German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis on Thursday discussed the prospects for investments in Greece and Europe’s migration problem in their first meeting since the latter was elected, reportedly seeing eye-to-eye on both issues.
During the closely watched meeting in Berlin, the two leaders agreed to devise a “green investment plan” for 2020-2030 and to hold a joint investment forum in the first quarter of next year.
Mitsotakis expressed to Merkel his government’s “sincere appetite for deep, structural changes” that would go beyond the austerity measures imposed on Greece by its foreign bailouts, and said he looked forward to a “paradigm shift” in bilateral relations.
Merkel, for her part, said that “much progress has been achieved” and pointed to an improved climate which, she said, would make it easier for Greece to honor its commitments. According to sources, Merkel congratulated Mitsotakis for the swiftness with which his government adopted tough changes in the first 50 days after his election.
Mitsotakis, who has emphasized the need for Greek “ownership” of reforms, told reporters that his government has “a major advantage.” “We don’t need to flip-flop,” he said, in a dig at his predecessor’s change in stance after clashing with Greece’s creditors. “It is very nice to tell everyone that you will enforce your program, the one for which citizens elected you.”
As for his pledge to lower Greece’s high primary budget surpluses, Mitsotakis said his government first wants to restore Greece’s credibility and then broach the issue with creditors. The targets for 2019 and 2020 agreed by the previous government would be honored, he said.
Mitsotakis stressed that he did not want discussions to focus purely on debt repayments and fiscal targets but also on “growth challenges.”
A key aim of the joint forum next year is to tap German interest in “green” projects such as renewable energy sources and environmentally friendly waste management. In her statements, Merkel referred to the changes that Greece needs to make to encourage investments, something that the government aims to tackle with its growth bill.
In comments to reporters, Mitsotakis said his government’s interest was not limited to investments from Germany or even Europe, noting that he is to attend a trade fair in Shanghai in November where Greece is an honored country.
On migration, Merkel noted that both sides backed the agreement between Turkey and the European Union and encouraged the new Greek government to enforce the deal.
As regards the Prespes Agreement – the name deal between the previous SYRIZA administration and what is now North Macedonia, Mitsotakis noted that it has “serious flaws,” which however can be remedied through the EU’s policy towards the Balkans.