“Greece as a country has now returned,” said Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, speaking on MSNBC’s morning show “Morning Joe” during his visit to the United States and a few hours before crossing the White House threshold for the meeting. with US President Biden.
He stressed that for the US, Greece is a stable partner in a difficult region of the world, while when asked about Turkey’s objections to the prospect of Sweden and Finland joining NATO, the Greek Prime Minister replied that it is not the right time to use the perspective. accession of these two countries to the Alliance, in order to “bargain” for other issues.
The Prime Minister’s interview on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” show in detail:
Journalist: It is a pleasure to have you with us. What are the key priorities for your meeting with President Biden today?
Kyriakos Mitsotakis: This is an important visit for me personally, and for Greece, as it coincides with the 201st anniversary of the start of the Greek Independence Struggle. The visit was supposed to take place last year, but due to the pandemic, it was scheduled for this year. I will also be given the opportunity to address a joint congressional hearing. It is an opportunity to celebrate the path of two living democracies and to reaffirm our mutual strategic commitment. And Greece is obviously the most reliable partner that the United States of America currently has in a particularly turbulent part of the world. We will therefore discuss strengthening our bilateral cooperation strategy. Of course, we will discuss the ongoing war in Ukraine and its implications for the European continent.
Journalist: Will you discuss with the President the issue of the possible accession of Finland and Sweden to NATO, but also the concern that Turkey has expressed about this issue? Why would anyone want to slow down the efforts of these two countries to join NATO at this point?
Kyriakos Mitsotakis: You should probably ask the President of Turkey about this issue. Greece supports the candidacy of Sweden and Finland for NATO membership. It is a decision in the context of exercising their sovereignty. At the end of the day, I expect that there will be no serious objections to the accession of these two countries to NATO. I do not think it is the right time to use the accession of these two countries to NATO to bargain for other issues that one may have in mind. I expect this issue to be resolved.
Journalist: This war in Ukraine, the Russian aggression in Ukraine, has united Europe in a way that has happened for many years. Differences between NATO members and European Union member states seem to be narrowing to some extent. How long do you think this will last? Is there a concern that the Russians may eventually endure more than European unity and wear it out over time?
Kyriakos Mitsotakis: Europe has shown great unity in dealing with the Russian invasion of Ukraine. We moved very fast to apply very strict sanctions. And I expect this European unity to last, because in the end what is happening in Europe is completely unthinkable. What I mean is that borders are being redrawn by force. We believed that after the 20th century this would never happen in Europe.
Therefore, what is at stake here is not only the sovereignty of Ukraine. It is the arrangement of the security architecture of Europe as a whole, and that is why I expect that European unity should be taken for granted. At the same time, I must point out that there are issues with energy prices that need to be addressed at European level.
We have before us an extraordinary European Council to be held in late May to address these issues. Because when we impose sanctions on Russia, we want to make sure we do not shoot ourselves in the foot. We want to ensure that we have a greater impact on Russia than on our citizens.
Journalist: How will you achieve this?
Kyriakos Mitsotakis: You achieve this by reaching an agreement on how to intervene in the wholesale gas market. From the beginning, I was in favor of an intervention in the gas market. I believe that prices in the wholesale gas market in Europe at the moment do not reflect the fundamental principles of supply and demand. We are big buyers and we have to use our influence just like big buyers of gas to reduce gas prices.
This issue was also raised by Prime Minister Draghi when he was in Washington a few days ago. And we must use our available resources to ensure that we also provide additional support to our citizens and households to cope with rising energy prices.
Journalist: Mr Prime Minister, there is no indication that the war is about to end, but at some point it will. When that day comes, how will Greece and Europe face Russia again? How will you deal with President Putin again if he is still in power, or you are not going to do it?
Kyriakos Mitsotakis: This is a very difficult question. Right now, our priority is to end the war, but certainly on terms that are acceptable to Ukraine. We are one of the first countries to send not only humanitarian but also military aid to Ukraine, but I think, unfortunately, we still have a long way to go before this issue is resolved.
Journalist: Mr. Prime Minister, in addition to your meetings with the President, you are going to speak to Congress and meet with his leadership. What is the message you want to convey to Congress and the American people, not only about the alliance and the relationship between Greece and the United States, but also about the relationship between the two peoples. There is still concern about how all this will end, how the conflict between Ukraine and Russia will end. What would you like the American people to know from your visit?
Kyriakos Mitsotakis: The first thing I want the American people to know is that Greece, as a country, has “returned.” As you know, we went through a very painful financial crisis. Ten years ago, we were still on a rescue program. This was very painful for Greek society. But since we took office, the economy has recovered.
I also think we have dealt with COVID better than most European countries. Many American companies invest in Greece. Many American tourists come to Greece. This summer we have the largest number of direct flights between the USA and Greece. So this is a dynamic economy, open to business, open to attracting American investment.
Greece is for the United States of America a stable partner in a difficult neighborhood of the world. We play an important role in the Balkans. We have very good relations with the Middle East. We want Greece to be a regional energy hub for gas transportation, perhaps soon hydrogen from the Middle East to Europe.
So we want to take advantage of our important geopolitical position and the fact that we are a stable and strong Republic, a member of the European Union, a member of NATO. Therefore, we are a reliable partner for the USA. And it’s an opportunity – when I speak to Congress – to honor this special relationship.
Journalist: Certainly, both this relationship between Greece and the United States, as well as the relationship between the EU and NATO, gained new momentum in the aftermath of this war. With Finland and Sweden planning to join NATO soon, is there any concern that, if that happens, it could provoke some kind of retaliation beyond Ukraine?
Kyriakos Mitsotakis: I’m sure there will be many threats and I’m sure Mr Putin is not at all happy with that decision. But at the end of the day, Russia managed to “unite NATO” by giving it a new purpose and now expanding the Alliance from 30 to 32 members.
As I told you, this is a very important decision. It is a historic decision, considering that Sweden is a country that has been neutral for more than 200 years. He did not take part in World War II and now decides to join NATO.
The same goes for Finland. We are talking about a new security architecture in Europe. And I am convinced that this is another unintended consequence of President Putin’s very disastrous decision to invade Ukraine.
Journalist: Mr. Prime Minister, thank you very much for coming to the “Morning Joe” show.
Kyriakos Mitsotakis: Thank you very much.