Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis’ interview on Bloomberg TV, with journalist Tom Mackenzie

Tom Mackenzie: Prime Minister, thank you very much for taking the time. Let’s start with the election results in your home country, of course, Greece, New Democracy, your party coming in first. You were victorious on that front. But the votes, the numbers of votes for your party shrinking versus the previous European elections and the impact there in Greece. What do you make of that reduced vote for New Democracy? What is your interpretation of what the electors of Greece and the message they are trying to send to you?

Kyriakos Mitsotakis: Well, good morning, Tom. First of all, let me set the record straight. New Democracy did win the election with 28%, and that percentage is higher than the total tally of the second and the third parties. So, we still remain the dominant political force in Greece. One should take into consideration the fact that these elections took place a year after a double national election, so there was a significant electoral fatigue. We actually had a significantly lower turnout than the rest of the European Union at around 40%.

But I’m sure there was also some degree of discontent with issues such as the cost of living, which we need to address. We’ve been elected to implement an aggressive reform programme for the remaining three years of our term. And this is what we should do. We now have three years without any other elections, and we will be judged again on our performance in 2027. But, I think we went against the trend where incumbents in many other important European countries actually suffered heavy losses. We avoided that and we’re still the dominant political force in Greece.

Tom Mackenzie: Well, indeed. And we look to France, of course, for the reaction there, Marine Le Pen, and the risks there and the decision by the French President to call that surprise parliamentary vote. And, of course, the gains of the AfD in Germany as well. What is your interpretation of the shift to some of those right wing parties across the eurozone, whether it’s a protest vote or there is something more substantial going on here?

Kyriakos Mitsotakis: Well, first of all, if you look at the total numbers, the EPP, the main centre-right European Party actually increased its numbers of Euro MPs. The main coalition between the EPP, the Socialists and the Liberals, that has essentially governed Europe over the past decades, remains the dominant coalition in the European Parliament.

So, I would argue that the European centre held, maybe stronger than many people expected, and that this right wing surge did actually take place in the two most important countries in Europe, but not across the entire continent. So, I think there is maybe some degree of over-exaggeration about this right-wing shift of the European continent as a whole. If you look at the numbers in the European Parliament, I think the important decisions will continue to be made by the three political families.

And, of course, I need to point out, nothing can happen without the EPP, which essentially has a blocking minority now in the European Parliament. So, I think all in all, the situation is also probably slightly better than many people expected and I do think that there is a momentum to drive through important changes in Europe for the next five years.

Tom Mackenzie: What did you make of that surprise, this decision by the French President, Macron, to call that parliamentary vote. It took many by surprise. Is that a decision that you think stacks up? What did you make of, ultimately, that take by the French President? An attempt, it seems, to see off this far right threat in France.

Kyriakos Mitsotakis: Well, Tom, I have lots of respect for President Macron. We worked very well together at the European Council. We have a strong strategic partnership with France, so I think it would be rather inappropriate for me to comment about domestic political developments in France.

What I care about is to make sure that the French voice is heard loud and clear at the European Council table and that France remains a pro-European force. For example, with President Macron, we agree on issues such as the need to strengthen European defence. As you probably are aware, I’ve been a big proponent of the idea of coming up with a flagship European defence project. It could be a European missile defence initiative that could be funded through joint European borrowing and France has been a supporter of these types of initiatives.

So, I look at who represents France at the European Council, and President Macron will continue to do that. But again, when it comes to domestic political developments in France, it’s probably not very appropriate for me to comment on those.

Tom Mackenzie: No, and I understood completely on that front. I guess the challenge from some would be that you could end up with a Prime Minister from the National Front or the National Rally, Marine Le Pen’s Party, alongside, of course, Macron as President, and that could challenge that pro-European stance of France. We’ve had the Finance Minister, Le Maire, suggesting that there could be a debt crisis in France. He’s put that on the table. Is France now a source of political risk now in the Eurozone?

Kyriakos Mitsotakis: Well, again, it’s up to the French people to decide and up to the markets to assess the risk of French debt. I focus much more on the progress that Greece has made. I can tell you I’m very happy that Greece is no longer a source of concern when it comes to the eurozone. Our economy has been significantly overperforming the rest of the eurozone. Our debt is on a downward track. This coming from a country that has been for a long, long time the “bête noire” of the Eurozone signifies significant progress on my front. So, let’s keep it at that when it comes to comments about what’s happening in France.

Tom Mackenzie: Okay. You touched on the EPP, and you’ve long been a supporter of Ursula von der Leyen. Is her position locked in? You suggested yesterday that it might be. If she was to reach out to Meloni and her grouping of far-right parties, would you still have that support for Ursula von der Leyen? What do you make of her position right now?

Kyriakos Mitsotakis: I am absolutely convinced that Ursula von der Leyen is going to continue as Commission President. She is our Spitzenkandidat, we are by far the largest political family. And I think she will have the overwhelming, if not unanimous support, of the European Council, and she will manage to obtain a majority at the European Parliament again.

The founding coalition will need to be the three political families that have essentially dominated the political centre: the center-right, the centre, and the center-left. Again, if there are parties or governments that want to support her candidacy, they’re most welcome to do so. But there will be no formal negotiation with other political families to the right of the EPP.

So, I consider Ursula von der Leyen a given. I’m very happy about that. I was one of the first to actually sign her letter of support when she presented her candidacy. I think it is good for the European Commission to have continuity at the level of the President of the European Executive.

Tom Mackenzie: You talked about your support for Ukraine, you reiterated that in March and you talked about working with France on that front. In terms of next steps, you’ve ruled out sending some of the missile defence systems you need, the Patriot missiles, for your own defence, the defence of Greece, and that’s understood. In terms of further measures, would you work with France, for example, in sending Mirage fighter jets to Ukraine? Could that be an option?

Kyriakos Mitsotakis: We don’t discuss operational options when it comes to the support of Ukraine in public. What I’ve said, and I will repeat that, is that we will do nothing that compromises the defence capabilities of Greece. We have been big supporters of Ukraine from our excess defence equipment, and to the extent that we can continue to do that, we will. But when you start talking about fighter jets, you move the discussion into a different league. We’re not there.

Tom Mackenzie: Okay. The economy of Greece, as you pointed out, outperforming many of its eurozone partners, that strength has come through, clearly. There would be some who would point to the fact that there is still a lot of reliance on funding from the EU. I believe it’s correct to say that Greece is the biggest recipient of EU funds. Is the recovery in Greece and the economy of Greece and that recovery overly reliant on those funds from the EU?

Kyriakos Mitsotakis: Well, first of all, it is important that a country such as Greece receives support from the European Union. And I’m very happy about the performance of the Recovery and Resilience Fund. I think we’ve made good use of these funds to drive a productive investment in the green transition, in the digital transition, in skills, training, in public health. These are important European contributions. So, I do think that when we actually assess the impact of the Recovery and Resilience Facility, we will reach the conclusion that it was a very successful measure.

But I would argue that the Greek economy is well diversified, able to generate significant growth by encouraging significant private investment. So, this is not just about European money, this is about investment across the board, from tourism to renewable energy, where we’re now one of the largest producers of electricity from wind and solar in the world, to logistics, to infrastructure, to high tech, where Greece is developing a booming ecosystem of high tech companies.

So, I’m happy about the fact that this is no longer an economy that is completely reliant on tourism, but a well-diversified growing economy.

Tom Mackenzie: Yeah. Still very largely dependent on tourism, on shipping. Does the economic model of Greece need to change, Prime Minister?

Kyriakos Mitsotakis: Well, what we’ve actually said is that we need to drive more investment in productivity, in research and development, and make sure that the growth that we deliver is sustainable, is environmentally friendly. For example, all the investment that we’re encouraging in tourism now is driven by sustainability. We cannot afford to impact our wonderful country in the search of growth.

So, in that respect, many of the fundamental reforms that we’re implementing, from Justice reform to issues addressing our active labour market policies, actually try to change the mix of the Greek economy to make sure that we adjust it to a much more challenging world. And this is essentially the challenge of our second term.

It’s not just about the headline growth numbers, it’s about bringing down unemployment, it’s about rising wages. These are the big bets, these are the things that people will actually notice, because the macro growth number doesn’t tell the whole story unless real wages rise and unless unemployment comes down.

Tom Mackenzie: Okay. Prime Minister, we really appreciate your time this morning, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, the Prime Minister of Greece, speaking to us exclusively from Athens.

Kyriakos Mitsotakis: Tom, thank you very much. Good morning.