Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis talks to MSNBC’s Morning Joe

Journalist: Great to have you with us. What are the top priorities for your meeting with the President today?

Kyriakos Mitsotakis:This is an important visit for me personally and for Greece because it also marks the bicentennial since the beginning of the Greek war of independence 201 years ago. It was supposed to take place last year, but because of Covid, it was moved to this year. I will also have the opportunity to address a joint session of Congress. It is a chance to celebrate the path of two vibrant democracies and to reaffirm our strategic commitment to each other. And Greece is probably the most reliable partner that the United States currently has in a rather turbulent part of the world. So we will speak about strengthening our bilateral relationship. Of course, we will also speak about the ongoing war in Ukraine and the implications it has for the European continent.

Journalist: Right. And of course, we brought you in talking about the NATO bid by Finland and Sweden to become members. And there’s some concern that Turkey has about this. What do you make of that? Will you be discussing that with the President? And why would anybody want to slow down a NATO bid by these two countries at this point?

Kyriakos Mitsotakis: You would probably have to ask the Turkish President. Greece supports membership of Sweden and Finland into NATO. It is their sovereignty decision. And I do expect at the end of the day that there will be no serious objections to these two countries joining NATO. I think this is not really the right time to use NATO membership by these two countries to bargain for other issues that someone may have on their mind. I do expect this issue to be resolved.

Journalist: This war in Ukraine, the Russian aggression in Ukraine, has brought Europe together in a way that it hasn’t been in many years. The differences between NATO members and European Union members seem to be minimized to some extent. How long do you think that will last? Is there a worry that eventually the Russians can outlast European unity and wear it down over time?

Kyriakos Mitsotakis: Europe has been extremely unified when it came to addressing the Russian invasion into Ukraine. We moved very quickly to implement very dramatic sanctions. And I do expect this European unity to last because at the end of the day, what is happening in Europe is something completely inconceivable. I mean, borders are being redrawn by force. We thought that after the 20th century this would never happen in Europe.

So what’s at stake here is not just the sovereignty of Ukraine. It is the security arrangement of Europe as a whole, and that is why I expect European unity certainly to be a given. At the same time, I do need to point out that there are issues regarding the price of energy which need to be addressed at the European level.
We have an extraordinary European Council which will take place at the end of the month of May to address these issues. Because when we impose sanctions upon Russia, we want to be sure that we don’t shoot ourselves in the foot. We want to make sure that we impose more pain on Russia than we do on our own citizens.

Journalist: How do you do that?

Kyriakos Mitsotakis: You do that by reaching an agreement on how to intervene in the wholesale gas market. I’ve been a big advocate for an intervention in the gas market. I think right now the prices of wholesale gas in Europe do not reflect the fundamental forces of supply and demand. We are big buyers, and we need to use our leverage as big buyers of gas to bring down the prices of gas.

This is an issue that was also raised by Prime Minister Draghi when he was in Washington a few days ago. And we need to pool our resources to make sure that we provide also our citizens and our households with additional support when it comes to the prices of energy.
Journalist: Mr. Prime Minister, the war shows no sign of ending anytime soon, but it will someday. When that day comes, how does Europe, how does Greece reengage with Russia? How do you reengage with President Putin if he’s still in power, or do you not?

Kyriakos Mitsotakis: That’s a very very difficult question. Right now, the first priority is for the war to come to an end, but, of course, on terms that will be acceptable to Ukraine. Right now, there is a real war that’s being fought. We’re all supporting Ukraine in this effort, including Greece. We are one of the first countries to send not just humanitarian, but military assistance to Ukraine. And I think there’s still a long way to go before this issue is resolved, unfortunately.

Journalist: Mr Prime Minister, in addition to your meetings with the President, you’re going to be addressing Congress, you’re going to be meeting with the leadership. What is the message you want to convey to Congress to the American people, not just about the alliance and the relationship between Greece and United States. But people to people. There’s still concern about where this ends up, how this ends up with Ukraine and Russia. What do you want the American people to know from your visit?

Kyriakos Mitsotakis: Well, the first thing I want the American people to know is that Greece as a country is back. As you know, we went through a very painful financial crisis. Ten years ago, we were still in a bailout program. This has caused significant pain on Greek society. But since we came into power the economy has recovered. I think we’ve dealt with COVID probably better than most European countries. Many American companies are investing in Greece. Many American tourists are coming to Greece. We have the maximum number of nonstop flights between the US and Greece this summer. So this is a dynamic economy, open for business, open to attract American investment and for the US, a stable partner in a difficult part of the world. We have a role to play in the Balkans. We have very good connections to the Middle East. We want Greece to be a regional energy hub to bring in gas, maybe tomorrow hydrogen from the Middle East into Europe. So we want to leverage our important geopolitical position and the fact that we are a stable and thriving democracy, member of the European Union, a member of NATO. So we are a reliable partner for the US.And this is an opportunity -when I will speak to Congress- to celebrate this special relationship.

Journalist: It is definitely a relationship, the two relationships, the EU and NATO that have found renewed strength in light of this war. Just before you go, with Finland and Sweden fast tracking them into NATO, if that were to happen, is there the discussion about the concern that this might prompt some sort of retaliation beyond Ukraine’s borders?

Kyriakos Mitsotakis : I’m sure there’s going to be a lot of saber rattling and I’m sure Mr. Putin is not happy about this decision. But at the end of the day, Russia succeeded “ in uniting NATO” giving it a new purpose and now extending the alliance from 30 to 32 members. Again, as I told you, this is a very important. It’s a momentous decision. If you think that Sweden is a country that was neutral for more than 200 years. It sat out the Second World War and now it is deciding to join NATO. The same is true for Finland. So we are talking about a new security arrangement in Europe. And I’m sure this is another unintended consequence of this very disastrous decision by President Putin to invade Ukraine.

Journalist: Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis thank you very much for coming on morning Joe.

Kyriakos Mitsotakis : Thank you. Very much.