Putin says Europe putting up barriers to Russian firms

26th November 2010, Comments 0 comments

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said on Friday that Europe was putting up barriers to Russian firms as he pressed for closer economic ties.

Speaking at an economic forum in the German capital Berlin, Putin said Russian companies were keen to continue expanding in Europe but often faced "politically and economically motivated resistance.

"Sometimes it is difficult to (expand) ... due to reasons that are completely unclear to us," he told the gathering, attended by representatives of German corporate giants such as Volkswagen, Deutsche Bank and Siemens.

"One cannot work like this," Putin said.

Putin cited as an example a deal that collapsed to sell a 55-percent stake in General Motor's European unit Opel to Canadian auto parts maker Magna and Russia's largest lender Sberbank.

"Has this firm become better off?" Putin said, referring to the carmaker.

"Nothing has changed for the better there."

German Chancellor Angela Merkel was ready last year to provide 4.5 billion euros (6.0 billion dollars) in guarantees to Opel if GM sold it to Magna Sberbank but GM scrapped the deal in late 2009, deciding to keep the unit.

Putin added other Russian companies such as steelmaker Severstal, oil firm Surgutneftegaz and Renova, an investment group controlled by billionaire Viktor Vekselberg, faced problems in Europe.

Ahead of his visit to Germany Putin floated a bold idea of a free-trade zone across the European continent from "Lisbon to Vladivostok."

Merkel on Thursday however poured cold water on Putin's idea, not least because of his plan to create a joint customs bloc with Belarus and Kazakhstan.

The two leaders were due to hold talks later on Friday.

© 2010 AFP

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