Giannis Kantelis (SKAI): Mr Prime Minister, we understand that in the European Council you described the final plan that was on the table until recently as not very ambitious. Are you afraid that with this prolongation of the discussion on the revision it could get even worse, that Greece might not get what it thinks it should get on both migration and natural disasters and all this delay could create problems? What will be our stance?
Kyriakos Mitsotakis: First of all, Mr.Kantelis, we must clarify that the reason why the revision of the Multiannual Financial Framework was not agreed yesterday has to do with the veto that one country, namely Hungary, put forward. And that the framework that has been agreed by the 26 countries fully covers the Greek concerns. This means that there are significantly increased funds for migration, there is an increased budget for natural disasters and there is a very important provision for further flexibility in the use of EU funds for the period 2014-2020.
Unfortunately, we did not manage to achieve this much-needed agreement yesterday. I expect that there will be an extraordinary European Council at the end of January in order to try to agree then on a framework, which, as I said, has the support of 26 countries, with the exception of Hungary.
From the Greek side, however, we are satisfied, because the Greek concerns, which were very well documented from the very first moment, were taken into account. There is an overall understanding on the part of the European Union that, especially on migration issues, there must be greater support, greater funding, especially for countries located at the external borders of the European Union.
Spyros Mourelatos (ANT1): Mr Prime Minister, we saw in the conclusions of the European Council that there is a reference to the Borrell report on the strategic relationship between the European Union and Turkey, which will be referred to the next European Councils.
I wanted to ask if you had the opportunity to inform your counterparts about Tayyip Erdoğan’s recent trip to Athens, your meeting. If you think that after about ten months of encouraging signs, the time has come in the next meetings, in February, to enter the so-called “deep” waters of Greek-Turkish relations, political dialogue and the delimitation of maritime zones, at least to make this effort. And how do you position yourself against concerns in Greece that the continuation of this Greek-Turkish rapprochement may also entail retreats from our own red lines. Thank you.
Kyriakos Mitsotakis: The issue of EU-Turkey relations was not discussed at the European Council which has just ended. There was simply a reference to the European Commission’s report, which is well known and which I would say echoes the long-standing Greek positions.
Beyond that, as I had the opportunity to say last week, I believe that President Erdoğan’s visit to Athens was another step in building good relations between the two countries and the Athens Declaration, which was signed between me and President Erdoğan, is an important step that defines the next steps that we want to take together.
As I have said many times, rebuilding trust takes time. But I am optimistic that Greek-Turkish relations are on a good course that will allow us, as mentioned in the Athens Declaration, to discuss the difficult issue – which, as you know, we have not been able to resolve for decades – of the delimitation of maritime zones, i.e. the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and the continental shelf, in the Aegean and the Eastern Mediterranean.
Maria Psara (STAR): Mr Prime Minister, yesterday the Council managed to reach an agreement on enlargement because Viktor Orbán walked out of the room. I wanted to ask you whether this sets a negative precedent. If tomorrow someone asks Greece to leave the room for an agreement of the other 26 countries, what will be our position? Also, whether this is a step towards the lifting of the veto? What does Greece say in relation to this, the abolition of unanimity? Thank you.
Kyriakos Mitsotakis: Let us clarify, Ms Psarra, that all decisions in the European Council are taken by unanimity. And yesterday’s decision was taken unanimously, because at the moment when the Member States had to take a position, Hungary did not veto it.
I am very clear that there is no change in the way decision-making works at European Council level. You know that in the European Council decisions are taken by unanimity. There are other decisions at Council level that are taken in other ways, by enhanced majority.
But at the moment, and if you ask me my assessment for the foreseeable future, I don’t see a change in the way of decision-making in the European Council. Unanimity will still be the rule. This is, after all, the reason why we have not been able to agree on the revision of the Multiannual Financial Framework.
Efi Koutsokosta (OPEN): Mr Prime Minister, I have a question on the Beleri case. First of all, whether you said something to Mr. Rama, who was at the EU – Western Balkans Summit, what did you say to him? Secondly, if you feel annoyed by Berlin’s stance on this issue. Just before the start of the EU Summit, Mr Scholz made some statements again talking about the big picture and all that, just as he had also spoken to you about bilateralisation. And whether you finally see a way out of this whole issue, of this problem, and if not, whether Greece is ready at the next stage to veto it.
Kyriakos Mitsotakis: Look, Greece has always been a protagonist in supporting the European perspective of the Western Balkans.
I want to remind you that the Thessaloniki Declaration, 20 years ago, bears the Greek stamp. We were the first to put the rapprochement of the Western Balkans with Europe on the agenda and we are among the first to constantly encourage this rapprochement.
However, this approach has certain rules. It is a process where each country is individually assessed with regard to its progress on a range of issues, including the rule of law.
And for us the issue of the elected Mayor of Himare, Freddy Beleri, is basically a question regarding the rule of law. It’s not just a bilateral dispute that Greece has with Albania. What we are asking for is the obvious: to recognise that Freddy Beleri was legally elected Mayor.
We do not interfere in the work of the Albanian judiciary, but in this case there was an election that Freddy Beleri won and he cannot take office because he is currently in prison because there are charges pending against him.
So, these things are very clear from our point of view. And yes, we are always looking forward to being able to find a way to resolve this problem, so that the will of the people of Himare is actually respected. That was the point from the outset. And that there should not be any interference in the election and that a man who practically lost the election should not be Mayor of Himare, as is the case today.
Therefore, we are still working to resolve this issue, so that Albania can also prove that on a crucial issue, at least for a Member State – and yes, it is a crucial issue for us – which is respect for national minorities, it has taken the necessary steps that we all demand from a country that aspires to start accession negotiations with the European Union.
Nikos Armenis (AMNA – MEGA): Mr Prime Minister, you didn’t come to an agreement in this Summit on economic issues, but what people are basically interested in is their pockets, given that the high prices, especially in food, persist. I wanted to ask if you think we’ve reached the peak in terms of raising interest rates and what impact that will have on inflation?
And if I may ask another question, I wanted your comment on a poll showing that 71% of people think that measures on fan violence will not help.
Kyriakos Mitsotakis: I will start from the issue of high prices, which I have acknowledged many times that it is the first problem that Greek households face today. That is why we have focused all our energy on trying to alleviate the effects of this imported inflation.
You asked me, first of all, whether we have reached, at the European level, the maximum level of interest rate hikes. It is very likely that this has happened. I cannot, obviously, speak for the European Central Bank. But the Central Bank of the United States has actually announced a staggered reduction in interest rates on the dollar for next year and it is likely that the European Bank will follow, signalling in this way that we have seen the worst on the inflation front.
But inflation is here today as we speak and that’s why I want to remind you that in December alone, more than 700 million euros will be disbursed as additional support from the Greek Government, primarily for the most vulnerable households, in order to make the Christmas holidays easier.
This is a growth dividend, it is the product of the growth dynamic of the Greek economy. It is precisely because we are exceeding our fiscal targets that we are able to support our weakest citizens. And I would say to you that this is the best confirmation of the correctness of our economic policy.
I have said many times that high prices are dealt with in two ways: one is drastic control and intervention in the market, at many levels. I have spoken many times about what we are doing, not only on the level of fines, with initiatives such as steady price reductions, to increase competition, to be able to detect cases of profiteering.
However, the permanent way to deal with price inflation is to support disposable income. I was looking at the latest ELSTAT figures which show that since 2019, wages in Greece have risen by more than 20%. And it is precisely this increase in wages that will finally stay with Greek citizens, just as the increase in pensions will remain when prices start to fall.
I also want to tell you something else: it is logical that the media often makes an issue every time there is a price increase, and it is logical because we have price increases. But we also have price reductions. And usually the price reductions are not highlighted, I would say, with the same fervour.
I should point out that petrol prices have fallen by 11% in the last two months. We have a greater reduction in petrol prices in Greece than we have in other European countries, because obviously global oil prices have fallen.
Therefore, to sum up, the government is fully aware of the problem of high prices, especially on food, and will continue to support the weakest households.
Now, you asked me a question about football. You know, when we make decisions in the government, we don’t measure the popularity of the decisions. We don’t make policy based on polls.
It is clear that things in football had reached a point where we needed bolder interventions. It is also clear that the measures we had taken were obviously not enough. From then on, the correctness of our measures will be judged in the course of time, but we will do everything in our power to ensure public order and to allow Greeks to enjoy the beauty of football away from any incidents of violence.
George Papakonstantinou (ACTION 24): Mr Prime Minister, you have discussed a lot in today’s European Council about the crisis in the Middle East. However, in the last UN General Assembly our country voted in favour of the resolution that was presented. Has Greece’s position on this issue changed?
Kyriakos Mitsotakis: No, it hasn’t changed, because I want to remind you that the previous resolution was launched before Israel’s ground invasion of Gaza.
Greece’s position remains firm: we support Israel’s right to legitimate self-defence, but always within the framework of International Law and especially International Humanitarian Law.
We make a distinction between Hamas, which must be neutralised on the ground, and the Palestinian Authority, but at the same time we express our growing concern about the heavy humanitarian losses in the Gaza Strip. Our emphasis at this time should be on humanitarian relief for the civilians of Gaza, and that also goes through humanitarian pauses, and the longer they are, the easier it will be for humanitarian aid to reach Gaza.
But if we want to have credibility – I’m not referring to Greece, because Greece has credibility in this region of the world – but if we want to have credibility as a European Union, we have to recognise that without a major effort to restart the discussions for a two-state solution, we will not be considered as being able to have a substantial intervention in this very sensitive region.
Greece has always supported the two-state political solution, which is the only solution that can finally allow the inhabitants of Israel, Jews and Muslims, Palestinians, to live together in this troubled region.