​‘Greece is independent state & wants good relations with any country’ – Greek minister

Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) and Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras. (Reuters/Alexander Zemlianichenko)
Some Europeans have forgotten Greece is an independent state, which may seek good relations with other countries, said George Katrougalos, Greece's Minister for Administrative Reforms, commenting on criticism within the EU of PM Tsipras’ visit to Moscow.

RT:No major deals just plans. Is this what Greece was expecting from the Prime Minister’s visit to Moscow?

George Katrougalos: Both sides wanted to restart their economic relations on a new more sound basis, because the commerce between Russia and Greece has reduced by 40 percent during the last year, basically due to the sanctions. And we managed [to achieve] this goal: the two leaders [talked] for almost three hours in a very friendly and positive atmosphere. I think that was a big success.

RT:Joint agriculture ventures as a loophole to soften anti-Russian sanctions, and a possible gas pipeline. Russia may help Greece to develop and earn, but will this be enough? What's your further strategy?

GK: Certainly we are not looking for loopholes. What we are looking for, is that both sides - Russia and us – have good relations, mutually profitable. But although we want to have these good relations with Russia as with other countries, the US, China, the problems of the Greek economy are going to be resolved within the EU. What we are aspiring to is to change the existent paradigm of austerity in the whole EU and turn it to a new economic policy of growth. I think there lies the future not only of the Greek, but also of the European economy.

RT:Greece is to pay €450 million euro to the IMF on Thursday. Where did you get the money?

GK: We managed to find this money by national resources basically through internal borrowing and of course we are negotiating with our partners new liquidity terms exactly because we must not only satisfy the needs of our lenders but also restart our economy.

READ MORE: Greece pays off €448mn in debt to IMF

RT:Prime Minister Tsipras said Greece will help to establish better ties between Russia and the EU. How exactly?

GK: Greece geopolitically was always been a bridge between Eastern and Western Europe. Moreover, we have traditionally had good relations with Russia and historical and cultural bonds. Our government considers the sanctions against Russia counterproductive. So in this period we think we can be an intermediary between Russia and our European partners, so that we get could get out of this vicious circle of sanctions - which is practically a kind of revival of the Cold War - and establish new relations based on sincerity, on good understanding and of course on respect of human rights and national integrity of all the European states.

RT:The EU leaders and media sounded pretty cautious or even jealous over Prime Minister Tsipras' visit to Moscow. What's wrong with Athens forging political and economic ties outside the EU?

GK: It seems that some political circles and some media have forgotten that Greece is an independent and sovereign state that must have good, sincere relations with any country in the world. We are part of Europe, we are part of the EU, but besides our home it’s always a good thing to have good relations with our neighbors. And Russia is a big country, a country with which we have historical bonds of friendship. What is more normal than to seek to revive these good relations?

RT:Greece is also demanding €280 billion in Second World War reparations from Germany. How realistic is this? Germany says this chapter is closed.

GK: This is a claim based not only on legal terms; it is also a moral and a historical claim. And not only are the Greeks requesting something like that, there are a lot of Germans that want to make peace with their history and support this very fair demand. But of course this is something that is going to be discussed in friendly terms with Germany which is a friendly country, a partner of ours within the EU.

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