Statements of Deputy FM Kouvelis and the Transport Minister of the Russian Federation, Mr. Levitin.
Mr. Kouvelis: We had a working meeting today with the Transport Minister of the Russian Federation, Mr. Igor Levitin, whom I welcome to Athens. This is the first time he has visited Athens, and he is here in his capacity as Chair of the Greek-Russian Joint Interministerial Committee.
Mr. Levitin and I had a very friendly discussion. In addition to having a very thorough knowledge of the technical matters we discussed, he also proved to be a very warm and accommodating person. And that helped us to have an excellent collaboration on the issues being addressed by the JIC concerning the overall economic cooperation between Greece and Russia.
We looked at various issues, and I will give you a brief rundown of them. We started with energy issues, with particular emphasis on the Burgas-Alexandroupoli pipeline, regarding which the Greek side reaffirmed and reconfirmed its interest in this project’s being carried through speedily and effectively; it is a project of major importance to Greece’s energy planning. We also talked about cooperation on and development of the South Stream pipeline and development of the route through Greece, as well as the other plans and prospects we have; that is, the renewal of the cooperation agreement and provision of energy resources and natural gas after the end of 2010, with the target of 2016. And we also discussed Greece’s collaboration with Russia on green technology issues in the energy sector; that is, renewable energy sources and conservation.
We also discussed the sector of transport and communications, and the two important points I would underscore here are, first, the cooperation – supported by the Russian side, as well – on a Thessaloniki-Moscow train link, with cargo trains that, with refrigerator container cars, can significantly increase the volume of Greece’s exports of fresh products, vegetables, fruit, etc. – a very important goal for Greece.
There was also a proposal we gladly accepted from Mr. Levitin for Greek-Russian shipping collaboration on the setting up of cruise enterprises in the Sochi area, where the 2014 Olympics are going to be held, in the Black Sea region. It was a special invitation for cooperation with Greece, which we accepted very gladly, and we will immediately take steps to carry it through.
We talked about trade and industrial cooperation issues, cooperation in the high technology and commercial products sectors.
We broached two specific matters that will be considered very carefully by the Russian side. One has to do with the exporting of processed agricultural products – particularly canned peaches, which are very important for the Greek market because Greece provides thousands of tons to the Russian market every year, and we agreed to look at ways for exporting to be made easier by the Greek side. We also talked about the fur sector; Russia is the target market for about 80% of Greek exports in this sector.
Two other issues we looked at were Greece’s cooperation with Russia on the preparation of the projects and planning ahead of the Sochi Olympics in 2014. The two sides agreed to cooperate closely and – possibly by the next meeting of the JIC, which is set for the first half of 2010, in Moscow – see how the two countries’ Chambers of Commerce can develop synergies in the sectors of planning and construction ahead of the Sochi Olympics, which is an important market for Greek enterprises. And we also want to look more generally at how we can have greater cooperation between the Greek side, as a country that has successfully hosted the Olympic Games, and the Russian side, which is hosting the Games in Sochi, which has a mountainous landscape very similar to Greece’s.
Finally, we talked about the matter of the two countries’ cooperation on tourism issues; the development of tourism. This is very important to Greece, because there is an increasing flow of Russian visitors; visitors who are very important, who are good tourists that are economically important to Greek tourism.
We want to see how we can extend this cooperation in new and perhaps imaginative forms of tourism cooperation on new tourism products, cultural tourism, nature tourism, educational tourism, etc. And we also looked at the potential for Russian public organizations to promote tourism to Greece.
Finally, we agreed, as I said earlier, on the timeframe for the 7th JIC, in Moscow, which will be some time in May or June 2010. In fact, we agreed – following a proposal from Mr. Levitin, whom I thank for this – that the Greek delegation will travel not only to Moscow, but also to the Sochi area, so that we can firm up the cooperation between these two Olympic cities.
With these words, I would like once again to thank Mr. Levitin. I really think that this was an excellent outcome for the bilateral cooperation we had. We covered a lot of issues that are issues that can help both countries to confront a time of economic crisis with increasing economic activity, which will benefit a broad range of Greek enterprises and bring the two countries closer together, naturally.
I will close here by saying that there is something else that has already been scheduled: 2013 will be a Year of Greece ahead of the Sochi Olympics, and a Year of Russia in Greece, to point up this relationship between these two countries.
With these words, I would like to thank Mr. Levitin once again.
Mr. Levitin: Thank you very much, Mr. Minister. I am very satisfied at the outcome of our negotiations, and even though we met for the first time today, the Committee I am co-Chairing has a tradition and we have a great deal of work to carry out.
Our countries are facing some difficulties with regard to our bilateral trade, economic relations. Many problems have to do with the fact that Russia is not yet a member of the World Trade Organization, with the result that we regulate international trade matters in our own way. But this cannot stand in the way of our harmonizing the ways we carry out transactions between us.
So we have a number of issues that we noted in our talks. We have goals to achieve: trade, economic and tourism goals. 250,000 Russian tourists a year makes a significant impact on Greece’s national income, and we would like our tourists in Greece to feel safe, to feel at home and to increase.
Many working groups are working under our Committee. The working groups will look at all the issues we discussed today so that at the next meeting of the JIC, in Moscow, we can convene in a successful manner.
I would like once again to express my warm thanks for the reception given us, as well as my wishes to you, personally, and the whole government for successful work in all sectors.