Nikos Armenis (AΜNA): Mr President, a question on the enlargement issue. Obviously Ukraine is at the forefront at the present juncture and in view of the December European Council, we saw Mr. Zelenskyy here. What is our position regarding the priorities for the coming period and how does the whole debate affect the European perspective of the Western Balkans?
Kyriakos Mitsotakis: As you know, Mr. Armenis, the European perspective of the Western Balkans has been discussed for twenty years, since the “Thessaloniki Agenda”, and we haven’t necessarily achieved significant progress.
Greece will continue to fight for the European perspective of the Western Balkan countries and will continue to argue for the need for all countries that are granted candidate status to be treated by the same rules and there should not be any geopolitical priorities that upend a process that is strictly defined.
And when I talk about a strictly defined process, I am obviously referring to the way in which these countries have to adapt to the acquis communautaire and to the assessments that the European Commission will be making regularly, so that we know whether they are actually proceeding on that road.
In this direction, I would like to stress that Greece accepts no discounts from the basic rules of the rule of law. This applies to all candidate countries; I am not pointing at any country in particular. I believe that the countries themselves know that they must make the effort that is required so that at the end of this process they can claim to become a member of the European family.
At the same time, of course, this debate regarding the important enlargement of the European Union, obliges us to start re-evaluating the way the European Union is functioning, the decision-making procedures, but also the important issues concerning the budget, as the entry of poorer countries into the European Union will obviously require more resources, if we do not want to sacrifice important actions of the European Commission, such as cohesion actions or the Common Agricultural Policy, at the expense of countries that still need such funds.
Maria Psara (STAR): Mr Prime Minister, I have a question on migration: how can Greece benefit from a final agreement on the Migration Pact and how feasible is it to have an agreement. And because you talked, as you entered the meeting yesterday, about more money on migration, do you mean money for Turkey, which is launching an agreement with Greece on migration?
Kyriakos Mitsotakis: The progress achieved on the Migration and Asylum Pact is definitely in a positive direction.
We have an agreement at the level of the Council, we will now enter the trilogue process, but it is certainly an additional tool that we will have at our disposal to deal with cases of instrumentalisation of migration, as the ones we have seen in the past, with a relaxation of the relevant procedures for frontline countries.
But this Pact alone cannot solve the problem of migration. We need a much more comprehensive approach and a greater mobilisation of the whole European Union, of the institutions and of the Member States, to support the countries at the external borders of the Union.
For example, the agreement that has been reached with Tunisia is an effort in the right direction. The same must be done with Libya, the same must be done with Egypt, which also hosts a large number of migrants and it would really be a disaster if those migrants were heading for Europe.
And to a certain extent, yes, the same is happening with Turkey at the moment, through a discussion in the context of improving Greek-Turkish relations. So obviously this issue has an important European dimension.
That’s exactly why Greece will be arguing for an increase in the budget in the revision of the Multiannual Financial Framework, so that we can have more resources at our disposal to be able to support those countries, provided that they, I want to stress, cooperate with the European Union to contain the migratory flows.
Georgia Skitzi (ERT): Mr Prime Minister, you proposed an increase in European funds by, as you said, at least 2.5 billion euros for natural disasters in order to strengthen the European Solidarity Fund. I want to ask you: has there been any convergence on this? Where does the debate stand at the European level?
And, given that the debate on the revision of the fiscal rules is ongoing, how do you see the negotiations on the revision of the Stability Pact progressing?
Kyriakos Mitsotakis: On the issue of the European Union’s budget, the Multiannual Financial Framework, as you know, the European Commission has submitted a proposal that addresses Greek concerns.
We are asking for a lot more money for Ukraine – and rightly so, because we will continue to support Ukraine – but I argued at the European Council that it is impossible to have significant additional resources for Ukraine and at the same time have fewer resources, far fewer resources than we are giving to Ukraine to support European citizens facing natural disasters.
The Solidarity Fund is too small, its funds are already exhausted. Greece has succeeded in claiming maximum flexibility regarding the utilisation of the resources it had at its disposal to protect itself from the natural disasters that mainly hit Thessaly. However, it is clear that this is not enough, because it is very likely that we will be facing other such phenomena in the future. That is why I believe that an increase in the Solidarity Fund by 2.5 billion euros, in a total revision that exceeds 65 billion euros, is an amount that should not be a cause of concern for us. I think that these positions are becoming better understood in the European Council, although we are still far from an overall agreement.
On the fiscal rules, I will reiterate that Greece supports in principle the European Commission’s proposal for more flexibility in adjustment, in fiscal adjustment, always taking responsibility for the important reforms that need to be made in order for our country and our economy to become more competitive.
Greece has proven that it can exceed the targets it sets. We are no longer Europe’s fiscal problem, instead we are probably a pleasant surprise in terms of our fiscal performance, not only in terms of our growth performance.
However, this does not mean that we should be faced with a very strict budgetary framework that does not recognise the mistakes that have been made in the past, which must not be repeated, but it should also take into account the fact that we need significant additional investments in areas that are critical for European strategic autonomy, most importantly in the field of defence.
I will not stop saying that defence spending should be treated in a different manner in the way it is included in the calculations of the European Union. Greece is a country that spends a lot on its defence. But this spending also has a European dimension. We are not only armouring ourselves to secure, to preserve our national sovereignty, we are contributing in this way to Europe’s overall potential to strengthen its strategic autonomy.
It is our will and I think it is also the will of the Spanish Presidency that this debate should be concluded before the end of the year.