The meeting of the Extraordinary European Council has just been completed, with a really full agenda, as it has been in the last year. I think that the fact that the European Union has managed to reach an agreement on the sixth sanctions package against Russia is a success. As you know, there has been a discussion over this package for many weeks. We have managed to reach an agreement taking into consideration the geographic particularities of some Member States.
The important outcome of the sanctions that will be imposed will have to do with the fact that almost 90% of the Russian oil that was directed to Europe, essentially will no longer be supplied from Russia towards the European Union. I think that in this way, we will be able to deprive Russia from important sources so as not to give Russia the chance to continue to finance the barbaric invasion of Ukraine.
We had the chance to discuss in detail issues that concern energy security in our continent. I had the opportunity to present – once more – the Greek position on the diversification of sources and routes of energy supply.
As you know, Greece is rapidly turning into a very important regional hub for the import of natural gas, not just in our country but also in the Balkans and Eastern Europe. And many important projects, like FSRU in Alexandroupolis, are part of this strategy. These are projects that also have a European dimension, apart from the national one, as they help our friend – countries in the Balkans to end, even sooner, their dependence on Russian natural gas.
Let me cite the example of the IGB pipeline, which will connect TAP with much larger capacity with Bulgaria’s natural gas network and will be operationally ready within the next weeks. This is very important for our friend country Bulgaria, since – as you know, it has already endured the consequences of Russia’s decision to end natural gas supply to Bulgaria.
We also discussed about the very important, new proposal of the European Commision, the so-called “REPowerEU”. Essentially we discussed the capacity to leverage untapped resources from the Resilience and Recovery Fund (RRF) in order to finance even faster the energy transition. Greece will surely claim its fair share in these sources, once the distribution procedure is finalized. We have many projects that could be financed through this tool. Projects that will help us achieve green transition much faster, while we will also be able to reinforce our energy security overall.
Once more, we discussed the major problem of high prices in natural gas and their connection to the prices of electricity all over Europe. Myself, as well as many of my colleagues, have highlighted the fact that there is a structural problem, today, in the way that electricity is determined, as the electricity pricing system was not designed to take into account extremely high prices of natural gas.
A clear mandate was given to the European Commission to examine proposals to decouple the prices of electricity from the prices of natural gas. One of these proposals can be- there is an explicit reference to this in the conclusions- a cap on the wholesale price of natural gas, which is a proposal made by Greece as well as other European countries to the European Commission.
In any case, I want to point out that this is an exceptionally complicated debate – as I have said before. Every European country has its own particularities and Greece is not going to wait for the European Union in order to provide support to households and companies.
The National Support Program, as it has already been announced, will enter into force as of next month. The related platform where households will be able to submit the necessary documents will be operational within the next weeks, so that they can get 60% return of the excessive charge from December to May. This will be an important relief and an acknowledgement from the side of the government that indeed there have been excessively high charges of electricity and we are here to fix it a posteriori.
And of course as from July – as we have said – the new electricity pricing system will enter into force. We have already taken the relevant European approvals on this and we will be able to practically eradicate the very negative consequences of the readjustment clause and keep the rise of electricity bill cost at rational levels.
I will say once again that the financing of this major national effort is made with national funds, but also – as we had promised – through the overtaxation on the excess profits of wholesale electricity companies. The relevant provision was voted by the Parliament last week. This is a provision that has been appraised by many of my colleagues in the European Council. There has been great interest over this national initiative and the clear way in which the Regulatory Authority for Energy has defined “excessive profits”. And of course I want to repeat once again that those who were criticizing us for not imposing overtaxation to the excess profits of the companies, when it was time to vote in the Parliament, they voted “present”. This means that they were practically absent in this major national effort to distribute in a fair way the cost of this major energy disturbance.
We also discussed issues related to food security. Me and many of my colleagues are very concerned about the fact that today more than 20 millions tons of grain are trapped in Ukraine and they cannot be transported because the way out via the Black Sea is practically stranded and the ability to transfer those grains through the railway network is de facto limited.
We support the initiative undertaken by the Secretary General of the United Nations in order to find a solution which, de facto, will inevitably have to involve Russia, so that a sea humanitarian corridor will be created that will allows this precious wheat to exit the port of Odessa, so that silos can be filled with this year’s crop and so that poor, remote countries will not have to pay the price for the war in Ukraine, as they will have to deal with hunger and a new famine. Of course, Greek shipping, as the largest shipping force in the European Union, would have a major role to play in case we came to such a solution.
Finally, I had the opportunity to inform my counterparts on the recent escalation of Turkey’s aggressiveness, as it has manifested during these last two weeks. I said once again that such provocations, such bravados cannot be tolerated, neither by Greece nor by the European Union. And I asked that this matter be discussed again, if Turkey insists on this irrational and dead-end strategy, during the regular European Council in June. So that there is a clear reference in the conclusions of the European Council with an explicit and clear condemnation of this new, completely useless and unnecessary Turkish provocation.
The last thing that our sensitive region needs, in times when international peace and international stability are tested, is yet another source of tension. This is why our country always responds to the provocations of our neighbors with the composure that derives from its power but also with trust in Law.
QUESTIONS BY JOURNALISTS:
Spyros Mourelatos (Ant1 & ANA MPA news): Mr President. You mentioned the conclusions of the extraordinary Summit on energy. You repeated the proposal submitted by Athens on imposing a cap.
But I understand, from the text of conclusions, that the progress we have been wishing for has not been achieved. You have repeatedly said that it is urgent to have a coordinated European response in order to deal with the cost and relieve households and companies.
My question is whether you feel that this proposal will be postponed or whether you feel that it can be included in the conclusions of the next Summit in June.
One more question, if I may, Mr President. There is a real issue in Greece and in other countries, but in Greece there is a large issue concerning fuel prices. Does the government plan to intervene and if this is the case, when will that be? Thank you.
Kyriakos Mitsotakis: As I told you the previous time that I had the chance to answer your questions, the issue of intervening in the natural gas wholesale market is exceptionally complicated. It is a very technical issue.
Just as complicated is the issue of disconnecting the electricity market from the prices of natural gas, which are currently the highest marginal prices. Consequently they carry away with them the cost of electricity all over Europe. This is not just a Greek particularity.
I feel that there is now more dynamic and a better understanding of this problem. At the beginning we were quite alone, when we touched upon this issue. Now I see many of my colleagues sharing our view and putting pressure on the European Commission to agree on interventions sooner than later, which will simply allow us not to pay unjustifiably high prices for natural gas, compared with other countries in the world.
If, for example, you take the case of liquified natural gas, and see how much Japan is paying compared to Europe, Europe pays much more for natural gas compared to other countries, because gas is connected to the spot market with the TTF index. So the intervention there is necessary.
Let me stress, though, that what matters for the Greek household is the immediate relief and it will see this relief, actually it has already seen it. The bills received, especially the bills to companies that arrive on a monthly basis, are noticeably reduced, returns have already started to appear. As we have said, households will be able to get a compensation of up to 600 euros for the extremely high bills they have paid. This is what matters, in the end, for households and the businesses.
The rest of the issues will take time, so that they can be dealt with, but the relief that the households and the businesses will feel is immediate and it is the outcome of the national support plan, as it has been announced and will be materialized in the next months.
The problem of fuel prices is indeed a pan-european problem that concerns all countries. All countries have different prices, because they have different taxation for fuel products. As you know, the government has already proceeded with a small intervention, through Fuel Pass, which has been in fact widely embraced by citizens, as almost 80% of the beneficiaries have received the relevant amounts.
I am not ready, right now, to make further announcements. We have been watching this issue closely and we will announce, given that there is financial capacity, our next decisions on the issue of fuel when and if we are ready.
Maria Psara (STAR): Thank you, Mr. President. A question about your first meeting with Chancellor Scholtz. We know that you showed maps, the map of the “blue homeland”. Could you explain to us exactly what the reaction of the German Chancellor was when he understood all the Turkish illegal claims.
And I would like to ask you, did you feel that the Chancellor recognized that Turkey is the one that threatens and that Greece is the one which is defending itself? And, finally, did he give a convincing explanation for keeping equal distances, a logique that Germany seems to be adopting recently?
Kyriakos Mitsotakis: I made it clear to the Chancellor, with whom I had a very friendly conversation – it may have been our first organized conversation but we have exchanged views many times on the sidelines of the European Council – that it is inconceivable to retain a policy of equal distances, on these issues, from one EU Member State towards another EU Member State, which is directly threatened by a neighbor who actually has the status of a candidate country for accession to the European Union.
These announcements, at the Foreign Ministries’ level, sometimes have a procedural character as well. However, I believe that the Chancellor fully understood the extent of the problem.
And of course the map of the “blue homeland” you referred to, is the official doctrine of Turkish foreign policy. And the Turkish leadership has no difficulty portraying it as a projection of naval power which, nevertheless, blatantly violates our sovereignty and our sovereign rights.
I believe that this is the best proof even against the most skeptical, when we say that in fact Turkey is the one that threatens us and obviously we are not the ones who threaten Turkey.
Nikos Armenis (MEGA): Mr President, I would like to insist on your meeting with Mr Scholz. While you were showing him the map of the “blue homeland”, Mr. Çavuşoğlu was showing other maps and was threatening to challenge us and to raise the issue of our sovereignty in the Greek islands.
I wanted to know what his reaction was and whether you discussed yesterday’s statement by the Deputy Government Spokeswoman of the Chancellery who called on you and on the Turkish President to resolve your differences.
Kyriakos Mitsotakis: I have already answered your second question. Beyond that, I do not have much to add to this issue.
I would only like to say that Greece rejects even the most absurd arguments with composure, self-confidence and always following our principles, our values and our unwavering respect for International Law.
This is what we did with the letter we sent to the United Nations, in which we deconstruct the “arguments” of Turkey, in a cold manner and without any emotional outbursts. This is what we will continue to do. We will never be the ones to resort to escalation, to insults, to personal characterizations. It’s not something that befits me. It does not befit the country, it does not befit the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
We have the confidence that arises from the belief that we are right. It stems from the strong allies we have and it stems, of course, from our strong and increasingly reinforced deterrent in order to defend our sovereignty and our sovereign rights.
I have nothing else to add to this and I am, by no means, going to get involved – it would be very easy for me, but I will not do it – in a game of ping pong of personal characterizations with the Turkish President. I am not going to follow him in this path that he has chosen.
Nadin Chardalia (SKAI): Mr President, good afternoon. I do not want to monopolize the conversation with the issues concerning Turkey. We are simply forced – as you understand – to do so, because we actually had another crescendo of provocation from the Turkish Foreign Minister, Mr. Çavuşoğlu, when he effectively questioned, once again, the sovereignty of the Greek islands, arguing that if the Greek islands are not demilitarized, they will open debate on their sovereignty.
It is, in essence, another piece of Ankara’s aggression against our country. What is your answer to this question and how do you interpret this escalation against our country lately? Where do you attribute it?
Kyriakos Mitsotakis: I have no intention of doing a psychoanalysis or an internal interpretation of the possible impasses that the Turkish leadership has reached. I will tell you again that Turkey’s “arguments” are being deconstructed quite adequately through the letter we sent to the United Nations.
Beyond that, it is a debate in which we have absolutely no reason to take part. As I told you, we are not going to get into any kind of verbal confrontation with Turkey.
It is unfortunate that Turkey is once again missing an opportunity. It is missing an opportunity to substantially improve its relations with Greece. What happened last month, starting with the barrage of overflights of Aegean islands, was completely unprovoked and completely unjustified. And if Turkey may have been bothered by my visit to the United States, by the speech I gave to Congress, that is their problem, but in any case everyone should realize that Greece has allies. It belongs to the European family, it has a strategic relationship with the United States and obviously it has every right and obligation – I would say – to use its alliances for the benefit of defending its own national interests. It did so, it does so, and it will continue to do the same in the future.
Georgia Skitzi (ERT): Mr President, I would like to ask you: the electoral debate has flared up lately, you have rejected any election scenarios in your statements.
However, I come back to this issue because today the leader of the main opposition party stated that you will call elections in September, even saying that you will do so in order to prevent – as he says – the “absolute collapse due to high prices”. And I wanted to ask you what’s your answer to that. Thank you.
Kyriakos Mitsotakis: I want you to tell me how many of the predictions of the main opposition leader have been confirmed so far. Elections will be held at the end of the four-year term, as I have pledged many times.
Beyond that, I want to stress that what the country today needs more than ever is a calm political climate, a civilized dialogue, a confrontation of principles, values, convictions. Less polarization, fewer yells, less provocative rhetoric which refers to past times that we have left – fortunately, I would say, for Greece – definitively behind us.
The opposition and its leader are choosing their own, in my opinion, extremely lonely path. This choice will also be judged when the national elections are finally held.
Sofia Fasoulaki (OPEN): Good afternoon, Mr President, and thank you. The European Council recently decided to proceed with a sixth package of sanctions, including an embargo on Russian oil.
This can escalate and it is already said that oil is getting more expensive. It is very likely that we will see new increases in fuel in our country as well. I come back to the question that Mr. Mourelatos asked before, the issue of fuel prices. If you see that things are getting out of control, will you intervene, as an attempt was made for the government to intervene, also concerning the issue of electricity prices?
Kyriakos Mitsotakis: First of all, it is not at all a fact that the embargo imposed by the European Union on Russia will definitely lead to an increase in oil prices. It is something we will see in the coming days.
In any case, what Europe has an obligation to do is to use all the financial means at its disposal to deprive Russia of its valuable resources, in order to finally stop this barbaric invasion of Ukraine.
We know very well that every package of sanctions has a cost, it has a cost for those who decide to impose sanctions, but it costs less for us than it does for Russia. And that has always been the logic of sanctions: not to impose sanctions that will ultimately cost us more than they will cost Russia. And I think so far we have found that balance.
Now, for the rest, I will refer you to the answer I gave to Mr. Mourelatos.
Evangelia Tsikrika (ALPHA): Mr President, what effect can the embargo have on our shipping industry? Because we are a shipping country.
Kyriakos Mitsotakis: Look, it is a fact that less oil will be transported from Russia to Europe.
However, there are no – and I want to highlight this – sanctions concerning Greek shipping as regards the transfer of oil from Russia to third countries. Beyond that, everyone is responsible and he may talk to his conscience to see if he wants to be involved in such shipments of goods from Russia at the moment.
What is certain is that there is no horizontal ban and in fact I do not consider that there is any substantial consequence for Greek shipping.