Nathalie Tocci is in the spotlight again, but does Josep Borrell also have a conflict of interest with the EU?

Nathalie Tocci Josep Borrell

Nathalie Tocci, a special adviser to the High Representative of the European Union Josep Borrell, is once again in the spotlight because of her clear conflict of interest by being an Eni board member.

Eni, an Italian multinational oil and gas company headquartered in Rome and considered one of the seven Supermajor oil companies in the world, has been the main driver of Italy's foreign policy in recent years.

Tocci said on September 1 that Greece must set aside its "macho politics" regarding its relations with Turkey, despite the fact that Turkey broke UN Resolutions in Cyprus, instigated a war between Armenia and Azerbaijan, and sent warships into the Greek and Cypriot continental shelves.

As revealed in an article by Greek City Times on September 4, Tocci had a scholarship funded by the Foreign Policy Institute in Ankara to research EU-Turkey relations, Cyprus, the South Caucasus and the Middle East.

She also retweeted an account by a radical Muslim who supports Turkey’s claims against Greece in the East Mediterranean.

Nathalie Tocci Retweet
Nathalie Tocci's Retweet

In response to the Greek City Times article, European Union spokesperson Peter Stano said Tocci is "not a policymaker of the EU."

"Her remarks on ‘macho politics’ on both sides in the Eastern Mediterranean were made in a personal capacity and do not reflect the views or positions of HRVP Borrell," he added.


However, the question still remains why a formerly Turkish-funded professor who acts against the interests of European Union members to serve an authoritarian regime remains in an advisory position.

It is not surprising that Borrell maintains Tocci as an adviser considering that he, as the de facto Foreign Minister of the European Union, has defended and maintained an appeasement policy towards the years-long Turkish aggression against Greece and Cyprus.

In fact, the appeasement has been so much so that it has emboldened Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to not only continue violating Greek airspace with warplanes and the Greek and Cypriot maritime space with warships, but to also partially open the occupied town of Varoshia in northern Cyprus in violation of two UN resolutions.

Borrell's continued emphasis that Turkey "is a partner" despite Ankara's aggression contradicting his claims is explained by his defense of Spanish corporations and institutions who have deep ties to Turkey.

Member of European Parliament Diana Riba said "Over the recent years, Borrell has been involved in serious scandals such as insider trading, and conflicts of interest that makes him incompatible with the responsibilities he has been proposed for."

During Borrell's CV presentation to the European Parliament, it was revealed he has about €2.77m assets and shares in Iberdrola and BBVA.

Spanish electric company Iberdrola this month signed an agreement with Turkey's Vestel to produce electric vehicle devices.

In fact, as recently as only yesterday, Spanish financial institution BBVA said it was comfortable with its 49.9% stake in its Turkish unit Garanti.

Spanish banks are also the most exposed to Turkish debt, over $80 billion worth.

Spanish bank debt to Turkey.

This makes Spain perhaps the most vulnerable country in the European Union to sanctions against Turkey and is the main motivator as to why the Iberian country is one of the few members who vetoed sanctions despite Turkey's continuous aggression and provocations.

Rather than making preparations to make adjustments if European Union sanctions against Turkey are passed, Spain continues to show interest in making more investments in the authoritarian country.

Only last month, Spanish Ambassador to Ankara, Javier Hergueta, said, “We don’t believe in sanctions," adding that Borrell “has a mandate of the council precisely to explore that.”

Hergueta also added “The moment coronavirus finishes, our plan is to bring as many companies as we can here to see the opportunities that the Turkish market offers. And, also, to see the opportunities of investment because what we want is for them to see the factories that are already established here."

It appears that Borrell's interests are not with the European Union, but protecting Spanish economic interests at the expense of continued Turkish aggression against Greece and Cyprus.

This would also explain why he insists on having a Turkophile as an advisor despite her own clear conflict of interest.

In fact, her defense of Turkey goes so deep that she uses her influence to denounce France to the German Council on Foreign Relations by saying "Look at Russia, Armenia and Azerbaijan, East Mediterranean and Libya – in what way has France helped a European consensus rather than exacerbated a European divide?"

Of course she omits that French President Emmanuel Macron has emerged as the only major European leader with enough courage to confront Turkish aggression.

Rather she presents France's efforts to confront Turkey as dividing Europe.

But the question is, why would there be a European divided over French actions to defend European Union members Greece and Cyprus from Turkish aggression?

France is not dividing Europe, but rather the very few European states, including Borrell's native Spain and Tocci's native Italy, vetoing sanctions against Turkey are creating a European divide.

A crafty way for Tocci to denounce France while indirectly supporting Turkey.

Tocci is a board member of Eni, which provides a second conflict of interest considering her position as an advisor to Borrell.

Not only does she defend Turkish interests, but as a committee member of Eni, she naturally serves their interests which directly clash with the security of European Union member states Greece and Cyprus.

EU Observer found that Tocci sits on two Eni committees and chairs one.

"According to Eni's own accounts, the combined committee positions pay out €100,000 a year while directors also get €80,000 gross," the report said.

"Eni spent up to €1,499,999 lobbying the EU last year alone" and "Borrell's cabinet appears to have to failed to notify the European Commission's administration department of Tocci's new position on Eni's board" when she was first assigned to the position.

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Nathalie Tocci

"It means the commission was unable to properly vet for possible conflicts and interests - which it is assigned to do," EU Observer reported, adding that this was discovered only thanks to Myriam Douo at Friends of the Earth Europe, who had filed the freedom of information requests.

"The appointment of Nathalie Tocci, a member of Eni's board as an advisor to EU foreign affairs, is yet another example of vested oil-interests infiltrating the democratic process," Douo said.

And she is certainly not wrong.

Eni, in which the Italian government has a 30.33% share in and thus wields great influence in the so-called private company, is the leading foreign energy operator in Libya.

Professor Michaël Tanchum in writing for the Real Instituto Elcano said that Eni, as Italy’s largest company by revenue, "has shaped the parameters of Italy’s foreign policy orientation" as they "drive to expand its market share across the Middle East and North Africa."

"In Libya almost all of Eni’s oil and natural gas assets are located in the western half of the country, under the control of the Turkish-backed GNA [Government of National Accords]," he continued.

"Italy’s imperative to secure Eni’s considerable assets has left Rome deeply ambivalent over Turkey’s deepening military presence in the country," the professor said, adding "the good relationship between Italy and the GNA has enabled Eni to maintain stable energy production in the areas under the protection of the militias aligned with the Tripoli government."

Effectively, Eni has a deep and prosperous relationship with the Muslim Brotherhood GNA, whose mandate to rule Libya by the United Nations expired on December 17, 2017.

Turkey and the GNA signed a memorandum of understanding on November 27, 2019 to carve up Greece's sovereign rights in the East Mediterranean between themselves as it ignores the presence of the Greek islands Crete, Kasos, Karpathos, Kastellorizo and Rhodes between the Turkish–Libyan coasts.

Since the signing of this illegal maritime memorandum that goes against the United Nations Law of the Sea, Turkey has directly intervened in the Libyan Civil War by deploying Turkish special forces, Syrian mercenary jihadists and violating the United Nations arms embargo on the North African country.

Essentially, Italy's veto of sanctions against Turkey is motivated by Eni's energy interests in Libya, despite the fact that the GNA and Turkey are attempting to steal Greece's sovereign rights in the Eastern Mediterranean.

As Professor Tanchum states, while Italy's relations with the GNA provides "important short-term benefits, Rome will need to assess the extent to which Libya’s growing dependence on Turkey will render Italy vulnerable to Ankara’s dictates."

This appears to have already happened as Italy is now accountable to Ankara to ensure its corporate interests in Libya are protected, which is why Italy vetoes sanctions against Turkey and why Tocci defends Erdoğan indirectly be claiming Greece engages in "macho politics" and denigrates France for its principled position against Turkish aggression.

The economic destinies of Italy and Spain have been intertwined with Turkey and neither country is making preparations for a Turkey with sanctions imposed on it, suggesting that both countries will veto sanctions once again in the upcoming European Council meeting on December 10-11.

This is despite the GNA and Turkey conspiring to steal Greece's sovereign rights in the Eastern Mediterranean, something that Tocci, as a member of ENI's board, has little concern for despite advising Borrell.

Borrell's continued appeasement for Turkey and emphasis that "Turkey is an important partner for Europe," as well as his insistence that Tocci continues to advise him, demonstrates that neither is serving European Union interests, but rather the corporate and banking interests of Spain and Italy.

Turkey is not an "important partner for Europe," but rather just for the very few select countries that have corporate interests - Turkey is an important partner for Spain and Italy, not Europe as Borrell maintains.

The question remains, with such obvious and clear examples of having a conflict of interest in the positions they occupy, why does Borrell remain the High Representative of the European Union and why does Tocci continue to advise him?