ATNENS - New Democracy survived unscathed by the onslaught of populism but paid a heavy price for it nevertheless, with attacks against its program and officials, Prime Prime Minister and New Democracy (ND) leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis said on Friday evening during his opening speech at the party's 13th congress in Athens.
Reviewing the achievements of his government's 130 days in power, the prime minister said, "The economy is on a growth trajectory, capital controls are a thing of the past, the economic sentiment index is higher than that of 2008, and we are borrowing with lower-than-ever interest rates." He added that "Parliament has voted 25 landmark bills, to total 29 by the end of the year," and businesses and households will pay fewer taxes, through a bill to be voted shortly. Real estate ENFIA tax has been reduced on average by 22 pct, for all and everywhere."
Speaking of investments, he said, "Large investments like those of Cosco and Hellenikon are moving ahead and dozens of others are in the pipeline," universities are returning to normalcy, and neighborhoods being claimed by their residents instead of by drug gangs. "Greece is regaining its international reliability. Justice and the institutions are operating again, and the state is moving to digitization," he noted.
The party's ideological core has two ingredients, he said, individual freedom and social care. "Without individual freedom there is no collective prosperity," he noted. Greeks must act like core members of Europe. "We must act as such, and start with the liberation of citizens from excessive taxation, meaning the rejuvenation of the private sector," Mitsotakis said. "Fifty years had to pass in post-WWII Europe before we came to realize that only development can bring a citizen's financial independence."
Greece's situation today could be summarized in two words, Mitsotakis said: new country, both domestically and abroad. He underlined that he had seen for himself the new status of Greece during his visits to the United States and European countries. "Greece is seen differently, not only as a reliable speaker, valuable partner and needed ally, but above all as a partner on equal footing," the ND leader said. On foreign affairs, he highlighted the importance of international law and good neighborhood relations. "Anyone rushing to doubt - by institutionally baseless means - Greece's sovereign rights should know that they will have to face Greece and its European allies," he pointed out, in references to Turkey.
In terms of the migration issue, Mitsotakis said the country's policy has changed, with more staff to guard borders, new asylum regulations, and new, controlled centers for refugees. He warned however that the migration issue "has come to stay. That's why we all need to do our bit, assuming the burden the country bears on proportional basis," he said, referring to fellow EU member states.
"Our country has the strongest government in Europe at this point, and ND the largest organization in a central-rightist party," the premier said. "We will not hide from the Greek people the difficulties we come across or deny our mistakes; some of the latter, I will acknowledge myself and rush to fix them," he concluded.