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Friday 30 September 2016

Tsipras trip raises hackles in former Soviet EU states

Published 11/04/2015 | 02:30

Russian President Vladimir Putin welcomes Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras to Moscow - the pair have agreed to develop closer trade links
Russian President Vladimir Putin welcomes Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras to Moscow - the pair have agreed to develop closer trade links

Greece's courting of Russia has prompted a backlash in the Baltic states.

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The high profile visit to Moscow by Greece's Alexis Tsipras was "utterly incomprehensible", Lithuanian Prime Minister Algirdas Butkevicius said yesterday.

The meeting between the Greek Prime Minister and Russia's President Putin has raised concern in particular in Lithuania and other states that emerged as independent democracies after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

In Moscow, Mr Tsipras told officials that Greece had worked to soften sanctions imposed by the European Union on Russia over its intervention in Ukraine.

Prime Minister Tsipras's comments were a "surprise" and won't change Europe's common position, Latvian Prime Minister Laimdota Straujuma said.

The comments by the heads of two Baltic states underpin the diplomatic tightrope walked by the Greek government in courting Russia at the same time it is locked in negotiations with the rest of the euro area over bailout loans.

Greece made a crucial payment to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and won extra emergency lending for its banks on Thursday but it remains unclear whether Athens can satisfy sceptical creditors on economic reforms before it runs out of money.

The Eurozone gave Greece six working days to improve a package of proposed reforms in time for finance ministers of the currency bloc to consider whether to release more funds to keep the country afloat when they meet on April 24.

After weeks of contradictory statements, Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis announced that Athens was resuming the sale of state assets halted when a leftist-led government was elected in January, but would do so on different terms. "We are restarting the privatisation process as a programme making rational use of existing public assets," Mr Varoufakis told a conference in Paris.

"What we are saying is the Greek state does not have the capacity to develop public assets."

Mr Varoufakis did not specify which tenders would go ahead and said the government wanted public-private joint ventures with a minimum investment commitment required from bidders, and the state retaining a stake to generate pension funds. (Additional reporting Bloomberg and Reuters)

Irish Independent

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