What should Greece expect from Liz Truss?

What should Greece expect from Liz Truss?

The United Kingdom has a new prime minister, and her name is Liz Truss. As the members of the Conservative Party have elected Truss as their new leader, she takes on the lead of government from Boris Johnson. Who is the new British prime minister and what is to be expected of her? Truss, 41, first elected as an MP in 2010, is one of the most experienced members of the British government, having served as foreign secretary since 2021. Before that she was agriculture secretary under David Cameron and justice secretary, chief secretary to the Treasury, and trade secretary under Theresa May and Johnson. The new prime minister is a staunch Thatcherite who advocates fiscal loosening in order to improve the country’s low productivity; her overriding priorities include a combination of tax cuts and regulatory reform. She is also an advocate of cultural conservatism, supporting free speech and rejecting overbearing political correctness and historical revisionism.

Truss appears to possess the zeal of the convert: Having supported Remain in the 2016 referendum campaign, she now states that “she was wrong,” adding that “some of the portents of doom didn’t happen and instead we have actually unleashed new opportunities after Brexit.” The optimism of the new prime minister is one of the main reasons for her appeal to Tory membership and her driving force forward.

So, what can Greece expect of the new British prime minister? With Truss as prime minister there is, undoubtedly, renewed momentum for Greek-British relations. During Johnson’s time in office the Greek prime minister traveled to London just once and that meeting was dominated by talks about the Parthenon Marbles.

What remains overlooked by most commentators is that in her capacity as foreign secretary, Truss met with her counterpart Nikos Dendias several times. The fruits of this cooperation were reaped with the signing of the Strategic Bilateral Framework between Greece and the United Kingdom. The framework sets out shared ambitions across 12 areas covering the breadth of the relationship between the two countries. The areas of cooperation include, but are not limited to, foreign policy, defense, trade, investment, education and tourism. In addition, this policy brief can be read as a roadmap of future cooperation under Truss’ premiership.

Her record as foreign secretary may also serve as an indication of how she understands Britain’s position on the world stage. Subjects that will dominate the agenda of talks with the European Union will likely relate to the Northern Ireland Protocol, the Rwanda scheme, and the immigration situation in the Channel.

The election of Truss poses an opportunity for Greek foreign policy

Regarding Cyprus, Truss revealed her intentions last August in a letter sent to the UK-based Conservative Friends of Cyprus organization. In it she wrote about the “need to avoid actions that infringe international law and UN Security Council resolutions either in Cyprus or in the wider Eastern Mediterranean.” She also pledged that as prime minister she would continue to support Cyprus in its efforts for reunification under a peaceful and lasting solution. This, of course, goes hand in hand with the official position of the United Kingdom on the Cyprus question.

Overall, the election of Truss poses an opportunity for Greek foreign policy. Dendias, for instance, has cooperated with the new British prime minister and can prepare the ground for a potential future meeting between Mitsotakis and Truss. Truss greatly supported bilateral trade and other agreements as foreign secretary and this should be something Greece could build upon in cooperation with the UK.

Furthermore, it is time for positive and productive themes to be brought to the fore and be added to the bilateral agenda, especially respecting defense and security cooperation, as well as education and tourism.

It is historically proven that when a former foreign secretary becomes prime minister it is always important to cultivate renewed cooperation, as they have a better understanding of international affairs and usually place a sharper emphasis on this policy field. All in all, it will be very interesting to see how both sides will act and what the future holds for Greek-British cooperation.

Ioannes P. Chountis is political affairs adviser at the Hellenic Parliament and a PhD candidate at the University of Aberdeen.

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