NEWS

PM faces battle on two fronts at EU summit

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Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis faced a battle on two fronts at Friday's European Union leaders’ summit in Brussels, the first physical meeting in the era of the coronavirus, determined to secure Greece’s share of a European recovery fund for the fallout of the pandemic, while also pushing his peers for a stern response to growing Turkish aggression. 

According to a Greek government source, Mitsotakis called on EU leaders to take a clear position and institute “tough sanctions” against Turkey in response to its continuing provocations against Greece and Cyprus.

Referring to Turkish transgressions in the Eastern Mediterranean, the Greek premier reportedly stressed that Turkey should not be permitted to violate the sovereign rights of two member-states without meeting with a strong reaction. Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades struck a similar note. 

Mitsotakis also referred to the Turkish government’s provocative decision to convert the UNESCO World Heritage site of Hagia Sophia into a mosque, saying that it demonstrates Ankara’s regard for international agreements, the notion of mutual respect and interfaith dialogue.

He also called for EU-Turkey relations to be discussed at greater length. It later emerged that EU leaders had accepted a proposal by European Council President Charles Michel for a special session on the EU’s strategic relationship with Turkey in September. 

Earlier in the day, Mitsotakis referred to the recovery fund, stressing the need for a deal to be reached without delay. Over the past three months, EU leaders made strides in coming up with an “ambitious response” to the Covid-19 crisis, he said, adding that “there is absolutely no reason why we can’t get a deal done at this summit.” “What is at stake are the principles of European unity and European solidarity,” he said. 

The outcome of the summit, which is to continue on Saturday and possibly also on Sunday, was unclear. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, whose country holds the EU’s rotating presidency, admitted on Friday that “very large differences” remain and that the negotiations would be “difficult.” 

French President Emmanuel Macron said EU leaders were obliged to strive for a compromise that supports those harder hit by the financial fallout of the pandemic, while Michel said a deal would require “political courage.”