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Greece'We can achieve high growth rates and support society'

‘We can achieve high growth rates and support society’

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The government has been fully consistent as regards its announcements so far and the package of measures announced on Saturday will be implemented in its entirety, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said on Sunday, at the start of the traditional press conference taking place at the 86th Thessaloniki International Fair (TIF).

“We can achieve high growth rates and support society. The measures we are taking are fully harmonised with the budget targets,” the prime minister said.

According to Mitsotakis, the high rates of growth create the fiscal space to support the economy and society at a difficult time, adding that “Greece will present the greatest and fastest reduction of debt as a percengate of GDP.”

Elections to be held with current electoral law

Replying to questions on a possible change in the electoral law in the upcoming elections, the prime minister admitted that this had been proposed but emphasised that the next elections will be held with the current electoral system, as voted into law.

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“The rules of the game must be stable…it would be institutionally irresponsible to change the electoral law, slightly lowering the bar for a single-party majority,” he said, stressing that there was no question of changing the law unless main opposition SYRIZA-Progressive Alliance accepted that elections using simple proportional representation were a “bomb at the foundations of stability” and agreed to change the law together with the government.
“I have built relations of trust with the citizens. I am not prepared to undermine this relationship for absolutely any reason,” he added.

Mitsotakis on phone tapping affair: The necessary processes were mobilised swiftly

Replying to questions about the phone tapping revelations, Mitsotakis stressed that the relevant processes had been activated swiftly in response:

“With courage, I assumed the political responsibility, accepted resignations, we opened parliament a week earlier and set in motion the relevant parliamentary institutional procedures and the process of the examining committee has already begun,” he said, noting that a legislative act introducing additional failsafes would soon be ratified.

“For a legal surveillance of a political figure additional filters are necessary. There was never any desire for a cover up. We will not pick apart our secret services. They are governed by rules, there is serious accountability,” the prime minister added, while accusing opposition PASOK leader Nikos Androulakis of attempting to “instrumentalise” the issue, pointing out that PASOK’s leader had the option to go to the intelligence service and get answers.

Mitsotakis said that it was “not normal” for political party leaders to be placed under surveillance, though noting that no one could be exempted as a matter of principle, adding that the specific surveillance had been legal and supported, adding: “I demanded greater political sensitivity, however. We must be clear under which circumstances the monitoring of a politician or journalist is permitted.”

Mitsotakis: ‘Simple proportional representation a catastrophic system for the country

Asked whether he would attempt to collaborate with another party if New Democracy fails to win an outright majority in the upcoming elections or instead trigger another election, Mitsotakis expressed his objections to the system of simple proportional representation, calling it “catastrophic” for Greece.
“My estimate that we will be led to a second election arises from simple mathematics. Arithmetically, if we attempt to project the current poll figures, theoretically there is a possibility of forming a government without the top party. It would be a political monstrosity. For this reason, the first election is extremely important. It must be a step to strive for a single-party majority and to explain why a majority government … can lead the country with stability and security,” he said.

Mitsotakis: Greece will always strive to keep channels of communication open with Turkey

“I consider the recent statements of the Turkish president unacceptable,” Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said in Thessaloniki on Sunday in response to questions, while stressing that Greece will not follow the road of provocations but strive to keep channels of communication with Ankara open. He said that Turkey was distorting reality and that Greece will continue to give clear replies both at home and abroad.

Mitsotakis also criticised Turkey’s role with respect to Russia, noting that it was the only NATO member that had not imposed sanctions, creating concern in the U.S. and Europe over its stance.

He said that Greece had deplored the “neutral” role that NATO was striving to adopt toward Turkey, adding that it was his duty to not only make Greece secure by enhancing its deterrent capability but also by building firm alliances so that Turkey might understand that the path it was currently on leads nowhere.

Regarding the looming energy crisis and support of households, he said the government was examining incentives to promote energy saving but stressed that all households will get support, regardless of consumption, with subsidies for natural gas as well.

The prime minister said that Greece was awaiting for Europe’s decisions on energy and wanted a cap on natural gas prices, repeating that the instrumentalisation of natural gas as a means of destabilisation was a choice made by Russia.

Mitsotakis also expessed certainty that there were forces within Greece striving for political instability, accusing the opposition of trying to trigger early elections using simple proportional representation.

“This in itself is a destabilising action because we risk finding ourselves with a caretaker government in the midst of a difficult conjunction with an aggressive neighbour, in a harsh winter, at a time when decisions must be made every day.”

PM on migration, energy crisis, Turkey and domestic issues

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis on Sunday stressed that the government had done everything necessary to secure supplies of natural gas and LNG during a difficult winter that lay ahead, while he also promised that support for households will not exceed the fiscal limits.

He said that he was open to a meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, noting that the informal EU summit in Prague might be an opportunity, while noting that Erdogan’s attendance would require recognition of the Cyprus Republic and would be a first-class opportunity to highlight that Turkey’s stance leads nowhere.

Asked about his meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris on Monday, Mitsotakis said this would focus on broader regional developments, the line of defence against Russia and international developments in energy.

Concerning migration and Turkey’s stance on the Greek-Turkish border in Evros, the premier stressed that Greece “is ready to face any challenge”.

“When we say that we guard the borders effectively and with respect for human rights, we do this and will continue doing this,” he added, saying Greece will continue the current policy and accusing some non-governmental organisations of treating migration like a “business”.

“The instrumentalisation of refugees is behaviour that is and should be politically condemned. For the people arriving in Greece that are true refugees we have accelerated asylum procedures and decongested the facilities,” he noted.

On the possibility of Turkey’s threats escalating to acts of war, Mitsotakis said he could not “imagine a conflict between Greece and Turkey in which Turkey was the aggressor”, adding: “If this happened, Turkey would receive a reply that would be decisive.”

“More broadly, our stance on Ukraine does not only aim to support a country that is defending itself. It is a stance that creates a dividing line between countries that respect the inviolability of borders, the rules of international law and those that think they can change borders at will,” he said.

On other issues, the prime minister pointed to the progress made in LGBTQI issues in Greece, highlighting that this was done by a centre-right government, while he also expressed his agreement with establishing the special term for ‘femicides’ but not necessarily different legal penalties for the crime.

Mitsotakis said that there were no plans for additional support measures at present, stressing that the main thrust of government policy will be on reducing unemployment, which he described as “the greatest inequality in the country today”, with the highest poverty rates among jobless people in middle age.

On the phasing out of lignite, he said this remained a long-term policy, while the current resort to lignite was a temporary measure that made sense as long as natural gas prices remained exorbitant.

Replying to an ANA question regarding the campus police force, he said it was important to “win the wager that we are not talking about a mechanism of oppression”.
The prime minister also refused to reveal the precise time of the next elections but repeated that the government will exhaust its four-year term, ruling out early elections, any change to electoral law or a reshuffle.

On economic issues, Mitsotakis appeared confident that Greece will achieve investment grade within 2023 and that any delay will be due to the risk of political instability rather than economic policy, adding that a stable government after the elections will be a condition for achieving investment grade.

As regards the increase in the minimum wage in May, he said the process for deciding this will begin at the start of the year so that businesses can plan accordingly.
He also clarified that any support sent to Ukraine “will not be at [Greece’s] detriment”.


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