July 10: Putin on Greece

July 10th Putin Presser Q&A
Question: Darya Stanislavets, RIA Novosti, Prime. Greece is going through a serious crisis. It has not yet reached an agreement with its creditors. You met with Mr Tsipras [Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras] in St Petersburg and spoke to him on the telephone after the referendum. Did Athens ask Russia for financial assistance? Did Russia promise such assistance? Is Russia able and willing to provide such assistance given its own economic difficulties? Could such assistance be provided, for example, by the New Development Bank?

Also, what do you personally think about the Greek creditors’ proposals? If you were in Mr Tsipras’s shoes, would you accept or reject them?

Vladimir Putin: Russia of course can provide assistance to its partners no matter what. Despite Russia’s economic difficulties, the fundamentals of our economic situation today are such that we are in a position to do this. What’s more, we do provide it to certain countries.

Regarding Greece, we have a specialrelationship of spiritual kinship and religious and historical affinity with it. However, Greece is an EU country, and within the bounds of its obligations, it is conducting rather complicated negotiations with its partners in united Europe. Mr Tsipras has not asked us for any assistance. This is only natural, because the figures are too high.

We know what is on the table, and fundamental decisions have to be taken. This is not even a matter of money. It is a matter of economic development principles and the principles of resolving these problems with their partners in the foreseeable future. We have already said – I have said it in public – that of course the Greeks can be blamed for everything but if they committed violations, where was the European Commission? Why did it not correct the activity of previous Greek governments? Why did they grant bonuses and loans? Why did they allow it to keep such a low profile on taxation in certain sectors of the economy? Why were there such big subsidies for the islands? And so on and so forth. Where were they earlier? So, there is something to discuss, and the Greek government has something to argue about.

Furthermore, when one powerful currency is used in a number of countries with different levels of economic development, then the country is unable to regulate either its finances or its economic situation via currency mechanisms. Greece cannot devalue the euro, can it? It’s impossible.

It does not have this tool or the possibility of drawing more tourists, while tourism is one of Greece’s principal industries – in the context of its obligations within the Schengen zone. It has to limit its agricultural production because it has to stay within the quotas set by Brussels, and it has to limit fishing and many other things. In other words, there are limitations but there are also advantages in EU membership, related to soft loans, bonuses and so on. This, however, is the sovereign choice of the Greek leadership and the Greek people. This does not directly affect us but indirectly, of course, it affects all of Europe and Russia, despite the fact that we are not an EU member, because we have extensive trade and economic ties with Europe, while Europe is our number one trade and economic partner. Naturally, we are watching this very closely and with a certain measure of anxiety, but we still hope that the crisis will be resolved in the very near future.

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