Russian metals tycoon Mikhail Prokhorov has disclosed his ambitions to become prime minister and his party’s plans for Russia to join the Schengen and euro zones.
"I think I am capable of doing the tasks of the prime minister," Prokhorov said at a news conference in Moscow before adding that his views as a premier should concur with those of the president.
In June, Prokhorov, Russia's third richest man with a fortune estimated at $22.7 billion, agreed to head the Pravoye Delo party, or the Right Cause, which he said he wants to become the second largest party in December's parliamentary elections.
"I could not be a prime minister under an agenda which I don’t believe in. Under the constitution, the president sets the agenda, so if the program that Pravoye Delo puts forth is shared by a large number of people or the man who becomes president in March, then [the premiership] is a distinct possibility."
Pravoye Delo strongly supports President Dmitry Medvedev's modernization agenda, and Prokhorov's many fields of activity include nanotechnology and a "people's" hybrid car.
The party has been at the center of a scandal recently, with billboards featuring the party's slogan and Prokhorov's portrait being dismantled or vandalized in several Russian cities including Moscow, Nizhny Novgorod and Yekaterinburg.
Russia in Schengen, euro zone?
Prokhorov said the Right Cause would seek to form a “greater Europe” with Russia’s integration into the Schengen zone and the euro zone.
“I think our country should make a decisive step toward rapprochement with Europe by first of all joining the Schengen zone and secondly entering the euro zone,” he said.
He said that combining Russia’s vast territory and the potential of a great transport power and natural resources with Europe’s economic capacity would surely be mutually advantageous.
If his party’s plans come true, Russia would become a leading European economy within seven to ten years and would provide for the self-sufficiency of the euro, consolidate Europe’s sovereignty and help quickly overcome the global economic recession, he said.
“The future global economy will be based on three powerful centers - America and Latin America, greater Europe, and China with the rest of Asia,” he said, adding that this model was the most balanced and would be the most effective driving force.
“Each country in the new world should pursue an aggressive strategy for development,” he said. “For Russia, I have a plan… to return to the old new idea of forming ‘greater Europe’ stretching from Lisbon to Vladivostok.”
However, the United Russia party led by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin criticized Prokhorov’s proposals as being far from reality and too “liberal.”
“If Russia joins the euro zone… it would mean giving up economic sovereignty and this move has doubtful prospects, considering the current economic problems in the European Union,” said Yury Shuvalov, a deputy spokesman for United Russia.
In his interview, Prokhorov also said that the ruble tied to energy export revenues had no chance of becoming even a regional currency, let alone a savings currency, which underlies any economic development.
But Shuvalov contradicted himself by saying that the Russian ruble was already becoming a regional currency dominating in mutual payments with Belarus and Kazakhstan and would be even more so when the three countries form a customs union and become a single economic area.
Either reforms, or recession
Prokhorov said the global economy had no choice but to pursue drastic reforms to prevent a new round of recession.
Speculation about a new possible crisis began after the U.S. credit rating was downgraded on Friday night causing stock markets to tumble.
He said Russia’s budget based on oil and gas prices would be the first to suffer from any global crisis.
“The budget is deficit-free based on the oil price of $115-118 per barrel, which is a lot because the oil price has already plummeted to below these figures,” he added.
Brent was traded at $107 per barrel as of 1:00 p.m. Moscow time on Thursday.