May 22, 2013
Timerman in the dark
The Foreign Ministry, through its minister Héctor Timerman, yesterday got itself into a diplomatic muddle through a baffling series of statements regarding a letter sent by the EU last week.
The letter, signed by EU Trade Commissioner Karel de Gucht, expressed the latter body’s “serious concern” after President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner announced the expropriation of Repsol’s 51 percent shares in YPF last Monday.
According to Timerman, who arrived off a plane from Italy yesterday morning, no letter had been received.Furthermore, continued the Foreign Minister, “we are used to the European Union making announcements that later fail to materialize.”
However, this statement was later proved to be incorrect, as the letter had been delivered at the Foreign Ministry at midday on April 19, while Timerman was in Europe. The letter was also delivered to Industry Minister Débora Giorgi and Economy Minister Hérnan Lorenzino, neither of whom denied having received the letter.
The Foreign Ministry yesterday eventually issued a correction, stating that a letter had been received, but only at midday yesterday.
This again was revealed to be incorrect, as EU sources revealed to the Buenos Aires Herald yesterday that not only had the letter been delivered on Friday 19 at 12.25 pm, but that EU Ambassador Alfonso Diez Torres’s secretary had called following the delivery to confirm that the letter had been received.
As reported by the Buenos Aires Herald and various other media sources on the weekend, a copy of the letter was distributed to all nations participating in the G20 meeting in Washington DC, as well as a copy that was personally delivered to the Foreign Ministry.
Lorenzino represented Argentina at the meeting, and insisted at the meeting’s close that the issue had not been discussed.
“The high and increasing number of import-restricting measures implemented by the Argentine government in application of its discriminatory import-substitution policy is a cause of considerable concern,” wrote Commissioner De Gucht in the April 19 letter.
“You are certainly aware of the very serious legal considerations these measures raise from a World Trade Organization (WTO) perspective and the growing concern among WTO members affected by this policy, which is manifestly incompatible with WTO rules.”
Amid suggestions of frantic behind-the-scenes diplomacy between the Foreign Ministry and the EU embassy in Buenos Aires, in which Deputy Foreign Minister Eduardo Zuain was entrusted with calming the waters, rather than the minister himself, Timerman announced yesterday that he would analyze the letter before determining how to respond.
Meanwhile, a Spanish government representative stated yesterday that the EU was considering future measures against Argentina after its Secretary of State for European Affairs, Iñigo Méndez de Vigo, met with De Gucht in Brussels.
“The EU and particularly the commissioner (De Gucht) are studying the issue extremely carefully, in the knowledge of its political importance,” said the Spanish representative yesterday, adding that a proposed response would be defined “soon.”
In statements to the press, Iñigo Méndez de Vigo avoided referring to details about the proposed response, stating that it was important “not to rush” in defining a reaction that would “best favour” European interests as well as Argentines, “who are not to blame.”
Herald staff with agencies