Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis’ Press Conference upon the completion of the European Council in Brussels

I want to express my satisfaction that a decision has been taken at the European Council level on the posts of responsibility at the European Union level. As you know, I was one of the two negotiators on behalf of the political family of the European People’s Party.

The Council’s proposal to the European Parliament will be for Ursula von der Leyen to continue as President of the European Commission. It was decided to elect António Costa as President of the Council for the next two and a half years and also to select Ms Kaja Kallas, Prime Minister of Estonia, as High Representative for foreign policy and defence issues.

Therefore, this process has been completed, with much greater speed, I want to stress, compared to the previous electoral cycle. And I would particularly like to express my satisfaction that Mrs von der Leyen will be able, provided – and I consider it almost certain – that she will be elected by the European Parliament, to continue the important work that she has been doing for five years.

And of course, I would also like to stress the fact that the Strategic Agenda which was adopted today by the European Council also takes into account all the important Greek national priorities: the greater emphasis that we must place on defence issues, the greater emphasis that we are already placing on migration issues and especially on external border protection, highlighting issues of competitiveness. These are critical issues for our country, which have also found their place in the European Strategic Agenda for the next five years, which will obviously be shaped also by the European Commission, as I said, under the presidency of Mrs von der Leyen.

The fact that the three main political families support Mrs von der Leyen also gives the best possible guarantees for securing the majority required in the secret ballot that will take place two and a half weeks from now.

Maria Psara (STAR): Two questions, Mr Prime Minister. The first one: you said that António Costa has been nominated to the presidency of the European Council for two and a half years. Is there an option to renew this term of office for another two and a half years? Because, as far as we know, that was the problem the last time.

Kyriakos Mitsotakis: As you know, Ms Psara, the President of the European Council is elected, according to the Treaties, for two and a half years. However, it is possible to renew his term of office for another two and a half years, which is what happened with Mr Michel. But obviously it would not be appropriate at this stage to prejudge the decision of the European Council two and a half years from now.

Maria Psara (STAR): The second question is about defence. There was a difficult discussion about funding. You said that you would bring your proposal back to the leaders’ table, the one you made with the Polish Prime Minister. How did that discussion go, also in relation to the Eurobonds for defence?

Kyriakos Mitsotakis: As you know, we also expect the European Commission to submit specific proposals and options on how to strengthen defence cooperation at all levels. I am not telling you something that you are not aware of, obviously there is no agreement, during our discussions today, on co-financing of EU defence spending, but it is something that one cannot rule out that it will happen in the future.

I will continue to insist on this direction. We cannot claim that we need to strengthen Europe’s defence capability and ignore the fact that this cannot be done from national budgets alone. I would like to remind you that even before the creation of the Recovery Fund there was strong opposition from many Member States, which at some point was overcome in order to get to this point.

Therefore, I think we are still at the beginning of this process, but common defence cooperation, at many levels, I think for many of our colleagues in the European Council, is ultimately a one-way street.

Nikos Armenis (MEGA): Mr. Prime Minister, we see that the new President of North Macedonia and the new Prime Minister, they continue to provoke. Was the issue raised, did you discuss these challenges, this attitude?

Kyriakos Mitsotakis: Indeed, as there was a chapter on enlargement issues, Mr. Armenis, I took the initiative and informed my colleagues in the European Council about what is going on in North Macedonia, about the fact that both the President and the Prime Minister-designate are in fact directly violating the Prespa Agreement, in effect disregarding the ‘erga omnes’ and choosing to use another name, beyond the constitutionally defined name of the country, for internal use, which is completely contrary to the spirit of the Prespa Agreement.

So I informed my colleagues in the European Council about this unpleasant development and I also made it very clear that if Skopje insists on this line, they will effectively make extremely difficult – if not cancel in practice – any process of direct convergence with the European family. Therefore, I think that everyone should understand the consequences of their actions and be aware that compliance with the European acquis is, obviously, through the strict observance of international agreements signed, in this case, by both parties.

Spyros Mourelatos (ANT1 – AMNA): Mr Prime Minister, now that we have visibility as to the persons for the top posts of the European Union, but there has also been a first discussion about the Strategic Agenda, about these axes, have we settled on the portfolios, on the sectors that we will claim for the next Commissioner in the European Commission? Thank you very much.

Kyriakos Mitsotakis: I will not give an answer on this issue, Mr. Mourelatos, because the first thing that matters at this point is to ensure, as I said, the election of Mrs von der Leyen by the European Parliament. Beyond that, you know very well that the distribution of portfolios is the responsibility of the President of the European Commission. Greece will certainly seek a strong portfolio, which will allow us to make our presence felt once again at European level.

Sofia Fasoulaki (OPEN): Good evening, Mr. Prime Minister. I wanted to ask if there is any development, if you have informed your counterparts on the decision to keep Fredi Beleri in prison and if this now creates any obstacles to the issue of his swearing in. He is now an elected MEP.

Kyriakos Mitsotakis: We had the opportunity to discuss this issue at the meeting of the European People’s Party and we did so because the President of the European Parliament, Ms Metsola, was present. Look, I think it goes without saying, if you like, that Fredi Beleris will be in Strasbourg to formally take up his duties as an MEP and will obviously participate in the extremely crucial vote for the selection of the next President of the European Commission. I will not say anything more, but I think it is perfectly logical and self-evident that this will happen.

George Papakonstantinou (ACTION 24): Mr Prime Minister, we are of course informed that the debate inside the European Council was not easy. There was even an attempt on the part of France and Germany to change the original wording, which had even been pre-agreed at the level of Permanent Representatives. What were the changes they tried to make and, secondly, what was our reaction?

Kyriakos Mitsotakis: Indeed, I would say that somewhat unexpectedly France and Germany submitted a text of amendments to the Strategic Agenda, significant amendments, on many levels. This text was not accepted; there were in the end some minimal changes. And it was not accepted for the very simple reason that the text of the Strategic Agenda had been agreed at the level of Permanent Representatives, it was the result of many months of consultation, and I think it would not have been appropriate at the last minute and unexpectedly to accept such changes, some of which were, I would say, extremely substantial, without having been discussed at length at another level.

Therefore, finally I think both the German Chancellor and the French President realised that it would not make much sense to continue this discussion, so basically the text of the Strategic Agenda remained practically the same – minimal changes – with what had been agreed in Coreper.

Dimitris Gatsios (ERT): Mr Prime Minister, I would like to ask you if you discussed with the other 26 leaders of the European Union the threats that Cyprus is receiving from Hezbollah and what exactly these discussions included, what is there, if this is reflected in the text of the conclusions.

Kyriakos Mitsotakis: Yes, the issue was also raised by the President of Cyprus. I think that there has been a briefing and, I would say, a statement that it is not possible, in any way, to threaten, to blackmail member states of the European Union and for them to become potential targets of regional conflicts.

I would also like to stress that there has been a fairly extensive discussion on the issues concerning the Middle East overall and I believe that the text of the conclusions, as adopted, goes beyond the conclusions we have already adopted, in particular regarding the need to avoid any further regional escalation, to have an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, to implement the resolutions of the United Nations Security Council. I make no secret of the fact that there is widespread concern about the possibility of the front extending northwards, towards Lebanon, a scenario that must be avoided at all costs.