29 September, 2005
The 5th mixed Greek-Russian ministerial meeting ended in Moscow on Wednesday evening with the signature of a cooperation protocol by Greek Deputy Foreign Minister Evripidis Stylianidis and Russian Agriculture Minister Aleksey Gordeyev.
Stylianidis stressed that the protocol laid the foundations for future cooperation between Greece and Russia and to a great extent implemented a Joint Action Plan agreed by Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis and Russian President Vladimir Putin during their meeting in Moscow last December.
The ministerial meeting began in Moscow on Wednesday alongside a Greek-Russian business forum taking place the same day, attended by the largest Greek business delegation ever to venture outside Greece.
In a statement to the ANA, Gordeyev stressed the "great warmth" during Wednesday's meeting and said this was a guarantee for the "further successful development of our relations".
Stylianidis said the two sides had agreed to set up working groups to look into bilateral trade arrangements and to convene joint committees to discuss issues concerning agriculture, transport and tourism.
In the energy sector, the two sides achieved a positive outcome concerning plans for the Burgas-Alexandroupolis oil pipeline and also set in motion cooperation in the natgas and electricity sectors.
During the meeting, the Russians promised to move faster for the ratification of an agreement for avoiding double taxation, which will in turn allow implementation of a bilateral maritime agreement that has been stalled since 2001. The Greek side, in turn, committed itself to participation with a Greek pavilion in 10 trade exhibitions taking place in Russia next year.
Arrangements were also made for a meeting between the Greek delegation and Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov on Thursday to discuss cooperation in construction projects.
On the sidelines of the ministerial, an agreement was also signed by the Union of Greek Industries (SEB) and the Russian Business and Industry Association, which will create a Business Council to act as a bridge between the Greek and Russian business communities and give a new boost to their relations.
Also participating in the ministerial meeting, which was chaired by Stylianidis and Gordeyev, were Deputy Finance Minister Christos Folias and Agricultural Minister Evangelos Basiakos, who stressed in a statement that Greece "looked to the large Russian market" for high-quality Greek agricultural products like olive oil, wine, honey and others, as well as processed and packaged Greek agricultural products with higher added value that were competitive worldwide.
A business forum that began here on Wednesday and will continue on Thursday has attracted the largest business delegation ever to venture beyond Greek borders, with representatives of 170 companies based in Greece. It was chaired by Stylianidis and former Russian premier Yevgeny Primakov, who is currently head of the Russian Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
Commenting on the forum, Stylianidis noted that members of the Greek delegation had organised meetings with more than 500 Russian businesses over the two days, whose results would largely determine the mission's success.
According to diplomatic and business sources, however, simply the fact that such a large Greek business delegation had ventured abroad and so many Greek investors had come to Russia was in itself a success.
The minister also noted, however, that the very good ties between Greece and Russia on a political level were not reflected in economic relations between the two countries, which were well below their potential.
This was echoed by Gordeyev, who pointed out that Greek investment in Russia amounted to just $69 million, compared with $14 billion for the Netherlands, ranking Greece lower than 30th place among foreign investors in Russia.
Stylianidis stressed Greece's high balance of trade deficit with Russia, on the other hand, and asked for the reactivation of an agreement with the former Soviet Union, where Moscow undertook to import Greek products so as to counterbalance hydrocarbon exports to Greece. He also urged Russian businesses to invest in Greece, stressing that it was emerging as an energy hub for southeast Europe and that "energy diplomacy" figured highly in Greek economic diplomacy.
Both sides emphasised Greece's efforts to become a distribution centre for energy, especially for southeast Europe and the Black Sea, with Stylianidis stressing that "energy diplomacy" was a key focus of Greek economic diplomacy. Greek speakers also pointed out that there was great potential for increasing the flow of Russian tourists to Greece and stressed recent legislation to lower taxes and provide business incentives, as well as to reduce bureaucracy.
Source: Athens News Agency