Mitsotakis & Weber Make Joint Statements after Ancient Nemea Visit

European People's Party candidate Manfred Weber, left, and the leader of Greece's conservative New Democracy party Kyriakos Mitsotakis visit an ancient temple at Nemea about 117 kilometers (73 miles) west of Athens on Tuesday, April 23, 2019. (AP Photo/Derek Gatopoulos)

New Democracy party leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis and Manfred Weber, the European People’s Party candidate for the presidency of the European Commission, paid a visit on Tuesday to the archaeological site of ancient Nemea, in Corinthia.

The two politicians visited the site’s museum and were given a guided toured of the Sanctuary of Nemean Zeus by Stephen G. Miller, professor emeritus at University of California in Berkeley who has devoted his career to the Nemea site.

Mayor of Nemea Kostas Kalatzis invited Weber to visit Nemea as the European Commission’s next president, to which Weber replied, “I will, but with the country’s next prime minister.”

After visiting the Cooperative Winery of Nemea, Mitsotakis and Weber made brief statements. The main opposition leader said Greece has entered a pre-electoral period with European elections, local government elections and national elections later this year, adding that “we support Manfred Weber’s EC candidacy,” and referred to this electoral year as ”very positive for New Democracy, Greece and Europe.”

Weber on his part said that “we have a common obligation to start a new chapter in Europe” and criticised Greece’s prime minister Alexis Tsipras who “did not deliver on his many promises,” praising Mitsotakis for supporting his EC candidacy.

Weber said that over the next five years Europe will not be built by bureaucrats, but by its citizens.” Insisting on his criticism of Tsipras, Weber said that Greece elected a government of populists, “who pulled a u-turn.” Referring to himself and Mitsotakis, he added that “populism comes from both the left and the far-right, and we want to put an end to the populist narrative in Greece and Europe.”

Finally, the two men were asked to comment on the Prespes Agreement, to which Weber said “Europe welcomes the Prespes Agreement, but also respects the domestic debate in Greece on the issue.” Mitsotakis, whose party opposes the agreement, said, “In a family there are always different opinions. Mr. Weber has respected and understood New Democracy’s stance on the issue.”

SYRIZA reaction

New Democracy (ND) leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis “welcomed a man with the same mentality as his (…) showing what their joint vision is for Europe and for Greece,” SYRIZA said on Tuesday following a meeting between the main opposition leader and Manfred Weber.

Syriza said in a statement that Mitsotakis “supports a man who did not hesitate to blame Greece and Greek people at critical points in time, issuing racist statements and offensive descriptions.”

The statement said Weber was “the politician who spoke obnoxiously of Greeks as the ‘lazy people’ of southern Europe and fervently supported Greece’s exit from the euro currency and the Schengen Treaty.” The candidate, Syriza said, also “fought against the reduction of Greece’s national debt” and “wanted to see people’s wages slashed, and EU funds for cohesion and the Common Agricultural Policy slashed.” This is who Mitsotakis’ friend is, the party concluded.