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Politics

PM Mitsotakis: Greece Has “Faith in Its Capability, the Self-Confidence to Cope”

ATHENS — "If there is something that I have learned in these 12 months it is that we can do many things to change the country," Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said in an interview on SKAI radio station on Tuesday, given upon the completion of a year since ruling New Democracy came to power.

The prime minister ruled out the prospect of early elections, saying they will be held at the end of the government's four-year term, adding that it would be "politically dishonest" to hold snap elections to exploit his current "political capital".

Talking about the pandemic, Mitsotakis said that imposing the lockdown was the hardest decision that he took in his first year as prime minister, "once we had the data and were able to perceive the problem posed by the coronavirus." He said the decision was hard because he was aware it would lead the economy to a deep recession "but I did the calculation and hope I'm proved right, that the more effective we were in tackling the pandemic, the easier the economic recovery will be."

The first battle was won but the epidemic was not yet over, the prime minister said, adding that the country was now stronger than before in spite of the recession "because it has institutional capital and faith in its capability, the self-confidence to cope." This was reflected in opinion polls, Mitsotakis said, noting that he mainly focused on their 'qualitative' findings rather than voter intentions.

The next most difficult decision was that to ease the curbs for Covid-19 and reopen the economy while protecting public health, since that required a great deal of work, planning and cooperation between many individuals and agencies.

Greece has proved that it is capable of carrying out such difficult tasks, he said, adding that July will be a difficult month for Greek tourism but he was confident that foreign tourists will see that Greece is dealing with the problem professionally and will prefer to holiday here. The borders with any country where there is a flare-up of coronavirus will be closed, he said.

On the refugee crisis at the Greek-Turkish land border in Evros, Mitsotakis noted that the decision to defend the border was 'self-evident' and that the government had information on what would happen.

He also noted the areas where the government had fallen short, noting that "we have proved that we learn from our mistakes".

Mitsotakis said that he has no plans for a cabinet reshuffle at this time and that his top priority will be to protect jobs and support incomes. He said his attention was fully focused on issues relating to the economy and for this reason the government announced a plan to support the economy.

"To a great extent, the government will be judged by its ability to handle this crisis," he said, while stressing that the economy had been doing very well before the pandemic erupted. He noted that the government had done a significant body of legislative work and will have passed 85 bills by the end of the current week, with another 10 to come.

Mitsotakis said the country was ready to deal with a second wave of Covid-19 in terms of the readiness of the health system and accumulated experience, possibly even a vaccine. He said that people must continue to be vigilant but that the government was not mulling more curbs and lockdowns, in favour of heightened surveillance and targeted quarantine action.

"We will not need to go back into quarantine, since the cost to the economy is so great that no economy can handle it," he said.

On relations with Turkey, Mitsotakis said that channels of communication with the Turkish president had been closed through no fault of his own, after the events in Evros, and that it was important "that we can talk about low policy issues".

He made it clear that Greece and Turkey "have very different views" on delimitating the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and that a prerequisite for dialogue is to 'not have tension, which makes dialogue impossible." The illegal memorandum signed by Turkey and Libya also affects conditions, he said, adding that Greece's ally is the European Union.

"It is not exactly correct that Merkel intervened for our communication. We do not need intermediaries for our communication. Organised dialogue between the EU and Turkey is very different, however," he said, stressing that Turkey's attitude to Greece and Cyprus cannot fail to have repercussions on Euro-Turkish relations.

On the possibility of a hot incident in the autumn, the prime minister said this was a "dangerous self-fulfilling prophecy" and that Greece has made it clear that it will defend its sovereign rights in any way it judges appropriate "but at the moment, diplomacy is doing the talking. I insist on a diplomatic solution of all differences, with the most important being delimitating the EEZ."

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