ATHENS – Af ter the onslaught of COVID-19 in early 2020 put the brakes on an economic recovery in Greece from a near decade of austerity, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis’ government now is dealing with jumping inflation, soaring energy costs and the fallout of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The war has sparked worldwide problems, especially in piling on price hikes for gas and electricity and oil where costs had already been going through the roof, hitting Greek households and consumers hard.
Under fire from the major opposition SYRIZA for his New Democracy goverment’s handling of the pandemic, economy, reaction to the invasion, and Turkish threats, Mitsotakis’ New Democracy government is planning to distribute more aid.
He said that more measures to support businesses that had been hammered by long lockdowns against COVID, and struggling households would be coming although the Finance Ministry said coffers were being strained.
Speaking to his Cabinet, Mitsotakis said more financial help would be coming for as long as the energy disruption continues although European Union sanctions against Russia don’t include closing off Russian banks who deal with financing oil and gas coming to the bloc, including Greece.
Kathimerini said the government will return to a model that was used at Christmas 2021 with a payment of 250 euros ($271.10) to low-income pensioners and the disabled, as well as a double guaranteed minimum income to about 250,000 beneficiaries.
The Christmas allowance was give to some 800,000 pensioners with an individual taxable income of up to 7,200 ($7,952) and an annual family income of up to 14,400 ($15,903) with real estate values up to 200,000 euros ($220,878.)
Mitsotakis also outlined a six-point program to the EU asking for further help for consumers and households in the bloc to deal with the energy prices but said sanctions can’t include stopping Russian oil and gas, giving Russia an economic lifeline that dilutes the penalties.
He’s also due to meet Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Istanbul on March 13 for talks that seem doomed to go nowhere after Turkey laid out an agenda offering no concessions to its claims on Greek waters and plans to send an energy research vessel and warships off Greek islands again.
Turkey also said Greece must take troops off islands near Turkey’s coast and has continued to agitate by sending fighter jets and warships to violate Greece’s airspace and waters and said it won’t back down.
Both are members of NATO but the defense alliance chief Jens Stoltenberg admitted he wants no part of their feud and won’t intervene, with worries that Erdogan could be embolded by Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war.
The paper said that Mitsotakis wants communication channels to remain open with the volatile Erdogan and with the trouble over the invasion a catalyst that it’s imperative “to keep our region away from any additional geopolitical crisis.”