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Politics

Worlds Apart, Mitsotakis Plans Showdown with Turkey’s Erdogan

ATHENS — It's the meeting everyone has been waiting for after second team envoys have been scrapping – Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis in a face-to-face with Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to talk about disputes over the Aegean and East Mediterranean.

Mitsotakis told Greek TV station Alpha that, “There will be a meeting with the Turkish President, but I am not in a position to say when. The meeting will happen because we need to communicate,” he said.

He also didn't say where he thought that would take place after European Union leaders and Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias went to Ankara to meet him instead of Erdogan being required to come to Brussels.

Mitsotakis, who had backed off demands for European Union sanctions for Turkey's plans to hunt for energy around Greek islands, made a statement through Dendias that Greece is willing to get tougher.

That came when Dendias, in undiplomatic language, scolded Turkey for provocations in a news conference with Turkey's Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, who upbraided the Greek minister later for breaking with unspoken rules about breaking bad before reporters.

Mitsotakis also lauded Dendias for being blunt and said the rare candor, which surprised diplomats who are used to talking only nice to each other to avoid saying anything newsworthy, made a point that was needed.

“The mandate I had given was to not leave any challenge unanswered. The issues were put forward with honesty, with clarity. Relations between Greece and Turkey are relations between Europe and Turkey,” he said.

He said Greece wants to deal with Turkey on the basis of international law that Turkey doesn't recognize but didn't indicate what his stance would be when – and if – he and Erdogan meet, which could be a real showstopper event.

Vaccinations

The best vaccine is the fastest one, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said on Thursday, calling on the public again to sign up for inoculations.

Mitsotakis said "the vaccine is absolutely safe, that has been now proven" and said that the issue of obligatory vaccinations for medical and health personnel would be resolved in the fall. He asserted however that guidelines would be clear that "nobody may fire an employee" over some staff's refusal to be inoculated.

Economy

Speaking about the Greek economy, he said that he expects a strong, robust recovery following the end of the coronavirus pandemic. "It will feel like the end of a war," he asserted. "Just as we had quick recovery after the end of a war, the same will happen now as well, since the scars, the wounds – especially in the production network – will not be as deep as we think," Mitsotakis underlined.

Referring to the new tax and insurance regulations announced yesterday to help the fallout from the pandemic, the prime minister said they would be of a permanent nature. The government's goals are to protect labor, and to reduce social inequalities and the intergenerational gap in Greece.

The first 4 billion euros allocated to Greece from the EU's Recovery Fund are expected within 2021, he added, while public debt he said is viable, otherwise "nobody would want to lend" to Greece.

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