Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis’ interview on Euronews’ ‘Global Conversation’, with journalist Nicoleta Drougka

Nicoleta Drougka: Prime Minister, thank you for having us.

Kyriakos Mitsotakis: Thank you.

Nicoleta Drougka: So the European elections are less than three months away. What are the biggest challenges for Europe, in your opinion, and what are the stakes for this election?

Kyriakos Mitsotakis: I think these are particularly important elections for Europe as a whole, given the broader economic and geopolitical context. They’re taking place in a very turbulent period, with a war raging on our eastern flank, with a substantial humanitarian crisis unfolding in Gaza, as Europe is exiting from very, very difficult five years.

I think it is also an opportunity for us to take stock of what we have achieved during the last European electoral cycle and to highlight the significant successes of the European Union. Through the cooperation of all the institutions we’ve been able to defend ourselves successfully against Covid. We set up the ‘NextGenerationEU’, which for countries such as Greece has particular importance in terms of helping us boost our growth and also facilitate the green and the digital transition. We are, against the predictions of some of our enemies, united when it comes to Ukraine. And now we need to set our sights on the next cycle and make sure that we are fit for purpose to address the new upcoming challenges.

Nicoleta Drougka: How concerned are you with louder and louder voices that are against Europe, anti-European voices?

Kyriakos Mitsotakis: I think there will always be voices that challenge the successes of Europe. And indeed, some of I would say the complaints may be justified. But at the end of the day, if one looks at the overall picture, I remain firmly committed that the future of the European Union is bright and that Europe has been able to deliver for its citizens.

And that is why it is important for us to make the case regarding what we have achieved, but also what we need to achieve going forward. Because as you look at the next electoral cycle and the big issues that we have ahead of us, the ones that I would personally highlight are three.

First of all, the need to turn strategic autonomy from a slogan into a real and effective policy. Look at defence, for example. We not only need to spend more on defence, but we need to coordinate our defence spending.

The second challenge has to do with overall European competitiveness, how we can ensure that Europe remains competitive vis-a-vis China, the US and the Global South. This will mean better jobs and better paying jobs for European citizens.

The third challenge is more specific and more sectoral. It has to do with agriculture and our farmers. At a time when food security is very high on our agenda, we need to understand that some of the steps that we took over the past five years regarding the green transition have put too much pressure that maybe we even anticipated on our farmers and that we need to make sure that the green transition is executed at a speed that does not significantly impact the income of our farmers.

Nicoleta Drougka: Would you say that maybe sometimes the biggest enemy of the EU is the EU itself?

Kyriakos Mitsotakis: Look, there are 27 of us and I’m talking about the European Council that gathers numerous times a year in a room. And we all need to agree by unanimity. This is a process that inevitably has to take time, which also involves compromises. And occasionally necessitates taking a step back in order to achieve the common European good. That is the nature of the European Union.

At the same time, as we are contemplating European enlargement, we also need to look at ways of making our decision-making more effective. That is also going to be a complicated exercise because any change will again require unanimity and the agreement of all member states.

One needs to recognise that what we have achieved in Europe is unique in the history of the world. We have voluntarily given powers to a supranational entity and we need to make this proper balance between decision making at the European and at the national level, work every day. But again, this is maybe “the price that we have to pay” in order for us to also reap the benefits of participating in the European Union.

Nicoleta Drougka: You mentioned something about Europe’s defence autonomy as a challenge ahead. Would you also say that it should be the top priority, perhaps, of the next Commission and Parliament?

Kyriakos Mitsotakis: Defence is existential, as we realised after the war in Ukraine. And maybe some countries believed that the peace dividend that occurred after the collapse of the Berlin Wall and the fall of the Soviet Union would last forever. But that has proven to be a fallacy. We were never in that position because we always spent a significant amount on defence because of our particular regional geopolitical challenges.

But now we understand that we all need to step up to the plate and spend more, but also spend smarter, be more coordinated, streamline our defence procurement, have maybe more European champions that can offer advanced defence solutions at a more competitive level than is currently the case.

Nicoleta Drougka: Prime Minister, previously we have seen some EU member states and Greece is not among them, but they struggle to convince their citizens to go and participate in the European elections. Why would you say, is it important for people to go out and vote?

Kyriakos Mitsotakis: Because what happens in Brussels and because who represents us at the European Parliament matters. Because decisions that are taken in Brussels and in Strasbourg are very important for our everyday lives and we need to send qualified people to the European Parliament, because at the end of the day, the European elections are about the European Parliament, in order to ensure that the Parliament will be comprised of representative European citizens and will breach this gap between decision making in Brussels and what the European people really want. So the European Parliament is the most democratic of all our institutions. And that is why participating in the European elections is important.

We’re a staunch pro-European party, so you wouldn’t expect me to say anything else. And, of course, we’re doing our best to mobilise people and to ensure that what traditionally is a low turnout election is going to maybe defy the trend and have increased participation.

Nicoleta Drougka: Thank you very much for this talk.

Kyriakos Mitsotakis: Thank you very much.