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Interview of Minister of Foreign Affairs, Nikos Dendias, with the Ria-Novosti news agency and journalist G. Melnik (5 November 2019)

Wednesday, 06 November 2019

Interview of Minister of Foreign Affairs, Nikos Dendias, with the Ria-Novosti news agency and journalist G. Melnik (5 November 2019)JOURNALIST: Minister, you’re travelling to Moscow for talks with your Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov. What is the agenda for the talks? What topics will you discuss and what is your assessment of the current situation in our bilateral relations?

N. DENDIAS: It will be my first meeting with Mr. Lavrov, and I am very pleased that we will be able to have an in-depth discussion of issues that concern us. Greece and Russia maintain historical relations of friendship and cooperation. Our country consistently pursues the further enhancement of good cooperation with the Russian side, based on mutual respect and equality. I note that Greece, in spite of any problems that were created in the past, remained firm in its insistence on communicating with Russia, even in the midst of a difficult state of affairs in Russia’s relations with the West, which we have seen in recent years. Moreover, Russia is a great power that plays an important role on a global scale, including in Southeast Europe and the Middle East, which are areas of immediate interest to us. This is why we want to develop our relations further, with a view to maintaining regional stability, especially in the current fragile state of affairs. In this context, my Russian colleague, Mr. Lavrov, and I will be able to discuss all of the issues that concern the wider region, with the aim of seeking common ground on how to manage the current challenges. We will also have the opportunity to discuss our bilateral relations, with the aim of enhancing our cooperation in a wide range of sectors.

JOURNALIST: The European sanctions and the Russian embargo limit Greek farmers’ access to the huge Russian market. Do you support French President Emmanuel Macron’s initiatives for overcoming the differences and sanctions in Russian-EU relations – differences and sanctions that benefit no one? How can we improve the relations between Russia and the European Union? What do you think about reinstating the practice of holding EU-Russia summit meetings?

N. DENDIAS: As an EU member state, Greece is bound by EU decisions. This is also true in relation to the sanctions adopted against Russia, which our country is obliged to implement. On the other hand, although Greece is one of the member states that argues in favour of maintaining good, functional relations and open channels of communication with Russia, it is unfortunately also among the countries hardest hit by the inclusion of agricultural products in Russia’s countermeasures, because, as you know, agricultural products are a large portion of our exports. Our country considers Russia to be an intrinsic part of the European security architecture and tries to make a positive contribution to the dialogue with Russia. We support initiatives aimed at improving EU-Russian relations, while also highlighting the need for full implementation of international law. After all, as Greece is well aware from the provocative violations in the Aegean and the Eastern Mediterranean, only insistence on strict compliance with the rules of international law can ensure the peaceful coexistence of states and regional stability.

JOURNALIST: There are already significant Russian investments in Greece in sectors of non-strategic interest, such as tourism and real estate. Some €410 million has been invested in Elounda in Crete. In what other sectors do you see opportunities for strategic investments and the development of economic relations? Are there prospects in the energy sector, in the natural gas sector, with regard to the Turkish Stream plan?

N. DENDIAS: As you rightly said, there are opportunities for further development of our bilateral economic relations and for strengthening Russian investments in Greece. Of course, I would say that my country considers tourism a strategic sector. But we are naturally prepared to welcome Russian investments in other sectors as well. First of all, Russian investments in sectors such as infrastructure, transport and construction can be carried out through the participation of investment groups in the privatisation programme our government is implementing, mainly through the Hellenic Republic Asset Development Fund (HRADF), in combination with the public investment programme that is under way. In fact, Russian investors, like all investors, can take advantage of the benefits of the new development law (financing incentives, reduced bureaucracy, streamlined procedures) that was recently passed by the Hellenic Parliament and provides a very attractive institutional framework for attracting investment programmes of major importance for our country.

I would also like to mention the sectors of high tech and applied research, where, through collaboration between business groups, incubators and start-up clusters, opportunities for mutually beneficial synergies might arise – synergies with significant added value for the collaborating companies and, by extension, our bilateral economic relations.

Regarding the energy sector, Russia is an important partner for Greece, with prospects for further deepening of bilateral cooperation in the future. We welcome the synergies that have been developed between Greek and Russian companies, first and foremost in the natural gas sector, and at the same time we are interested in enhancing our cooperation in other fields, such as renewable energy sources.

JOURNALIST: Minister, Russia and Greece traditionally celebrate major events in our shared history. A few days ago, we marked the anniversary of the Battle of Navarino. Have any joint events been scheduled for 2021, the bicentennial of the Greek Revolution? If so, what events?

N. DENDIAS: The scheduling of events marking the bicentennial of the Greek Revolution is currently under way. In any event, our country acknowledges the decisive role that Russia and other great powers of the era, including Britain and France, played in the Greek Revolution. We are also aware of the decisive role that the Greek diaspora in Russia played in initiating and building the struggle for independence. As such, we want to honour the history of our peoples and our states, and highlight the need for this to guide the future development of our relations.