MOSCOW – After meeting Russian President Vladimir Putin a day earlier, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras will continue a push for more trade, tourism and energy deals on April 9 while the cloud of a possible default still hangs over Athens.
With Greece locked in stalled talks with international creditors holding back a 7.2-billion euro loan until more reforms are met, banks losing 28 billion euros in deposits yanked by nervous account holders, and unable to borrow from the markets, any possibility of aid from Russia was shot down by Putin.
It left Tsipras with relatively little to show from the trip so far and as he has irked European Union leaders and Greece’s lenders by leaning toward Moscow.
“There’s been a big fuss over this trip without immediate economic benefits,” Dimitris Sotiropoulos, an Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Athens told the Bloomberg news agency.
“Now he needs to do something quickly. There’s an unbalanced negotiation now, where the Greek side is prepared on some issues and completely unprepared on others,” he added.
Russia was Greece’s biggest trading partner until volume fell by 40 percent last year, Putin said at the meeting and as he raised the possibility of exempting Greece from an embargo on EU foodstuffs Moscow imposed after being hit with sanctions for backing violent separatists in Ukraine.
Tsipras tried to show he wasn’t coming with his hand out. “Greece isn’t a beggar asking different countries to solve its financing problems for an economic crisis that doesn’t concern only Greece but is European,” he said.
“It’s not a Greek problem, it’s a European problem. To the European problem, a European solution will be found,” he said, repeating his mantra that Greece’s crisis isn’t really Greece’s fault totally.
When he returns to Athens, Tsipras will face the same problems he had when he left and as he tries to assuage voters after reneging on most of his campaign promises to stand up to the troika and reject austerity while telling the lenders he would go along with reforms.
Greece took a four-month extension on Feb. 20 to its bailout packages from the troika but speculation remains that unless a solution to the cash crunch the country is facing is found that a third bailout still looms.
There needs to be domestic backing for another package in May or June, Athanasios Vamvakidis, head of G-10 foreign exchange strategy at Bank of America Merrill Lynch said.
“The most difficult thing is to approve this program in the parliament and how to fund Greece in the meantime, because they are running out of cash,” he said in an interview with Bloomberg Television. “What he really needs to bring back to Greece is a deal with Europe.”
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