Russia, Greece vow to expand economic relations

The biggest-ever gathering of Russian and Greek ministers and business representatives was held in Moscow yesterday, with the two sides noting considerable ground for the expansion of economic cooperation, trade and investment and the signing a relevant protocol. Separately, Greece’s Federation of Greek Industries (SEV) and Russia’s Association of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs signed an agreement to set up a bilateral business council with a view to expanding initiatives. Deputy Foreign Minister Evripidis Stylianidis noted that Greece was heavily in deficit in its bilateral trade with Russia due to its large energy imports, and called for efforts to achieve a greater balance. He also urged Russian businessmen to invest in Greece. «Greece is emerging as an energy hub in Southeastern Europe. Energy diplomacy is an important dimension of Greek economic diplomacy,» he said, noting that Russia is Greece’s main supplier of natural gas. The invitation to invest was reciprocated by Russian Agriculture Minister Alexei Gordiev, who said «Greece’s investment in Russia is just $69 million, against the Netherlands’ $14 billion.» He added that «the deregulation of the energy market in Greece will help in attracting Russian investment.» Yevgeni Primakov, former prime minister and now president of the Russian Federation’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said Greece could become «a distribution center of electric power and natural gas for the whole of Europe.» While Stylianidis said the number of 150,000 Russian tourists who visited Greece last year was too small, Primakov referred to excessive charges for Russian tourists. «While a tourist visa costs 40 euros, Greek authorities demand 500 euros for its extension for a few days.» Representatives of 170 Greek firms had scheduled meetings with more than 500 Russian counterparts yesterday and today.