Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis spoke at the inaugural OT Forum – entitled “A Changing World” – on Tuesday, taking questions in a studio setting from two journalists, an event live-streamed via all of AlterEgo Group’s media from the historic old Athens Stock Exchange in the capital’s downtown.

Among others, Mitsotakis’ replies, in a quick format, included:

–           “We want to reduce dependence on Russian natural gas; we want to inaugurate the electricity supply from Egypt and import hydrogen from Saudi Arabia.

 –          We never expected 30 months ago that we’d have to manage successive crises; Russia, which started war, is the ‘big loser’; we’ll lose 500K Russian tourists this season, but this is manageable.

–           Defense spending over a certain point shouldn’t be calculated in EU stability pact criteria; we greatly contribute to European defense.

–          We won’t change Greece’s election law ahead of coming general elections: asked about achieving an investment grade rating for Greece, he said this is an absolutely realistic goal, “we’ve already seen upgrades, and we have a ‘cushion’ of 40 bln euros.”

–          We’ve already implemented 80 percent of the tax reductions we promised prior to 2019 election; we won’t risk country’s growth dynamism, social cohesion Greece.”

–          Mitsotakis said he understands that a large minority of Greeks, based on recent opinion poll results, expressed an “understanding” for Russia’s annoyance with Ukraine, yet he won’t exercise policy based on polls; there’s a concert for peace in central Athens, nearby, today, hope to see Ukrainian flags there, he added.

–          “We are not with the West, we are the West; we are committed to our alliances”

–   We need to live together even with our major differences, when asked about Turkey,

–          We don’t want to get into an arms race; our country ignored our navy, for instance, vessels were 30 years old, so we signed an agreement with France for warships and Rafale planes; I hope things will change for the better with Turkey. “We won’t discuss any related to sovereignty, however.”

–          Asked by an audience member about “brain drain”, Mitsotakis said things are changing for the better, slowly but surely, citing a reduction of the income tax rate as one way to entice young professionals back to their homeland

–          Salaries still too low in Greece; when told by employers that they can’t find skilled labor I tell them ‘pay higher salaries’.

–                   There are too many closed apartments in urban areas, for instance, we need to find incentives to create cheaper housing, especially for young couples.

Mitsotakis emphasized that reforms and changes can turn the country into a unique place of residence for so-called “nomad” professionals.

In fielding a wide range of questions, he said the sudden and significant spike in energy prices “is primarily an imported crisis, but it must be dealt with on national terms and with interventions in the wholesale market and prices.”

He acknowledged that the support measures announced by his government are not sufficient, as “there is no country that can absorb all the hikes,” while adding that measures aimed at specific groups and not across-the-board measures.

He said an increase in the minimum monthly wage scale will be announced on May 1, without going into details. He also said his government was examining the possibility a reduction in VAT rates on foodstuffs.

Russian invasion

Mitsotakis categorically said that there is no food shortage in Greece – as the country is not dependent on Ukraine for wheat or corn. At the same time, some 80,000 hectares of sunflower crop in the country is used to produce oil as a bio-fuel.

“We have some reason to be cautiously optimistic about the future of the Greek economy. We don’t have any indications that tourism will be affected, and we see continuous acceleration of productive investments,” he said.


Moreover, he admitted that growth will be lower than forecast, “although last year it surprised us pleasantly … Things are difficult, I know, but there is a dynamic in the Greek economy that was not there three years ago,” he stressed, adding that a supplementary state budget will need to be tabled, whereas the government is dogmatic on meeting target numbers.

Again referring to Greek-Turkish relations, the Greek prime minister said each country has standing positions, but that Athens insists that the only bilateral difference is the delimitation of maritime zones.

“What I told Turkish President (Recep Tayyip) Erdogan is that it’s possible to live with our major differences. I discussed with French President (Emmanuel) Macron the possibility of sending a large humanitarian convoy to Mariupol. When he told me he had discussed it with Erdogan, I said, let’s all go together… We’re neighbors. We will always be here.”

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