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Mitsotakis: Russia’s invasion was ‘abrupt awakening’ for EU defense

Mitsotakis: Russia’s invasion was ‘abrupt awakening’ for EU defense

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was “an abrupt awakening” for the European Union and its defence plans.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has been “very successful in strengthening the Alliance and awakening the European Union out of its geopolitical funk,” he told CNBC on Friday, during talks between EU leaders over Ukraine in France. “In that sense, he has certainly succeeded in uniting us and making us aware that defence and security are paramount obligations towards our citizens.”

Mitsotakis said Greece has been a firm supporter of increasing the EU’s strategic autonomy.

“We had been talking about the need for strategic autonomy for quite some time. We’ve been investing in our defence capabilities, we signed a bilateral agreement with France that includes a mutual assistance clause. So we’ve been big proponents for the EU being able to independently defend itself,” he said.

He explained that this is an investment “that is complementary to NATO,” as certain EU member-states that are not members of the Alliance.

“So we need to send a clear signal that we are willing to defend our continent irrespective of our relationship with NATO and that is why the reference in the conclusions to article 42, par. 7 of the Treaty in my mind is so important. And of course as we are going to spend more on defense, we also need to get to an understanding [on] how we treat these defence expenditures in terms of our overall deficit calculations,” he added.

Greece, for example, is a country that “would significantly exceed” the 2% threshold that has been set by NATO as a minimum defence expenditures. “So if we’re want to spend more on European defence we need to a) make sure that this is actually done in a proper way and b) make sure that it does not impose unnecessary burden on our fiscal position,” he said.