ATHENS – Throwing diplomacy to the wind, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis leveled another blast at Russia for the ongoing invasion of Ukraine and said Greece will welcome Ukrainian refugees.
That comes as his New Democracy government has been trying to keep out refugees and migrants arriving from Turkey, where they went fleeing war, strife and economic hardships in their homelands.
That’s primarily Syria and Afghanistan but as far as Pakistan and Bangladesh as well as sub-Saharan Africa, drawing questions about why those from Ukraine are being treated with open arms.
“Greece was always on the right side of history and we are doing the same today. For Greece there are no dilemmas, we are on the side of Ukraine, freedom and democracy,” he told Parliament, reported Reuters.
He said the invasion brought the horror of war back to Europe in a way that others have said hasn’t happened on such a scale since World War II, the images of Ukranian cities being bombed beamed around the world.
“The European Union was born out of the ashes of World War Two. It responded with the largest package of sanctions it has ever launched. The EU’s actions awaken the world’s public opinion, they are the intangible force of democracy,” he said.
That was in reference to the EU getting tougher on Russia, but still not moving to bar the country from the SWIFT program of international banking that won’t touch Russia’s oil and gas industry – which provides up to 40 percent of the bloc’s energy.
COGS OF WAR
Mitsotakis said there should be more defense cooperation in the EU, which doesn’t have an army and relies on what it calls diplomatic “soft power,” which hasn’t worked in dealing with dictators like Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The Greek leader said the EU has to be ready to provide further aid in energy costs but there’s no apparent plan to try to replace the Russian gas and oil if it’s cut off by Putin in retaliation for financial sanctions.
Mitsotakis though said that Greece has prepared for a “worst case scenario where gas supplies from Russia are halted,” with a liquefied natural gas (LNG) storage facility off Athens being recently replenished and Greek gas suppliers lining up additional cargos, he said, without saying from where.
“We cannot rule out attempts by Russia to blackmail. We all realize this …will disrupt global supplies and probably trigger a further rise in (energy) prices,” said Mitsotakis, further spiking inflation and the cost of living during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
“But we all agree it is the one-off price European people will pay for defending the values which are the foundations of our continent,” he said, the news agency reported.
That came after EU energy ministers discussed a Greek proposal for a new EU fund to provide low-interest loans to help governments finance measures to deal with soaring energy prices that have hit households hard.
Greece has spent more than 2 billion euros ($2.23 billion) since September, 2021 in power bill subsidies for households, businesses and farmers to offdset record prices and he said it will continue.
Greece has increased LNG imports tso try to reduce its reliance on Russian gas and he said alternative gas routes are being looked at, including a subsea pipeline, the so-called EastMed, designed to bring gass from the Eastern Mediterranean, if the project goes ahead.