As European Union leaders converge in Brussels on Friday for the first physical meeting in the era of the coronavirus to discuss a recovery fund to tackle the fallout of the pandemic, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis is aiming to ensure that some 32 billion euros in grants and loans earmarked for Greece is not reduced and that no conditions are attached to that aid.
Mitsotakis, who arrived in the Belgian capital on Thursday, has already described the original proposal by the European Commission, which foresees 22.6 billion euros in grants and 9.4 billion in loans for Greece, as “very positive.” With grants forming the bulk of the sum proposed for Greece, Mitsotakis is keen to ensure that the ratio of grants to loans does not change.
There are some concerns about a proposal by European Council President Charles Michel, which foresees linking some of the funding to the growth rate of the economy. As the forecast for Greece this year and next is for a steep recession, such a move would result in losses.
Since Friday’s talks will focus more broadly on budgetary issues, funding for other areas is also expected to be discussed. In comments to reporters in Athens on Thursday, government spokesman Stelios Petsas remarked that refugee and migration flows remain one of the bloc’s biggest challenges and should be addressed with adequate funding. Michel’s proposal foresees the reduction of the EU’s external borders fund to 5.5 billion euros from 11 billion euros.
Although Turkey’s transgressions in the Eastern Mediterranean and its provocative decision to reconvert Hagia Sophia into a mosque are not on the official agenda of talks, Mitsotakis is expected to broach the issues, taking advantage of a widespread condemnation of Ankara’s recent moves.
During a meeting of the European People’s Party (EPP) held via video conference on Thursday, Mitsotakis once again criticized Turkey over Hagia Sophia and called for European sanctions over Ankara’s policies in the Eastern Mediterranean region. Mitsotakis said the decision to alter the status of Hagia Sophia – first constructed as a cathedral in the Christian Byzantine Empire – was indicative of Turkey’s lack of understanding of international agreements, mutual respect and interfaith dialog.
He also expressed his deep concern over Turkish actions that fuel tension in the broader region, adding that the EU’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, should make a list of possible sanctions against Ankara.