President Vladimir Putin: Ladies and gentlemen!
I am delighted to welcome once again to Moscow our distinguished and esteemed guest, the Prime Minister of Greece Mr Konstantinos Karamanlis.
Russian-Greek relations have always been built on the solid foundation of our peoples’ mutual trust and affection, and our partnership is of a genuinely friendly nature. Today they continue to develop and diversify at an impressive rate. A great deal of credit for this goes to the Prime Minister, Mr Karamanlis.
During today's talks, we discussed a full range of bilateral issues. First of all, we took concrete steps to expand the multi-faceted economic cooperation between our countries. We believe that our joint efforts should be concentrated on continuing the largest bilateral and multilateral projects, including the construction of Burgas-Alexandroupolis oil pipeline project and the gas pipeline Southern Stream. Their implementation will bring not only tangible economic dividends but also a significant increase in energy security for the whole European continent.
Accordingly, it gives me great satisfaction to announce that on the occasion of today’s visit we have signed a tripartite (Russia, Bulgaria, Greece) protocol to establish the international project company Burgas-Alexandroupolis. This document can be described as a substantial, penultimate step on the road to the practical implementation of this crucial project. During the talks, we have heard from our experts and ministers that they intend to complete the entire process in short order.
We see great potential for the expansion of investment, tourism, and increased contact via small- and medium-sized businesses. In these areas we still have many opportunities for joint projects and endeavours.
An important theme of the meeting was the preparation for the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi. We are very grateful to our Greek partners for their support of the selection of Sochi as the Olympic capital in 2014. In addressing the challenges facing us, Greece’s valuable experience is of course very important for us.
I want to point out that our cultural links historically constitute an integral and traditional part of the cooperation between Russia and Greece. Today, we have reiterated our support for promising projects in education, science and culture that will bring together and enrich the spiritual traditions of our two peoples.
I want to thank all of our Greek friends and the Greek government for the attention they have given to the development and sustaining of interest in the Russian language.
During the meeting we discussed a wide range of European and international issues. We are in accord on how to resolve many of these problems, especially the situation in the Balkans, particularly the issue of Kosovo, and the Cyprus settlement, as well as the development of relations between Russia and the European Union.
The system of international relations is at a very important, transformative stage in the whole structure of global security development. In essence the important question on today’s agenda is what sort of world order will be established for many decades to come. Along with other nations, our countries should make their own substantial contribution to the development of the dialogue between civilisations, to make the modern world more just and democratic, free from the use of brute force and blackmail.
In conclusion I would like to thank Mr Karamanlis for the very useful and constructive exchange. I am confident that this visit will allow us to raise the bar of cooperation and partnership between Russia and Greece and have a positive impact on events taking place in Europe and worldwide.
Thank you for your attention.
Prime Minister of Greece Konstantinos Karamanlis: It is with particular pleasure that I come to Moscow again within the framework of the now frequent contacts between our countries and the animated cooperation that we have initiated. I would like to express my gratitude to President of the Russian Federation, Mr Vladimir Putin, for the invitation and the cordial hospitality. On this particular occasion, I have also congratulated him on the success of United Russia in the recent parliamentary elections.
During the negotiations, we focused on energy cooperation between our countries, which is advancing rapidly, and especially on the advancement of steps related to the completion of the Burgas-Alexandroupolis pipeline project, which will contribute to Europe's energy self-sufficiency and make our country a significant corridor for the transit of energy resources.
We discussed our cooperation in the field of natural gas and the implementation of the Southern Stream gas pipeline. We considered the possibility of further developing our economic ties. There are tremendous opportunities for joint business activities in the Balkans and the Black Sea that would increase the number of jobs in both our countries, as well as expand our cooperation in promising new areas such as tourism.
In connection with the upcoming Olympic Winter Games in Sochi in 2014, I expressed our readiness to share our experience and know-how to help with the organisation of the Olympic Games. We gained this experience during the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, as well as in the process of involving Greek companies in the building of facilities in the runup to the Olympics.
I also suggested that before the Winter Games in 2014 we declare the Year of Russia in Greece and the Year of Greece in Russia. I am pleased to say that the Russian side accepted this proposal. This initiative will enable us to further strengthen our cultural ties, promote our culture in each of our countries, and contribute to the rapprochement of our peoples and increased cooperation in the economic sphere.
We discussed the prospects for extending cooperation in the field of culture. Centuries of shared history and the reciprocal influences of our cultures represent a great opportunity for this. President Putin has a special interest in promoting culture and suggested that we declare 2008 the Year of the Russian language. We will follow through on the steps relating to the promises I have made in this regard.
We have created a Slavic Department at the University of Athens, and next year as a pilot project we will begin teaching Russian as an elective for students in secondary school.
We had the opportunity to discuss military and technical cooperation between our countries. Through an intergovernmental agreement we have recently decided to buy more than four hundred armored personnel carriers.
Finally, we exchanged views on international issues. We discussed the situation in the Balkans, paying particular attention to Kosovo, the efforts of our countries undertaken in the former Yugoslav republic of Macedonia, a Cyprus settlement, as well as cooperation between the European Union and Russia.
Once again, I want to warmly thank President Putin for his hospitality.
Question: Today, you have been saying that relations between Russia and Greece are developing successfully on almost all fronts. At the same time, some EU officials have criticized Greece for its contacts with Russia, considering them to be too close. In this regard, how do you see the development of further contacts between your two countries?
Vladimir Putin: Recently, I have been involved with the government’s attempts to balance the budget for 2008, 2009, and 2010, with social problems, with pensions. And somehow I have not had the opportunity to acquaint myself with the views of these particular officials, even the distinguished ones who work in Brussels, and do not intend to comment on them.
On the whole our relations with the European Union are developing reasonably well. We are satisfied with them. I hope that soon we will be able to sign the agreement on long-term cooperation that Russia wants. We are hoping for the understanding and support of our European partners. Europe, too, is interested in this. With regard to bilateral relations between Greece and Russia, we are pleased with our relationship and the nature and pace of its development. It yields tangible results for our economies and our citizens. Not to mention energy: Greece will be able to satisfy its needs in the energy sector in large measure by drawing on our energy resources.
But there are other very important and promising directions. And in this sense both Russia and Greece can play a very important role in Europe by supporting the stability of the European energy market. And if we implement major infrastructure projects in this area, then it should be quite clear that we are working not only for our countries but also for the benefit of all of Europe. I think that we can ignore those who have not properly understood the nature of our cooperation and not bother trying to make sense of their concerns.
Konstantinos Karamanlis: Greece is a European country which operates within the framework of European policy. However, bilateral relations are conducted on the basis our country’s national interests. Having a particularly good relationship with Russia is good for our country, and I would like to believe that it is good for Russia and useful for all of Europe. Thus, Greece is one of the countries that has actively worked to realize the benefits of closer cooperation between Russia and the European Union.
Question: The Year of Russia and the Year of the Russian language are proof of Greece’s respect for Russia. So let me ask a question in Russian, in order to demonstrate this link between us.
Dear Sirs! You have repeatedly stressed the dynamic development of bilateral relations in such areas as energy and military-technical cooperation. Concerning the two projects that you have mentioned, Burgas-Alexandroupolis and Southern Stream: At what stage are they now? What is there to do and when will they be completed?
And a second question: The Greek government has decided to buy Russian tanks. How far will cooperation in the military-technical sphere go?
Konstantinos Karamanlis: The projects are at different stages. As far as Burgas-Alexandroupolis is concerned, much remains to be done. But today was a special day. It marks a new step towards its implementation. We are able to announce a final agreement between the shareholders on the creation of an international project company, which will assume the construction and operation of the pipeline.
The Southern Stream project still needs to be elaborated. People on both sides are working on it, and we hope that in the near future we will sign an intergovernmental agreement on this project.
Regarding cooperation on defense, it is also evolving very well and extends to many areas. It is difficult to say into what other areas our cooperation will move.
Vladimir Putin: Thank you for the respect you have shown for the Year of the Russian language by speaking Russian here at the press conference. Both issues are indeed very important, but we never puff ourselves up on the subject of military-technical cooperation. Nevertheless I will say a few words about it.
Burgas-Alexandroupolis is an important project not only for us but, as my colleague has said, for Europe, because it will not only increase the supply of oil to Greece, but also increase the supply of Russia’s oil from the Caspian region to European markets. Greece thus achieves two objectives. First it increases its energy security. And second it plays an important role as a transit country for the whole of Europe, by virtue of earnings from the pipeline and increasing its importance as a country involved in the transport of oil to Europe.
Mr Karamanlis has already said that today we have signed an important document, one that constitutes a milestone in the harmonization of all the positions on the project. For us there are several options: getting the oil out through Turkey; getting additional amounts to Europe via the northern route. And the third is Burgas-Alexandroupolis. We have opted for this project, and we hope that we can move forward with it.
Regarding Southern Stream: Greece is interested in signing contracts by 2016 for the supply of Russian gas right through to 2040 and in doubling its volume. We are ready to do this. But in order to increase the volume to this extent we need additional transport capacity.
For Europe as a whole and for Greece this project is necessary. It is in its initial stages. We have seen the interest of our European partners and are confident that this endeavor will be implemented.
Regarding military-technical cooperation: there are no restrictions on cooperation with Greece in this area, except those imposed on us by the framework of international obligations. This applies to weapons of mass destruction, or more precisely the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and the proliferation of missile technologies.
Everything else can be implemented in cooperation with Greece, including work on joint production and development of weapons systems and special equipment, including those on Greek territory. All of this is under consideration.
I can assure you that Russia is a very reliable partner and does not submit to any sort of pressure from anyone. There are no political restrictions in Russia on cooperation with Greece in the military-technical sphere. There are none and there never will be.