NEWS

PM battling for 32 bln in EU recovery funds, EEZ and tourism

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With the shelving of plans for an imminent reshuffle, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis is focusing his attention on three major fronts; namely the dangerous escalation with Turkey, securing 32 billion euros from the European Union Recovery Fund to tackle the fallout of the coronavirus pandemic and ensuring the tourist season proceeds safely.

On the front of Greek-Turkish relations, the period up to and including the beginning of September is considered crucial, as Ankara may, theoretically, start exploratory activities in areas of the Greek continental shelf included in the maritime border agreement signed between Ankara and Tripoli.

Alongside Defense Ministry plans, the government is also stepping up its efforts in international diplomacy with the first step taken by Mitsotakis at the EU summit last Friday. 

Meanwhile, Kathimerini understands that all aspects of any agreement on the partial delimitation of an exclusive economic zone (EEZ) with Egypt are being considered following last week’s visit to Cairo by Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias. An agreement is thought to be possible, though the pros of a compromise are still being weighed. 

The second big issue for the government is the EU negotiations on the recovery fund. The government expects discussions to be concluded at a new summit in July during the German presidency. 

Mitsotakis’ main objectives include ensuring there is no change to the amounts that the Commission proposed for each country and that the fund should operate until 2024 and not until 2022 as requested by some member-states. He told his EU peers that the Commission’s proposal “should not be changed, otherwise, we will be opening Pandora’s box,” adding that “by deciding to complete the program too quickly, we are clearly risking undermining its prospects for success.” 

The third big bet for the government is to ensure that the process to completely open up tourism on July 1 is done safely. Greece’s handling of the pandemic has boosted its image internationally and these gains could be lost if the tourist season is accompanied by a large wave of coronavirus cases.

As a result, an effort is under way to ensure the greatest possible adequacy in terms of doctors, nurses and infrastructure at tourist destinations. However, government officials acknowledge that tourism will hardly exceed 25% of last summer’s traffic.