WASHINGTON - While much of their meeting in Washington centered on Turkey and foreign policy, US President Donald Trump lauded Greece’s slow recovery from a near-decade long economic crisis, speaking to visiting Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis.
Trump praised “the comeback” Greece is making, 17 months after the end of 326 billion euros ($362.79 billion) in three international bailouts and as Mitsotakis is chasing foreign investors, with Greece unable to yet make a full return to the markets.
Greece’s economy will be scrutinized for years by envoys from the Troika of the European Union-European Central Bank-European Stability Mechanism (EU-ECB-ESM) and automatic spending cuts will be triggered if fiscal targets part of austerity measures aren’t met.
Mitsotakis said Greece was "following a recipe" that has worked in the United States, including lower taxes, and the Greek economy has reacted positively after the former ruling Radical Left SYRIZA, ousted in July 7, 2019 snap elections, buried Greeks with an avalanche of tax hikes, new taxes and raised the corporate rate to 29 percent, scaring off investors.
Trump on the Greek population in the United States: "We have a tremendous Greek population. Over 3 million people as I understand it. That's fantastic. I really feel I know most of them. I think I know all of them, come to think of it." pic.twitter.com/46qccoCqCl— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) January 7, 2020
Mitsotakis said he was looking for Trump's support in getting US companies to invest in Greece as the Greek leader is rebooting projects stymied by SYRIZA, including the 8-billion-euro ($8.9 billion) development of the abandoned Hellenikon International airport on Athens’ coast.
Leading up to the White House meeting, Trump administration officials described Greece as transforming itself from being a source of problems to becoming a source of solutions and stability, noting the political deal with Israel and Cyprus to build an undersea pipeline to carry gas from deposits in the southeastern Mediterranean to continental Europe.
The race to claim offshore energy deposits in the southern Mediterranean has created new tensions between Greece and Cyprus, on one side, and historic rival Turkey, which is drilling off Cyprus and plans to do the same off Crete under a deal signed with Libya dividing the seas between them that Greece said is unlawful and rejected.
The Trump administration said it supports Greece's emergence as a regional energy hub and said reliable access to energy is critical to economic development and stability in the region, using the ubiquitous slogan that’s a favorite of both countries lauding each other.
(Material from the Associated Press was used in this report)