The EU and smaller states

Sir, – Explaining the support of Brussels for Ireland during the Brexit negotiations, Fintan O'Toole writes that it would be disastrous "for the EU to be seen to abandon or betray one little member state" (Opinion & Analysis, November 12th).

In February 2000, for the first time in EU history, diplomatic sanctions were imposed on a member state.

The 14 other EU countries froze bilateral relations with the government of little Austria.

By interfering in the formation of a member state’s government, the EU 14 took unprecedented action. Further, their contrived “joint action” got around the veto that Austria could have applied had they acted in accordance with the EU treaties.


With a referendum on joining the euro zone fast approaching in Denmark, the sanctions undermined trust in the EU, which was widely seen as bullying and betraying a small member state.

As a consequence, the sanctions were soon lifted without Austria making any concessions.

However, no lesson was learned.

In a 2015 referendum, the Greek people heavily rejected the terms of an EU bailout.

The reaction of the EU was to impose even more severe austerity conditions than those already rejected by voters.

Former Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis characterised the harshness of the deal as a new Treaty of Versailles and “Greece’s terms of surrender”.

Little Greece was bullied, abandoned and betrayed.

Fintan O’Toole is right. It is disastrous for the EU to treat member states in this way, but the aspirant European superstate shows no compunction in doing so. – Yours, etc,