In a speech at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington during an official visit to the US, New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis referred to a "new generation of oligarchs," saying that he deemed it is his duty to ensure that Greece "does not become a failing state when it comes to its institutions."
Asked about PAOK president and businesman Ivan Savvidis and the purported influence of Russia on Greece, Mitsotakis said his interviewer should direct his question to Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras who "was and is to a certain extent in bed with him," referring to a "cozy arrangement" between the two men. Tsipras wrote off some fines that Savvidis' cigarette company had accummulated, and in exchange Savvidis expressed interest in buying media outlets that clearly support the government, Mitsotakis said.
"We have been talking for a long time about a new generation of oligarchs who are very close to the government and who are actually worse than the old oligarchs," he added. He accused the government of providing support to new oligarchs "with clearly shady business dealings" and over its "interventions in justice" and "attempt to control the media landscape."
The next election in Greece is not just going to be about the economy but also about democracy, he said. Tsipras's legacy will be a "fourth program," he said, noting that his administration has already committed to additional austerity measures beyond the country's scheduled exit from its third bailout this August.
Asked about Turkey and the recent arrest of two Greek soldiers who crossed the border, Mitsotakis also expressed concern about an "increased level of agression in the Aegean" over the past month and called on Ankara to respect international law.
"We are destined by geography to live together and we should do so peacefully," he said, adding that this is a "mutually beneficial strategy" for the two countries and underlining the importance to "deescalate the tension in the Aegean to avoid any sort of accident that could easily spiral out of control."
He called on Ankara to release the two Greek soldiers as quickly as possible. "This is a minor incident. It should not be turned into a major diplomatic episode," he said but criticized the leftist-led government for underestimating "the importance of the incident" and "talking with two voices," referring to the different approaches being followed by Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and Defense Minister Panos Kammenos. "The country needs to present a unified front," he said.
As for Turkey's aggressive response to drilling off the coast of Cyprus by international companies including America's Exxon, Mitsotakis described it as "unacceptable."
He described Greece as a reliable ally in an unpredictable region.
On the "Macedonia" name talks between Athens and Skopje, Mitsotakis was reserved in his optimism for a solution. "We've always been talking about a package solution," saying that such a solution must include changes to FYROM's constitution and address issues of irredentism and identity. "There's nothing to be shared regarding the cultural heritage of Alexander the Great," he said, responding to calls by officials in Skopje for a debate on the issue. "Alexander the Great was Greek, there is no doubt about that. We are not going to enter a discussion or negotiation about this. This is a core part of our national identity. There's no compromise on this issue."
In his first visit to Washington as leader of the main opposition, Mitsotakis held talks at the White House on Tuesday with Fiona Hill, Special Assistant to US President Donald Trump and senior director for European and Russian Affairs on the National Security Council. The discussion focused chiefly on regional geopolitical issues and the Greek economy.