Thank you Prime Minister for this very warm welcome and the productive discussions that we had and it’s a great pleasure to be able to visit Lithuania, particularly as this year we celebrate the centennial of diplomatic relations between our two countries, relations which are becoming even stronger, as highlighted by frequent and productive visits at all levels. I think the development of our close relations comes rather naturally given lots of similarities between our two countries.
Despite our geographical distance, Greece and Lithuania face common challenges such as revisionist threats, the energy crisis, the weaponization of migration, which you referred, but we also share the same European values and principles and a firm commitment to upholding respect for Ιnternational Law, human rights and the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries.
We discussed, of course, the blatant Russian invasion into Ukraine violating the UN Charter, completely disregarding the rules-based international order and we reaffirmed our commitment to stand by Ukraine along with the rest of our EU partners and all, at least all but one NATO allies, against this aggression.
We discussed in detail the latest developments in Ukraine, the next steps we should take. We again condemned in the strongest possible terms Russia’s latest indiscriminate missile and drone attacks on Ukrainian cities, resulting in the death of innocent civilians and the destruction of critical infrastructure and we continue to fully support Ukraine’s independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity. We will stand with Ukraine for as long as it takes and we shall continue to provide not just politically, but also financial, military and humanitarian support to the Ukrainian people.
I had the opportunity to also brief the Prime Minister on the situation in the Eastern Mediterranean and the continuous tensions provoked by Turkey in the Aegean, through actions and an escalatory rhetoric that unfortunately undermines the stability and security in the whole region. I think here again we see a case of how revisionist rhetoric can undermine regional stability, at a time when the last thing we need is another source of tension in the Eastern Mediterranean, especially between two NATO allies.
As I’ve repeatedly underlined, Greece always, Prime Minister, maintains an open window for dialogue but we keep the door firmly shut to challenges and threats, especially when those pertain to our national sovereignty. And unfortunately, as regards the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine, Turkey considers that it does not need to choose a side as if there is no right or wrong.
It seems to be okay for Turkey to be providing arms for Ukraine while accommodating Russia’s economic interests and disregarding EU sanctions. I think we need to make sure – we’ve done so at the European Council – to call upon all countries, especially those countries that aspire -at least in words- to become members of the European family, to align themselves with the decisions we have taken.
As we discussed, sanctions do work, they impose a heavy penalty on the Russian economy and the more we tighten the screws on those countries that facilitate Russia to bypass the sanctions, the more effective the sanctions that we have imposed will be.
As the Prime Minister said, we’ve also discussed the most complicated and difficult question regarding the weaponization of energy by Russia, especially the very high gas prices. I’m very happy that we have worked very closely with Lithuania both at our level but also at the level of our Ministers of Energy in coming up with very specific and concrete solutions that can help us bring down the price of gas to acceptable levels.
My hope is that these measures will be agreed at the level of the Ministers of Energy, in order to reduce the pressure that we all face, in terms of providing support for businesses and households from our budget. We are all doing that. We all spend a significant amount of money, a significant percentage of our GDP, to provide support. But a European solution, in my mind, has been long overdue.
And this is really the time to send a very clear signal both to Russia but also to the markets, that speculation in the gas market will be addressed in a unified manner by the European Union, by imposing some sort of cap on the TTF index, as we discussed by now in excruciating detail, even at our level, at the level of heads of state and government.
Last but not least, both Lithuania and Greece face similar challenges when addressing the problem of weaponizing migrants to put political pressure on our countries. We have a very good and strong cooperation in the field of migration and I think we always need to make the case that we cannot, in principle, accept the fact that desperate people are being used, are being weaponized for political purposes.
Greece will continue to defend its borders, which are also the borders of the European Union. Always ready to offer humanitarian support to people, especially people whose lives are in danger at sea. And we will always call on our neighbors, especially Turkey, to cooperate constructively to address this problem.
And in that respect, I think we have lots in common in terms of designing our approach when it comes to border management and border security. Prime Minister, thank you again for the very warm welcome to Vilnius.
Journalist: Prime Minister, you mentioned the relations between Turkey and Russia and my question is regarding this initiative from Baltic states to initiate a special tribunal for Russia’s aggression in Ukraine. Are you in support of this suggestion?
Kyriakos Mitsotakis: If war crimes are committed and there is reasonable, enough evidence to suggest that this is the case, I will say that those who have committed those crimes need to be held accountable. I think this is a position with which I think all members of the European Council agree and that is also why there was a reference to this topic at the level of the conclusions of the European Council.
Journalist: But, are you in support of this instrument of a special tribunal?
Kyriakos Mitsotakis: In principle, it is something we are examining and as I told you, we want to make sure that those who have perpetrated war crimes will be held accountable.
Journalist: A question for the Prime Minister of Lithuania and for Prime Minister Mitsotakis. Mrs Šimonytė, your country has supported the Greek proposal along with other countries for the need to adopt a gas price cap in order to limit spikes in prices and protect citizens and businesses from excessive energy prices. Following the last Council decisions, how optimistic are you that a European solution can be achieved soon, as soon as the next Energy Ministers Council at the end of November?
Kyriakos Mitsotakis: If I may add, we’ve been arguing for many months now that -as the Prime Minister said- effectively the gas market is broken. These excessive prices, the TTF going up to €350 per megawatt hours never reflected the fundamentals of the market.
And hence, in extraordinary instances, market intervention is actually mandated. It is a necessary tool to address both the Russian effort to weaponize gas and the speculators who are making a lot of money on the gas market.
We are cautiously optimistic that a solution will be found. I will be slightly more blunt – it would be a failure if our Energy Ministers don’t succeed to agree, because then the problem will be returned to the level of the heads of state and government represented at the European Council.
And this is a technical discussion which, frankly, needs to take place and needs to be agreed at the level of the Ministers of Energy. I think the solutions that have been designed by our experts address the concerns of those countries which always place security of supply above the questions of price. Those concerns have been addressed. Storages are currently full. If anything, there is no space to put right now the additional gas. And now that the TTF has rebalanced towards a more acceptable level -still very expensive, but at least not extremely expensive- now is the time to put in place such an instrument.
And again, I would like to thank Lithuania for the excellent cooperation we’ve had, also on the technical level, in coming up with a solution that is going to benefit everyone. Because right now, with the very high gas prices, the only ones who are benefiting are those who are selling us gas much higher than they sell it elsewhere and of course, the speculators that are betting on a market which is fluctuating way more wildly than any market has any right to fluctuate.