ATHENS – In an exclusive, far-reaching interview with The National Herald about the political climate in Greece, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, the American educated leader of the main opposition party of Greece, Nea Demokratia (New Democracy), states that “the Prespa Agreement is extremely problematic for Greece because, among other things, our country recognizes for the first time a ‘Macedonian language’ and a ‘Macedonian nationality,’ thus fueling irredentism and nationalism in the sensitive area of the western Balkans” and declares that “we reserve our right to veto our neighboring country’s accession to the European Union.”
In response to a question regarding what it will take to restore faith in the investing community of Greece, Mr. Mitsotakis said, among other things, “within the first two years of my government, we will reduce the corporate tax from the current level down to 20% and bring down the property tax (ENFIA) for all Greek citizens by 30%. Our overall goal is to attract significant foreign investment.”
Finally asked to comment on the tragedy unfolding in Venezuela, Mr. Mitsotakis revealed that, “the Greek PM once argued that the Maduro regime was a prototype, calling it ‘a model that should spread to Europe.'” Mr. Mitsotakis pointedly asked, “One rightfully wonders what may be connecting Mr. Tsipras to Venezuela’s dictator?”
Below please find the full text of the interview:
TNH: Greece experienced a period of intense polarization due to Mr. Tsipras’ persistence that an agreement with Skopje be reached and ratified. Do you think this has opened a new wound to the nation and if so, what can be done to avoid a new division?
Mitsotakis: Mr. Tsipras intentionally used an important national issue with the objective of unsettling the political system and reap short-term political gain. In parallel he aimed at restoring his personal credibility with Greece’s international partners given that the agreement with Skopje was very high in their agenda. Just like in July 2015, when the unnecessary third memorandum became a reality, Mr. Tsipras failed miserably in striking a successful deal for our national interests. This explains why he never sought common ground with opposition parties in the Greek Parliament nor did he keep them informed at any stage of the ongoing negotiations.
Once again, just like in 2015, the outcome of the negotiations was utterly disappointing. The Prespa Agreement is extremely problematic for Greece because, among other things, our country recognizes for the first time a “Macedonian language” and a “Macedonian nationality,” thus fueling irredentism and nationalism in the sensitive area of the western Balkans. You are correct to say that the overwhelming majority of Greeks are against the deal and that many Greeks disagree with its ratification in Parliament.
However, Nea Demokratia remains the guarantor of the unity of the Greek people. Our party has strong roots in society and a long democratic tradition. Despite the fact that the Agreement undoubtedly damages the country, we do not accuse our political opponents of being traitors, like SYRIZA once did, in order to come to power. That is why we will do everything in our power, with dignity and resolve, to mitigate the serious negative consequences of the agreement and to shield our country from the dangers it poses. This is also why we reserve our right to veto our neighboring country’s accession to the European Union.
TNH: Markets worldwide conclude that, after the latest political developments, the country has entered a period of political instability. Given the problems Greece faces, how long can this situation go on without risking further problems?
Mitsotakis: Unfortunately, for some time now, markets have lost confidence in the current Greek government. They are well aware that not only has it not carried out the reforms necessary to benefit the economy, small and medium-sized enterprises and the middle class but, instead, it has pursued a policy of over-taxation, expansion of the state and obstruction of entrepreneurship. Following the most recent developments, we now have a razor-thin majority for the government in parliament, the outcome of bartering and back-door deals with individual MPs, many of whom were promised government positions.
The dominance of populists in 2015 has proved extremely damaging, but fortunately we are a democratic country and very soon citizens will be called upon to register their voice. And this is why, despite recent developments i remain very optimistic about the future. A Nea Demokratia win in 2019 will usher stability and hope. Greece will become the first country in Europe where populists will be defeated decisively. In itself, the call for elections will provoke a change of attitude in international markets, but also, a transition from the era of insecurity to an era of hope for the Greek people.
TNH: Which way can you restore the confidence of the international capital markets?
Mitsotakis: It is indeed critical for the next government to quickly restore the confidence of the international capital markets, reduce the borrowing costs of the Hellenic Republic and gradually bring Greece back to investment grade status. We have a plan which will allow us to achieve this goal within 18 months. The quality, talent and skills of the people that will staff my government shall constitute the first crucial message to markets.
Ultimately, it is a question of really believing in implementing structural reforms, making Greece more competitive and changing the overall business climate. Within the first two years of my government, we will reduce the corporate tax from the current level down to 20% and bring down the property tax (ENFIA) for all Greek citizens by 30%. Our overall goal is to attract significant foreign investment, mobilize domestic investment and finally provide liquidity to small and medium businesses that need it most. Ιt goes without saying that we will move quickly to unblock large scale investment projects, starting with the former Hellenikon airport, but also extending to a number of other idle projects such as the gold mining investment in Skouries. Moreover, we will immediately implement a concerted regulatory intervention in order to drastically simplify licensing and other cumbersome bureaucratic procedures pertaining to the setting up of a business in Greece.
TNH: What is your stance on the Venezuela issue?
Mitsotakis: We sympathize with the plight of the Venezuelan people to get rid of a ruthless dictatorial regime which is clinging on to power at any cost. The people of Venezuela are faced not only with food shortages, but also violence, intimidation and the violation of human rights. Nea Demokratia fully supports the EU’s demand for free and fair elections. The tragedy that has unfolded in Venezuela must quickly find a democratic recourse. Most democratic parties in the European Parliament recently sent a strong message against the Maduro regime. Strikingly though, with the exception of SYRIZA. The Greek PM once argued that the Maduro regime was a prototype, calling it “a model that should spread to Europe.” One rightfully wonders what may be connecting Mr. Tsipras to Venezuela’s dictator?
TNH: How does the memory of your father influence your political thinking and behavior?
Mitsotakis: It obviously affects, but does not determine, my thinking and behavior. Konstantinos Mitsotakis was a bold politician who uttered many truths during turbulent times for Greece, and a lifelong friend of the U.S.A.
Growing up with him, I carry with me vivid memories and strong feelings.
But ever since I entered politics, I have followed my own path and made my own decisions. For this is ultimately how I will be judged.