ISSN 2330-717X

Putin Seeks Closer Europe Ties As Economy Falters

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By Jorge Valero

(EurActiv) — Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday (17 June) said he was willing to reach out to Europe to mend relations shattered by the Ukraine crisis but insisted the West was responsible for the bad blood.

Putin was making a pitch at Russia’s major annual economic forum in Saint Petersburg to improve business ties with Europe, as Moscow desperately tries to breathe life into its recession-hit economy battered by Western sanctions.

“European business wants and is ready to work with our country. European politicians need to reach out to business, to show wisdom, far-sightedness and flexibility,” said Putin.

“We remember how all this started. Russia did not initiate today’s collapse,” he added.

“We hold no grudge and are willing to reach out to our European partners but obviously this can’t be a one-sided game.”

Russia’s energy-driven economy is locked in its longest slump since Putin came to power over 16 years ago, caused by both Western sanctions and plunging oil prices.

Crimea sanctions renewed

As Putin was talking news emerged that the European Union had rolled over for another year sanctions adopted in response to Moscow’s March 2014 annexation of Crimea, which prohibit the EU from doing business on the peninsula.

Sources in Brussels say that broader economic sanctions over a pro-Russian uprising in east Ukraine that have hit Russia’s financial sector could be extended by the EU as early as next week ahead of their expiration at the end of July.

Russia in August 2014 introduced an embargo on a raft of food from the West in retaliation for the sanctions.

Speaking to EurActiv.com, Russian Ambassador to the EU Vladimir Chizhov, said that – to his direct knowledge – Juncker and Putin did not discuss sanctions because “that is not in our agenda”.

“It is a problem the Europeans created and when they solve it they know where to find us”.

Putin, in his speech, said, “In my talks with French and German businessmen I see they want to cooperate with our country. Russia did not initiate downfall of our relations.”

Asked about the current version of a ‘Cold War’ between the West and Russia, Putin said, “I would like to think nobody interested in that, for sure not us, no need for that.”

“Negotiations are difficult but this is the only way to reach acceptable solutions,” he added.

Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, who sat next to Putin on the stage, came to the economic forum with a large delegation of businessmen.

He pointed out that the spiral of tit-for-tat measures have hit European producers.

“The sanctions and those put in place in reprisal negatively affect both Russian and European companies,” he said in an interview with TASS news agency. “Both sides suffer.”

Speaking on Thursday at the forum the head of the EU commission Jean-Claude Juncker warned Russia that the economic sanctions would not be dropped until Russia fully implemented a peace deal to end the conflict in east Ukraine that the West blames on Moscow.

“The next step is clear: full implementation of the agreement – no more, no less,” Juncker told Russia’s main economic forum ahead of a meeting with Putin.

“This is the only way to begin our conversation and the only way to lift the economic sanctions that have been imposed.”

The Juncker-Putin meeting – their first in Russia since the EU imposed sanctions – had sparked Kremlin hopes it might signal the start of a return to business-as-usual with the bloc.

Putin, who has previously insisted that the worst of Russia’s economic crisis is over, said he was targeting a return to growth rates of “no lower than four percent”.

But Russia’s gross domestic product shrank by some 3.7 percent last year and the IMF predicts its economy will contract by 1.5 percent this year before experiencing modest growth in 2017.

On Syria, Putin asked, “Do we want to replace an undemocratic regime by another? We need to use democratic tools.”

“Process will be difficult”, nothing will happen easily…, “ he added. The Russian leader suggested that President Assad was also committed to the political process, in drafting a new constitution and then holding parliamentary elections, saying, “We talked about that and Assad agreed to that, under control of the UN.

“There is nothing bad about that,” Putin concluded.

Trump talented?

When asked if he still held to his opinion that Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump was “talented”, Putin paused – to laughter from the audience – and replied, “I just said [in the past] he is bright person, isn’t he?”

“I welcome that he wanted to restore US-Russia relations, don’t we want that?”

“The US is a great power, right now maybe only superpower, and we accept that.”

“The world need a country as strong as the US is, but not that interferes in our affairs or EU-Russia relations”


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EurActiv

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2 thoughts on “Putin Seeks Closer Europe Ties As Economy Falters

  • June 18, 2016 at 6:36 pm
    Permalink

    There is an immense dislike of politicians in Europe not helped by rumours of brown envelopes being received from across the Atlantic.

    But perhaps when the EU finally collapses (I mean not in terms of unemployment which is a fact of life especially in Southern Europe but in terms of countries leaving it) the blame would be correctly laid at the door of politicians who kowtowed to American pressure, ultimately for the benefit of a few people

    Reply
  • June 19, 2016 at 4:53 am
    Permalink

    The author implies that the Russian economy is collapsing – but that isn’t the case. Yes, their GDP decreased in 2015 and way less in 2016 until the turnaround to diversify the economy and specifically the export products, takes hold. Contrary to the EU and the US, Russia changed its budget so as to avoid large debt. The result is that Russia has very little debt. In contrast, German manufacturing contracted by 2%. The US economy is uncertain – employment collapsed in May, durable product sales receded, exports shrank. The other EU countries are plagued by overwhelming debt – some 300% of GDP for Italy, Spain, Portugal, Ireland and even more for some of the east European countries. Greece in on its way to 250% of GDP debt. It is also clear that these debts can never be paid back unless at some point the countries declare bankruptcy and exit the Eurozone and EU to leave the debt behind. It is also clear that China, like India and Russia will import less as time goes on because they make every effort to develop the technology they imported from the EU inside their own countries. Indian made is the Leitmotiv in India. China is turning towards a larger inland economy. Russia in all the silence created a new technological research and development sector for both, civilian engineering and defense. In addition, it increased its food production by 26% in 2015 and likely beyond that in 2016. Which abodes badly for the EU: if and when it decides to lift the sanctions, it might find out that the export markets it had in Russia no longer exist.

    This is of course what the US hopes for: it would force the EU to sign the non-sensical TTIP and TISA that gives US corporations essentially complete control over the EU economy including now nationalized sectors like NIH in UK, the transport system on the mainland and various other industries now owned by the governments. The way TTIP is formulated it would also oblige the EU to accept US fracking companies and allow GMO seeds and foods to be introduced at will despite the current exception that countries could sign and labeling laws that require labeling of GMO containing foods. That would all fall by the wayside. That would in effect make the EU completely dependent on the US, turn it into the US’s largest export market and in essence turn the EU into the 51st US US state. Most manufacturing would be done in Asia where currencies are vastly lower, resulting in US corporations re-exporting their goods tax free to both the US and the EU, thereby eliminating all local industries while using Asia and Africa in time as slave labor. That in turn would keep unemployment sky-high in the EU and US and depress wages to barely survival level. This is the scenario envisioned by Obama and Hillary. Hence the insistence on gun control: to prevent civil war when people start to realize what is going on.

    Reply

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