Giannis Kantelis (SKAI): Again, yesterday, we had a difficult discussion about whether it would be a “humanitarian pause” or “humanitarian pauses”. First of all, if you can relay something from that discussion and whether there was any conflict between members on that.
Second, whether it is feasible to make these agreed “pauses” to allow humanitarian aid to reach the civilians in Gaza and whether all countries share the same concern about the spread of the crisis to the wider region.
Kyriakos Mitsotakis: It was indeed an extensive discussion. But we have, I believe, arrived at a satisfactory common ground which, on the one hand, as we have said many times, recognises Israel’s right to self-defence, within the framework and limits of International Law and International Humanitarian Law. On the other hand, our resolution expresses deep concern about the humanitarian situation that currently exists in Gaza. I believe that the reference to “humanitarian pauses” also sends out the message that Israel must today take the situation in Gaza very seriously and allow humanitarian aid – whether we are talking about food, water or medicine – to enter, and that Europe supports this approach and is of course at the forefront in order to be able to help, so that humanitarian aid can reach Gaza.
Beyond that, there is obviously a widespread concern about the possibility of the crisis spreading, something which we are all hoping will not happen, and I also want to emphasise the fact that something that may have been a little bit neglected in recent years as a priority of European foreign policy is now back in the public debate. I am referring to the final political solution to the Palestinian question, which cannot be anything other than a solution based on the two-state philosophy.
I think that if one thing became abundantly clear after the tragic invasion of Israel by Hamas terrorists, is that Israel’s security problem will not be addressed in terms of security alone. A political solution will be needed, and the only definitive political solution can be a two-state solution that allows the citizens of Israel and the Palestinians to live in peace, each in their own state.
Spyros Mourelatos (ANT1 – AΜΝΑ): Mr. Prime Minister, if I may, I would like to stay on this particular issue and I would like to ask you whether you are concerned about the stance that President Erdoğan seems to be adopting in the Middle East, especially towards Hamas.
And I would also like to ask whether you think that this attitude of the Turkish leadership may play a negative role in the ongoing process of Greek-Turkish rapprochement.
Kyriakos Mitsotakis: I want to be very clear, Hamas is a terrorist organization. It does not represent the Palestinian people, who are expressed institutionally through the Palestinian Authority. And I believe that if you look at the atrocities that were committed in Israel on October 7, it is very, very difficult to come to a contrary conclusion. So I would say that President Erdoğan is completely out of touch when he does not recognize this reality of what exactly Hamas stands for.
But beyond that, the fact that we disagree on this issue, I think, should not affect the framework of the Greek-Turkish dialogue and the significant progress that has been achieved in recent months.
We remain focused on our positive agenda and on the timetable, as clearly set out by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, on how we can get to the High Level Cooperation Council on 7 December.
Maria Psara (STAR): Mr Prime Minister, you have had a first debate on the revision of the multiannual budget of the European Union. So, despite the disputes, all countries more or less agree that more money should be given to migration.
I want to ask you: what is Greece expected to gain from this, what is the objective at least. But this money includes – as a follow up to my colleague’s question – the 3.5 billion euros for Turkey. Is Greece continuing to support this funding for Turkey despite President Erdoğan’s statements about Hamas, which refrain from European values?
Kyriakos Mitsotakis: Indeed, we had an initial discussion on the revision of the Multiannual Financial Framework, the budget of the European Union. It was not an easy discussion, because on the one hand the European Commission has highlighted – and rightly in my view – a new reality which requires additional resources.
Europe is saying that, in addition to the 50 billion that we want and all agree to give to Ukraine, we need additional resources for migration, for supporting neighbouring countries with which we are cooperating in order to reduce migration flows.
We need additional resources for the Solidarity Fund, which has already been announced, so that countries affected by natural disasters can be supported.
We need additional resources for the new growth instrument, STEP, which has already been announced by the European Commission, as well as to cover the increase in the cost of borrowing for the Recovery Fund loans.
Obviously there are countries that don’t want to hear anything about increasing the budget, other than Europe’s commitment to support the economy.
I made the Greek position absolutely clear. Greece is not going to agree to a solution that includes only Ukraine and nothing else.
The Commission’s reasoning is perfectly rational, we need more money for the refugee problem and for the management of the problem as an external border country of Europe, a country of first reception. We are well aware of this. Yes, we continue to support a framework of cooperation with neighbouring countries that host many migrants.
And obviously, Ms Psara, we need more money for natural disasters. I am grateful to the European Commission for the reallocation of funds that has been made from the Recovery Fund so that we can quickly launch the recovery projects in Thessaly, but we cannot at this moment say that the Solidarity Fund is basically exhausted and that countries affected by natural disasters cannot claim new resources because, to put it simply, such European resources do not exist.
So I think that before the end of the year it is imperative that, by December, a solution to these problems is found. And I think there is also a clear sense that if we have to prioritise the additional interventions that the European Commission is asking for, dealing with the migration issue will be our first priority.
Giannis Christakos (MEGA): Mr. Prime Minister, good evening. I would like to shift the discussion to our domestic affairs, as the problem of high prices, as you certainly know, is still huge in the country. Winter is coming and in winter there will be, obviously, additional needs for energy and for heating, electricity. Do you intend to intervene with any additional measures on this?
Kyriakos Mitsotakis: Mr Christakos, you know that the government has already taken care of the heating allowance through the announcement of our initiatives. And many households that are heated with oil, with natural gas, will be covered by this intervention, depending always on where they are and how much energy they consume to heat themselves. Because a major advance that has been made under this administration is more targeted support, depending on where it is colder.
However, we have found that there is a great injustice in this support and that has to do with the fact that those households that are heated by electricity have had virtually no support. That is why from the beginning of next week there will be announcements from the Ministry of the Environment about a new framework of support for those households that heat their homes with electricity. I think it is a fair and right intervention, especially since, as we get towards the end of the year and assuming we do not have another price boom, the horizontal subsidies on electricity will drop.
Sofia Fasoulaki (OPEN): Good evening, Mr. Prime Minister. We are informed that in a few days you will be visiting, you are planning a visit to China. I would like to ask what the purpose of this visit is and whether the timing of this visit is of particular importance, given the crisis in the Middle East.
Kyriakos Mitsotakis: It is a short, top-level visit, Ms Fasoulaki, which was planned a long time ago. So I will be in Beijing, hopefully next Friday, to have meetings with the Chinese President and the Chinese Premier.
We are not the only European country visiting China, but the timing of the visit has nothing to do with geopolitical developments in the region, since it has been planned for many months.
But I will make sure that it is shorter, precisely because I do not want to be away from Greece for more days than is necessary.
We will be able to talk about the rest from China, in good time, regarding the importance of this visit.
Marina Papadaki (ERT): Mr. Prime Minister, may I ask you, because we had a Euro Summit today, whether Greece’s economic progress was discussed following the return to investment grade last Friday and given the fact that there was also the President of the Eurogroup and Christine Lagarde who had come to Athens a few days ago.
And in the same context, if you are concerned about the stricter fiscal rules that the new Stability Pact foresees from 2024.
Kyriakos Mitsotakis: I want to express my satisfaction on the fact that the President of the European Central Bank, the President of the Eurogroup and the President of the Commission all had very flattering words to say about the progress of the Greek economy during the Euro Summit.
This is a recognition of the great effort that our country has made over the last few years to transform itself from a “black sheep” to a country that can now be a champion of European growth. And of course this is also about formalising this progress by regaining investment grade status.
I want to reiterate that this is due to a great effort by all the Greek people. And I think that those who treat it with pettiness are wrong, because the investment grade marks the definitive end of a cycle that lasted for many years for our country, took us far behind, and had a huge cost in terms of the loss of Gross National Product.
Greece lost 25% of its GDP during the years of the crisis, but it endured. It showed that it is a resilient country and today it has every right to look to the future with more optimism.
On the fiscal rules, we have already submitted our proposals to the discussion that is taking place in the Eurogroup. Either way, Greece currently has one of the best fiscal performances in Europe and is achieving the fastest pace of debt reduction of any European country.
So, we are already on the right track, but we want to make sure that we have our own national ownership on the speed at which we reduce our debt from now on.
Obviously, this speed will also be linked to reforms that we have already committed to make – Europe is not asking us to do more than what we already want to do – so that we can make the Greek economy more competitive.
I remind you that the Recovery Fund also has many reforms as a precondition, but they are reforms, I stress, that were not imposed on us by some bureaucrats in Brussels, we proposed them, we are defending them and we are implementing them, because we simply believe that they are right.
Beyond that, let me reiterate the strong emphasis that Greece places on the exclusion of defense spending from the deficit calculations, as Europe does, so as not to trigger excessive deficit procedures.
It is an argument that I actually raised for the first time. I see that it is gaining a lot of momentum from other Member States as well and I hope that this exception to the way of accounting for defence expenditure will eventually be adopted when we agree on the new European rules.