We are a sovereign nation, not a debt colony, Tsipras tells EU
Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has defiantly told Europe that his country will not be thrown “off the boat” of the eurozone.”
Speaking in Moscow, where he was meeting Russian President Vladimir Putin, he said: “We are passengers – equal passengers. There is no lower or higher deck.”
He also said that Greece was not “a debt colony”. Mr Tsipras said: “We have the same rights as other countries have. The right to cooperation and the right to act in our interest.”
Commenting on the meeting afterward, Mr Putin insisted that Mr Tsipras had not asked for financial aid.
There had been widespread speculation that Athens might use its relations with Moscow to gain an advantage in bailout talks with European creditors and the IMF.
But Mr Tsipras pledged that he would pursue foreign policy in line with Greece’s self-interest.
And he risked further alienation from Brussels and from German Chancellor Angela Merkel and her government in particular by warning that continued EU sanctions on Russia will eventually lead to a new “Cold War in Europe”.
Mr Putin said that Russian companies will bid for Greek tenders in privatising energy and rail networks.
Mr Tsipras is facing another deadline in talks with Greece’s EU creditors, which insist it must agree to a stringent list of reforms before vital rescue loans will be given. Greece is dangerously close to running out of cash without further help.
The Greek prime minister told reporters following the talks at the Kremlin that “Greece is a sovereign nation with an irrevocable right to conduct a multi-facet foreign policy.”
Mr Tsipras also indicated that his trip should not be interpreted as an affront to the West.
“We respect our obligations in all international organisations,” Mr Tsipras said, adding that it does not mean that his country should not pursue a foreign policy “to benefit all Greeks”.
Mr Putin also hinted that Moscow could lift its embargo on food imports from Greece. In retaliation against Western sanctions, Russia last year banned selected food imports, including vegetables and cheese, from the European Union, which has hit Greek imports particularly hard.
Greek exports to Russia were worth €357m last year, down 12pc from a year earlier. Mr Tsipras described the effect of Russia’s food embargo as a “sizeable wound” to his country’s economy.
Mr Putin’s words did not catch Kremlin officials off guard. Economic development minister Alexei Ulyukayev told Russian news agencies that the government had drafted proposals “related to the embargo” that will be discussed at his meeting with Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev today.
A deal could potentially restore millions in profits that Greek farmers used to make on the Russian markets.
(© Daily Telegraph, London)