‘Since taking office in 2019, Mitsotakis is credited with engineering an economic miracle in Greece. A decade ago it was one of the PIGS, a derogatory acronym for Portugal, Italy, Greece and Spain,’ the Sunday Times wrote.
Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis appeared optimistic regarding the return of the Parthenon sculptures to Greece and slammed Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s “grandiose Ottoman vision”, and Russia’s putative effort to “undermine Greek democracy” in a full-length interview published in the UK’s Sunday Times today.
As for the Parthenon Marbles, he said he believes the two countries may be getting closer to a deal and that he will raise the issue with British PM Liz Truss in talks when he visits London later this year.
“At a time when Truss will be looking to build her credibility and when the UK is sort of cornered in terms of its overall image after the [Queen’s] funeral it will be a fantastic gesture, and that’s what I’ll tell her,” Mitsotakis said.
“I think the mood is changing in the UK,” he added.
He did not clarify why he views the UK as “cornered” after the Queen’s funeral.
PM’s ‘Good personal relationship’ with King Charles
Mitsotakis said he has a “good personal relationship” with King Charles, whom he visited at the Dumfries House Estate in Scotland, part of the Prince’s Foundation, six months ago to discuss his plans for remodeling the former Greek royal summer palace and vast land holdings in Tatoi.
As the monarchy was abolished in Greece by referendum in December, 1974, it was unclear why the PM was discussing the issue of the remodeling of state property with the then Prince of Wales, and indeed reportedly giving him a say in the plans.
It was reported at the time that the successful remodeling of Dumfries House would serve as a model for Tatoi.
In 1988 as main opposition New Democracy leader, the PM’s late father, Konstantinos Mitsotakis, who later served as prime minister, described the 1974 referendum as “unfair”, and as PM in 1991 he arranged for ex-king Constantine to repossess and export from Greece in containers all of the palace’s royal property and treasures – causing a public uproar at the time, as after the abolition of the monarchy it was viewed by the public and legal scholars as the property of the Greek state and the Greek people.
The finest objects were sold at Christie’s auction house in 2007, many fetching much higher prices than the upper end estimates.
PM: though supportive, the King must remain neutral on return of Parthenon sculptures
Though Mitsotakis said that from private conversation he got the impression that the then Prince of Wales was supportive of the return of the Marbles, he acknowledged that as King, Charles must remain neutral.
The PM said, however, that the King has “a Greek heritage which he values and cherishes very much”.
While in Athens on 25 March, 2021, for the celebrations of the bicentennial of the start of the Greek Revolution, then Prince Charles said: “Greece has long held the most special place in my heart, after all, Greece is the land of my grandfather and of my father’s birth.”
At the time, he had reportedly expressed a keen interest in the future of Tatoi.
“A ‘Parthenon Project’, meanwhile, supported by Greek and British activists, has been promoting the idea of a “cultural partnership” envisaging exhibits in London of other Greek archaeological treasures in return for the return of the marbles, the Sunday Times reported in the interview.
“A YouGov poll last November indicated that 59 per cent of the British respondents thought the marbles belonged in Greece and only 18 per cent wanted them to stay in Britain (the rest had no opinion),” it noted. The majority of Britons in polls conducted over the years have supported the return of the sculptures.” it added.
Effusive praise for Mitsotakis’ ‘economic miracle’
The Sunday Times sang the praises of the PM’s record on the economy:
“Since taking office in 2019, Mitsotakis is credited with engineering an economic miracle in Greece. A decade ago it was one of the PIGS, a derogatory acronym for Portugal, Italy, Greece and Spain, whose economies were struggling badly. The EU’s overlords in the north subjected Greece to constant criticism as a financial basket case. Today, though, the boot is on the other foot. Mitsotakis has emerged as an idol of the European centre right after seeing off populists [an apparent reference to left-wing main opposition SYRIZA] and the pandemic and making Greece a magnet for foreign investment. Its growth rate — higher than 5 per cent this year — is the envy of former detractors, and proof that a PIG can fly. Tourism, a traditional mainstay, is booming with 2022 expected to be the best summer yet.»
PM on spying on PASOK leader: “I have not been able to get to the bottom of this’
In the interview, the PM also answered to the affair regarding the National Intelligence Service, which is under his direct jurisdiction, spying on Nikos Androulakis, the leader of centre-left PASOK-KINAL, the country’s third party, once considered the ideal coalition partner for ND after the next general elections, in which, as all polls indicate, it will be impossible for the ruling party to garner a parliamentary majority.
“In August the leader of PASOK, the socialist opposition party, accused the country’s secret services of tapping his telephone. He also denounced a failed attempt to infect his mobile with a spyware programme called Predator. A journalist said he, too, was spied on. Mitsotakis dismissed the head of intelligence and the government’s general secretary, a nephew who worked in his office. He claimed that he had not been notified of the wire-tapping, which was legally approved by a prosecutor, and added: ‘I have not been able to get to the bottom of this. The explanations were not sufficient and that’s why I had to fire two people,” the PM stated in the Sunday Times interview.
Mitsotakis suggested that the aim of whoever was responsible for the surveillance was to spoil the prospect of a New Democracy-PASOK coalition which, however, can still not be entirely precluded.
“If someone wanted to drive a wedge between me and Pasok, who are our likely coalition partners, they’ve certainly succeeded in doing that,” the PM said, clearly eschewing any government responsibility for the surveillance affair.
Mitsotakis slams Erdogan, Russia
Describing Greek-Turkish relations as being “at their lowest ebb in decades”, the Sunday Times quoted Mitsotakis’ sharp criticism of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s expansionist geopolitical agenda, which he described as a “grandiose Ottoman vision”.
“He wants to be a regional player and expects everybody to accept Turkey’s greatness, which is plainly not going to happen if this results in challenging Greek sovereignty,” the PM said.
‘Russia trying to undermine Greek democracy’
Mitsotakis also accused Russia of trying to undermine Greek democracy by channeling funds to a network of television stations and media that would support Moscow and main opposition SYRIZA.
“He also accused Russia, which shares the same Orthodox religion as Greece, of trying to undermine its democracy, citing a report by the US Department of Justice regarding the indictment of an oligarch alleged to have illegally funelled $10 million into the country in 2016 in violation of US sanctions,” the interview stated.
Mitsotakis has taken an extremely strong anti-Russian stance regarding the war in Ukraine. sending arms and regularly blasting Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The new US base in the port city of Alexandroupolis is also playing a key role in channeling arms to Ukraine.
The government sees a close parallel between the neo-imperial expansionism of Putin and Erdogan, noting that Ankara employed a similar rationale and tactic in its 1974 invasion and continuing occupation of 37 percent of the territory of the Republic of Cyprus, an EU member-state since 2004. Moreover, Erdogan and his ministers have repeatedly unleashed threats of war against Greece.
“The idea, said Mitsotakis, was [for Russia through the oligarch] to fund a TV network sympathetic to Moscow and the far-left SYRIZA party he defeated in 2019. The network’s “head of information” was Kostas Vaxevanis, a pro-SYRIZA journalist fiercely critical of Mitsotakis.
“He runs a newspaper that was set up with the single purpose of going after me and my wife,” he added.