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Politics

In Left-Right Combo, Mitsotakis Says Populism Europe’s Real Danger

ATHENS – Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, trying to bolster his party shaken by unrelenting criticism from rivals and the European Parliament elections looming in June, told his New Democracy Congress that populism is a threat.

“The populist demagogues want to raise artificial divisions, which as (European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen) pointed out, was something that Greece has paid a high price for in the past. We will never allow the things that happened in the past decade to happen again,” he said.

He said it made no difference whether it came from the left – he has often referred to the major opposition SYRIZA as spouting demagoguery and appealing to the masses – or the right, the Parliament having two far-right groups.

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis with the President of the Republic of Cyprus Nikos Christodoulides and the leading candidate of the European People’s Party for the Presidency of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, Athens, Sunday, April 7, 2024.(DIMITRIS PAPAMITSOS/ PRIME MINISTER’S PRESS OFFICE/EUROKINISSI)

“The economic crisis lasted longer in Greece because populism prevented the country from rallying round. Syntagma Square is not far from here. We remember the two sides of the lie uniting in anti-European, supposedly anti-systemic demonstrations,” he said, referencing the Indignant protests that took place there at the height of the crisis.

Those happened when the PASOK Socialists were in power, for which then premier George Papandreou paid the price for seeking international bailouts that came with harsh austerity measures that led to his resigning.

Greece eventually required three bailouts of 326 billion euros ($353 billion,) including under a previous New Democracy-led coalition, the rescue packages from 2010-18 bringing misery to most Greeks and the economy shrinking 25 percent.

But he said that the country – under his leadership as he sought foreign investors and pushed all-out business – has grown and seen unemployment cut, debt cut and Greeks having higher wages and pensions, said the state’s Athens-Macedonia News Agency.

Greek PM Kyriakos Mitsotakis during the third day of the 15th Congress of the New Democracy, at Zappeion, Sunday, April 7, 2024. (GIORGOS KONTARINIS/EUROKINISSI)

“We are closing the gap with Europe and we want to close it everywhere. In this effort, we have the support of the EU,” Mitsotakis said, accusing the opposition parties of seeking to stop this progress and of “polluting the political dialogue with toxicity.”

He said the “instrumentalization of pain” from the 2023 railway collision which cost 57 people their lives was an example. “As if there are some Greeks who are more greatly grieved by this tragedy. On the way to the polls we must turn our backs on division.”

But he didn’t mention critics and rivals have accused his administration of covering up the real alleged reasons for the crash while circling the wagons to protect former transport minister Kostas Karamanlis, who resigned but was not charged.

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