Eurogroup's Juncker, Russia's Putin put faith in euro

Last Updated: Tue, Sep 25, 2012 20:50 hrs

By Gleb Bryanski

MOSCOW (Reuters) - The euro zone is better prepared to overcome difficulties than it was a few years ago, the chairman of the Eurogroup of finance ministers said on Tuesday during a visit to Moscow.

"All those who believe that in some time the euro zone will collapse or will cease to exist in the short term are terribly mistaken," Juncker, who is also Luxembourg's prime minister, said after talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

"There is unconditional will in the euro zone to preserve the single currency," he said, speaking through an interpreter.

Putin, who has often been critical of how the euro zone countries have managed their fiscal woes, said he trusts the leaders of the group.

"We see the determination of the (European) Commission and key players in the euro zone to change for the better," Putin said. "We trust such policy."

The two leaders agreed that Europe should be more ambitious in developing ties with Russia despite disagreements on human rights issues.

"I believe that the European Union should intensify its relationship with Russia and set more ambitious tasks even despite the existing differences over the human rights issues," Juncker told Putin at the start of their meeting in the Kremlin.

Many politicians and rights campaigners in the European Union have accused Brussels of complacency about human rights violations in Russia. The EU accounts for half of Russia's external trade and gets much of its natural gas from Russia.

Juncker also praised Putin for keeping part of Russia's reserves, that at $522.8 billion as of mid-September are the world's third largest, in euros. Putin said the policy would not change.

"A significant part of our reserves, slightly less than half, is in euros. We are aware of the risks but the fundamentals are such that will allow the single currency to stay," Putin told reporters.

(Reporting by Gleb Bryanski; Writing by Lidia Kelly; Editing by Stephen Powell)

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