Monday

21st May 2018

Tsipras and Putin hail 'new Spring' in relations

  • Greek PM Alexis Tsipras (l) and Russian president Vladimir Putin (r) discussed economical cooperation.

Alexis Tsipras and Vladimir Putin enjoyed a "friendly and fruitful" meeting in Moscow on Wednesday (8 April), but the Greek prime minister stopped short of crossing red lines drawn by the EU before his visit.

Greece did not ask for Russian financial assistance and no lift of the Russian ban on Greek fruits was announced.

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Both moves would have been problematic because they would have undermined eurozone negotiations on Greece's debt and broken EU unity on Russia sanctions.

"The Greek side has not approached us with any requests for help," said the Russian president at a joint press conference after a three-hour meeting in the Kremlin.

Regarding the embargo on Greek fruits, which is part of a larger ban on EU produce in retaliation against EU sanctions, he said that Russia could not "make an exception for one country in the European Union".

The two leaders discussed "in detail all aspects of bilateral co-operation and the most important regional and international issues," said Putin.

They signed a joint action plan for the years 2015-2016 to boost trade between their two countries and to increase Russian investment in Greece.

"We want to seize all opportunities to promote cooperation that would be beneficial to various countries," said Tsipras.

"We discussed how to increase Greek exports to Russia, how to reduce Greece’s commercial deficit and how to find a solution on restrictions on agriculture," he added.

"If Greece starts a privatization process, Russia will be ready to take part in these tenders," said Putin.


The Russian leader specified that his country is most interested in "sea ports, infrastructures and transportation, especially gas and oil pipeline".

"Some sectors might involve loans and credits," added Putin, saying that Greece would pay back with profits made in joint projects.

Energy was one of the main issues discussed and it could be one of the most controversial.

The Russian and Greek leaders signed provisional options for Greece’s involvement in the Turkish Stream project.

This planned pipeline would supply Russian gas to Europe through Turkey. It was launched by Putin and Russian gas giant Gazprom last December to replace the cancelled South Stream project.

"Greece’s involvement in the project will help the country to be one the most important distributors and it will create jobs," said Putin.

"It will up to Greece to proceed with this project," he added.

The discussion between the two leaders took place just a day after Greece signed a declaration in Budapest with Hungary, Turkey, Serbia and Macedonia supporting Turkish Stream.

"Greece is in the position of being a European hub," said Tsipras in Moscow.

"Greece is extremely interested in investment initiatives to build a Greek pipeline which will transport natural gas from the Turkish-Greek border to other countries, to cover energy needs and secure needs while respecting laws in Greece and EU rules”.

Such a move comes at a time when the EU is investigating Gazprom and trying to introduce more transparency in energy deals with external suppliers.

In front of a European flag carefully displayed between the Russian and Greek flags, Tsipras maintained his critical stance towards EU sanctions on Russia but did not break ranks.

The Greek PM denounced "the vicious circle" of sanctions, saying they bring back Europe to "a cold war climate". But he said that implementation of the so-called Minsk peace agreement by all sides, including Russia, was the key to reaching a solution.

Suspected of trying to play a Russian card against the EU to escape Greece’s obligation to the Eurozone, Tsipras reaffirmed its European commitment.

"Greece is a sovereign country and it has the right to assert and diversify its foreign policy and reaffirm its strategic position as a southern country," he said.

He added that "Greece is not a beggar asking different countries to solve different problems. There must be a European solution to a European crisis. As a EU country, Greece respects EU legislation".

At the same time, he positioned himself as an intermediary between the EU and Russia.

"We urgently need a serious dialogue and a new security architecture," he said, calling for a reinforcement of the OSCE, the pan-European security organization.

"Greece will try to contribute to creating this new architecture as an intermediary between Russia an Ukraine and between Russia and the EU”.

Putin threw a jab at EU leaders who had warned Greece not to cozy up too much with him.

"When the Greek prime minister comes [to Moscow] it is viewed as some kind of extraordinary event. Does it mean that he is bound hands and feet in political terms?," he asked.

The Russian president and the Greek prime minister insisted on the traditional cultural and religious links between their two countries, as well as the "common fight against fascism" in World War II.


They signed a joint statement on the 70th anniversary of the victory in WWII and a memorandum to organize a year of Russia in Greece and a year of Greece in Russia.

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