Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has been trying to agree a new bailout deal with European Finance Ministers for some months now. Greece is due to repay €450m to the International Monetary Fund on 9th of May and is thought to have overheads approaching €1.5 trillion a month. For a country that is hovering dangerously close to bankruptcy these amounts of money could be devastating for Greece’s economy. It now appears that, with the next meeting between Tsipras and EU finance ministers not coming until the 24th April, they are looking to new pastures for economic support.
Syriza party leader Alexis Tsipras met with Russian leader Vladimir Putin recently in order to try and find a new financial ally – something Russia are noticeably short of in Europe. Last year the EU and US launched a series of economic sanctions against Russia in an attempt to discourage Putin from his ‘invasion’ of Ukraine, one that famously culminated in the annexing of Crimea. In response, Russia imposed some trade sanctions of their own, the most pertinent of which was a ban on the importation of certain Greek food products. Perhaps it is for this reason that the Greek government are so eager to improve relations with Putin.
Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt believes Greece’s economic future is in the hands of the EU
Greece seems to very much be of the opinion that Europe should not start a rift with Russia and has even questioned further sanctions against them. This raised question for some that Greece were angling for an emergency loan from Russia, so that Tsipras could buy more time and negotiate a more favourable deal with EU finance ministers. However, a slew of influential people have denounced this as ludicrous, with many insisting that co-operation with the EU is Greece’s only road to economic salvation.
However, it could be argued that an agreement with Greece wouldn’t be the worst thing for Russia. Indeed it is predicted that Greece will not only ask for a rescue loan but also discuss the possibility of Russia lifting the fruit export ban that is currently on Greece and a discounted gas deal. In return Tsipras could guarantee Putin support from Greece, in the form of its Nato presence, and argue a relaxing of Russia sanctions.
With the result of the Kremlin talks still unknown, it is possible that the rest of the EU is concerned that Russia could gain unwanted influence within the union. In a way, as much as Europe’s political elite would disagree, talks with Russia could act as leverage for Greece when it comes to agreeing a bail out deal. Indeed, the outcome of talks between Putin and Tsipras could be pivotal in deciding Greece’s future – both within the EU and financially speaking.