firstly, the Greek media have practically ignored the letter. 

Whilst that may be a sign Greece did indeed sign it - a fact the government would not want to publicise in Greece - it is strange the anti-EU politicians and parties in Greece (they do exist) have said nothing about it if Greece really did sign it.

Secondly, it seems Bulgaria was also supposed to be a signatory of the letter. The Bulgarian government however got wind of the letter before news of its existence had circulated, and made crystal clear it did not support it.  

The result is that Bulgaria has not been named as one of the signatories of the letter.

Thirdly, the Czech government - also supposedly one of the signatories of the letter - appears to have repudiated its signature. It now says it welcomes North Stream II.

Reuters reports this Czech decision as if it was made before the letter was sent to the EU Commission in Brussels. However the Czechs released their statement after reports were circulating that the letter - with the Czech government's signature - had already been sent to the EU Commission in Brussels.  

That suggests the Czechs rushed out their statement of support for North Stream II when they saw these reports, and that they did so in order to make it clear - in as diplomatic a way as possible - that in reality they had never signed the letter. 

Whatever the precise truth about the letter, this episode once again reveals important truths about how the EU is really run.

Firstly, it is a virtual certainty the Poles did not instigate the letter.  

The true authors of the letter were almost certainly the US - probably Victoria Nuland and her neocon clique in the State Department - with the Poles simply acting as their frontmen.

Secondly, as should be obvious by now and as I have previously discussed, most EU states are not involved in EU decision making except in the most formal sense.

EU decisions - and initiatives like the letter - are decided by a small cabal which controls the EU’s machinery. The decisions are then simply published as if they had been agreed by everyone else.

Thus a letter is circulated opposing North Stream II purportedly signed by 9 states without any public discussion and with some of the states possibly not even aware of the fact they were supposed to have signed it.

A decision is made by just 5 states - Germany, France, Britain, Italy and Spain - following a discussion with the US - not formally a member of the EU but in reality the dominant silent partner - at the G20 summit in Antaliya, without the other 23 member states of the EU being consulted or involved - to extend the sanctions against Russia, and the decision is then presented to the rest as a fait accompli.

This sort of thing now goes on all the time. Former Greek Finance Minister Varoufakis has complained bitterly about the undemocratic way in which decisions are made by a small group of Finance Ministers in the Eurogroup without the others being consulted or involved.

In the case of the decision to extend the sanctions there has been a hiccup, not because any of the small EU states known to oppose extending the sanctions has been able to prevent the EU from doing so by applying a veto - any attempt to do so would be simply ignored - but because one of the 5 big countries that took the decision at Antaliya - Italy -  is now pretending to have second thoughts about the matter.

In reality the Italians are probably just testing the water - seeing whether they get any support from any of the other big EU states such as Spain and France - whilst putting down a marker that they are not prepared to let the sanctions continue indefinitely.  

Since Italy is a big country its objections cannot simply be ignored - as they would be if they came from a small country like Malta, Croatia or Greece.

The reality however is that despite the apparent Italian objections the sanctions will be extended at least on this occasion - as the Russians fully expect them to be.

In fact - as the episodes of the letter and of the sanctions’ extension both show - the EU is most definitely not the free community of equal nations that it pretends to be. 

Nor should EU protestations of legality and unanimity be taken seriously, any more than the EU's constitution or its vaunted procedures should be. It is simply delusional to think otherwise.

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