ATHENS – Although he has vacillated himself over what to do – sanctions or not – Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said the European Union should take a tougher stance on Turkish provocations and violations against Greece.
After meeting outgoing German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the EU’s toughest taskmaster in demanding austerity measures in return for three bailouts of 326 billion euros ($379.25 billion) to prop up a battered Greek economy, he turned toward Turkey.
“Western moderation often seems to encourage Turkey’s arbitrary behavior,” Mitsotakis said during a joint press conference, without mentioning he had backed off from an earlier call for sanctions to give diplomacy a chance, which has failed.
“It’s time for European principles to translate into European practice,” he said.
He added that Greece wants to have good relations with its neighbors on the basis of international law – which Turkey doesn’t recognize – and said that Greece, “however, will not tolerate threats to its (sovereign) rights.”
That was in reference to Turkey regularly violating Greek airspace and waters without any intervention from NATO, the defense alliance, to which both countries belong, and Turkish plans from President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to have Turkish ships hunt for energy in waters around Greek islands.
Merkel – who blocked Mitsotakis’ earlier call for sanctions as Germany is home to 2.774 million people of Turkish heritage and is a major arms supplier to Turkey – said that all countries should respect international law and the resolutions of the United Nations, adding that reaching solutions through dialogue is “significant but hard.”
Despite Merkel being an obstacle in dealing with Turkey and putting harsh austerity measures on Greek workers, pensioners and the poor to protect German banks who poured money into bailouts, Mitsotakis praised her.
“Merkel was the voice of reason and stability. She may have been unfair at times but decisive nevertheless, like in 2015 when she refused Greece’s ostracism from Europe,” he said, referring to her pressure on the then-ruling Radical Left SYRIZA whose policies pushed Greece toward the brink of leaving the Eurozone.
“You too admitted that you asked too much from the Greeks,” Mitsotakis told Merkel, adding that “thankfully, neither convenient austerity policy, nor cheap national slogans stood the test of time. Community solidarity and true patriotism were victorious in the end,” he said, without explaining the contradiction between praise and criticism.
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