16 february, 2010 18:16  

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou speak to the media following Russian-Greek intergovernmental talks


Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen,

Our meeting with Mr Prime Minister Papandreou has just finished. We touched on many issues during our comprehensive talks, exchanging opinions on our cooperation in the economy and on the international stage.

An ambitious blueprint for our cooperation in culture and science in 2010-2011was signed today.

I would like to highlight that the traditionally good and constructive relations between Russia and Greece are moving forward. Trade grew rapidly in the past years, increasing by 40%, 45% and even 50% annually. Unfortunately, it slumped by over 40% last year because of the global downturn.

This is why Mr Prime Minister's visit is especially relevant. We discussed how to come out of recession and to buck the trend. The Russian-Greek Intergovernmental Commission on Economic Cooperation has been charged with developing a solution. The commission will convene for a regular meeting in Moscow in the next few months.

I believe that our joint efforts in production and technology will shape the future. More companies must be set up in the high-tech industry, and the mutual investment flow must increase.

We certainly spoke a great deal about our cooperation in the energy industry, focusing on oil and gas supplies, and cooperation in large infrastructural projects, such as the South Stream.

We are unanimous in the belief that it is necessary to step up our interaction in these projects. We have outlined our future efforts.

These plans will certainly turn Greece into one of the critical European energy and transportation hubs, attracting more investment and increasing the country's economic weight in Europe.

In closing, I appreciate the open atmosphere of today's talks and the participants' eagerness to foster a strategic dialogue between Russia and Greece, which have been reliable partners for a long time.

I would like to thank Mr Prime Minister and all our Greek colleagues who are visiting Moscow for a very friendly atmosphere and a constructive approach at today's negotiations. Thank you.

George Papandreou (as translated): Thank you, Mr Prime Minister.

I would like to reiterate Mr Putin's words confirming that our conversation was very cordial and practical.

Our interaction and cooperation are based on many centuries of deep-rooted traditions. Today we discussed our strategic partnership. Our aim is to strengthen this partnership filling it with practical content.

As an EU member and the recent president of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, we initiated the so-called Corfu Process to discuss security challenges. We consider the issue of creating an integrated security system in Europe to be very pertinent and inconceivable without Russia's participation.

We have accumulated valuable cooperation experience in the Balkans over the past years and are determined to continue cooperating here. I would like to use this occasion to thank the Russian Federation for its unfaltering support of Greece in the Cyprus crisis settlement.

Speaking about strategic cooperation we cannot but touch on the energy industry, one of the economic cooperation areas that bring us together even now, when Greece has found itself in an economic predicament.

We reached an agreement to carry on the Burgas - Alexandroupoli project, which both of us are committed to. Taking into account the project's environmental requirements and our effort in this area, I can see no obstacles to advancing it more actively, in cooperation with Bulgaria, of course.

As for the South Stream gas pipeline, we are ready to sign an agreement to establish a design office and are eager to cooperate on this project in general.

We have developed multi-faceted relations in trade and the economy, including in tourism, which we would like to intensify.

We also touched on transport infrastructure. We are interested in developing cooperation in the Black Sea region to create an integrated transport network.

Moving on to agriculture, we are eager to boost our food export to Russia.

As Mr Putin noted, our cooperation in culture offers very good prospects as well. We have made a big step forward today by signing a cooperation programme in culture and science, which opens new vistas for us.

I should also mention that we spoke about the Year of Russian-Greek Friendship, scheduled for 2014, which will take our bilateral relations to a new level. Sochi will host the Olympics and Greece will hold the EU presidency in 2014.

We are determined to meet our commitments for 2014, taking advantage of all the opportunities that are open to us. We rely very much on members of the Greek community who have moved to Greece from Russia and currently live in the Hellenic Republic.

Regarding the 2014 Olympics, as you know, Greece has enough expertise and experience, and is eager to share them helping to organise security and to construct sports venues and infrastructure facilities for the Olympic Games. I would like to recall another initiative of Greece, the Olympic truce.

In conclusion, allow me to thank Mr Putin for the warm welcome.

I would like to repeat that we will be happy to welcome him to Greece in the near future.

Question: I have a question for the Greek prime minister.

You have mentioned the difficulties Greece is currently experiencing. Will they affect the implementation of the South Stream project?

The second question is for both prime ministers. You mentioned the initiative to extend the Olympic truce. Do you think this idea could become a reality at the 2014 Olympics? Thank you.

George Papandreou: Yes, indeed, Greece has found itself in a difficult economic position but this is not the final curtain.

I hope and believe that we will overcome these difficulties in the near future and that in the process we will become stronger than we are now because this situation will allow us to carry out both economic and political reforms.

I would like to assure you that the Greek people are determined to carry out reforms in order to make their society more viable and more successful.

As for our bilateral relations, in particular the South Stream, the current difficulties in Greece will not have any negative effect on these relations or on this project. Quite the contrary, it will aid their successful future development.

As for the Olympic Truce Initiative, this is how Greece envisions the process of concluding peace among nations to enable everyone to live in peace and security. This, particularly Greek vision of peace is reflected in the Olympic truce initiative.

The Olympic Games are our common games. It is a global tradition embracing all peoples, all nations. They involve set norms and rules of conduct, which have to be observed in their entirety by every country without exception.

We will be glad to work on the Olympic truce idea on the eve of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. We will happily accompany the Olympic torch, which will start its journey in Ancient Olympia, as it did in ancient times. That is also the home of the Olympic Truce Foundation, which will, like Greece itself, actively cooperate with Russia ahead of the Games.

Vladimir Putin: First, I'd like to say a few words about the major infrastructure projects of European significance and today's economic problems. Implementing these projects, like South Stream for example, is designed to help overcome the current economic difficulties and create the conditions for post-crisis development.

Moreover, South Stream is not a project between Greece and Russia. It is a major international European project built on market principles. Its shares are held by three leading European companies: Russian, French and Italian. They will attract the funds needed to implement to project. There is enough money in the market for such projects. Funding is no problem at all. Many European countries, at least 10, are interested in this project and we have signed intergovernmental agreements with them.

We know about Greece's economic difficulties. Obviously, it is not good but we believe they can be overcome. Another positive signal came after the meeting of the European Union (EU) finance ministers.

I hope that our bilateral relations with Greece will also help our countries overcome today's economic difficulties.

Now I'd like to say a few words about the Greek Olympic Truce Initiative. The very idea of the Olympic Games originated in Greece. The Olympic Truce Initiative also comes from Greece. Pierre de Coubertain, the founder of the modern Olympic Games, popularised the phrase: "O sport, you are peace!"

Needless to say, we understand that in Ancient Greece a truce was declared between warring parties who held physical training, sports and the Olympic Games in high esteem. Ancient Greece achieved a particular level in political culture. I am not sure that current international relations have reached that level but we should strive for advancement and this is why we will give every support to this initiative.

Question: Did you discuss expanding cooperation under the agreement signed in Greece? How do the sides intend to counter with the global financial and economic crisis?

George Papandreou: You are correct to call this financial crisis global because it is not limited to Europe. All kinds of organisations, including the G20 and G8, have long been discussing it in detail. I hope such discussions will continue in the near future as well. We hope that those participating in the forthcoming meetings in Seoul will make some fundamental decisions on the global financial downturn and other international issues, such as climate change.

Greece has found itself in a particular predicament. We need change and we will carry it out. These are vital, significant, and long overdue changes that our country is absolutely ready for.

We are already proposing the necessary measures. We have drafted a programme for stabilisation and development, which provides for the gradual reduction of our deficit by 4% next year with a view to reaching the EU-proposed level of a little over 3% by 2012.

At the same time we are talking about development. This was at the forefront of all our dialogues, all our meetings today. Because developing relations in areas such as tourism, transport, agriculture, and the energy industry is a positive move. This is how we are planning to act. Our decision today will spur us on to continue developing our cooperation.

In this sense our partnership can be called strategic. I'd like to use this opportunity in order to thank Mr Putin once again for his hearty welcome and for our cooperation today.

Vladimir Putin: The global financial crisis did not start in Greece, Russia, or Europe in general. It arrived from overseas, having originated in the world's biggest economy: the United States. The American economy is facing the same problems as many other countries, including Greece and Russia.

There is the huge foreign debt and budget deficit. In Russia, macroeconomic figures are improving all the time. In Europe the foreign debt is 50%-60% of GDP, which is considered normal. Ours is a mere 6% of GDP: practically zero.

We took a serious step last year by keeping inflation down. I hope that in the next two or three years we will reach levels of 3%, 4% or 5% as is considered normal in Europe.

Russia is involved in all international organisations and groups, such as the G8 and the G20. Obviously, it is very important for us to coordinate our positions on improving international financial mechanisms with the European countries, including Greece. This is what the Prime Minister and I have done today.

Clearly, we must concentrate on developing the real economy, supporting each other and looking for new opportunities to develop trade and economic ties.

There is a lot to do and we are going to follow this through. Thank you.