ATHENS – Michalis Mailis, former and now Honorary President of the Hellenic-German Chamber of Industry co-founded by his grandfather in Berlin in 1924, has stepped down in protest over Germany refusing to agree to sanctions over Turkish provocations around Greek islands.
Showing disappointment and anger over the stance taken by German Chancellor Angela Merkel – Germany is home to 2.774 million people of Turkish heritage and is a major arms supplier to Turkey – he announced his resignation in a letter to the newspaper Kathimerini.
That came just ahead of a critical meeting of the European Council, made up of the leaders of the 27 member states of the European Union, that was to discuss sanctions that Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis wants back on the table after taking them off to give diplomacy a chance.
That immediately failed when Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who had withdrawn the energy research vessel the Oruc Reis and warships off the Greek island of Kastellorizo sent them back, only to take them out ahead of the meeting.
Thinking his tactics are a ruse, Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias, supported by some colleagues in the EU, said he doesn’t want the bloc to fall into a trap of constant appeasement of Erdogan, who had said he would release thousands of refugees and migrants through Greece if pushed too far.
Mailis, a member of the chamber for a decade in the 1980s and its president the last 12, said he used the position to try to further Greek-German relations, which had soured during a near decade-long economic crisis when Merkel insisted on harsh austerity measures in return for backing bailouts, wanting to protect German bank investments in Greece.
“During the difficult years of the bailout memorandums, the Chamber battled not just to help salvage the Greek economy, but also to improve the climate, which, both in the Greek and German media but also in public opinion on both sides, had become dangerously and extremely tense, testing the historical relationship between the two nations,” he said of that time.
But now he said he can no longer take Germany – which backs Greece in tweets and press releases – not wanting to sanction Turkey’s plans to drill for oil and gas in Greek waters because of lucrative arms sales to Turkey.
“I feel betrayed on a personal level and dismayed to see our friend Germany putting its narrow financial and commercial interests above all else,” he said, although Spain – with economic ties to Turkey – won’t support Greece either.
“I find it unconscionable that in the face of Turkey’s flagrant and constant violations of the sovereign rights of Greece, a European Union member-state, Germany, a European Union leader, should, in contrast to other European countries, act in such an aloof manner, that it should fail to assume a clear position and should even arm the aggressor.”
Ironically, Germany now holds the rotating, symbolic six-month presidency of the EU and is using to block sanctions on Turkey despite tension rising over drilling plans that brought Greece and Turkey near a shooting conflict.