Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis’ first visit to a European capital resulted to the expected communicative effect: Reception of Kyriakos Mitsotakis and his wife Mareva Grabowski – Mitsotakis at Champs Elysées by the Macrons, photos taken with the presidential guard in the background, and compliments regarding the traditional Greek-French relations. But that was all.
From the Greek side it is clear that Kyriakos Mitsotakis sought the political support of Emmanuel Macron regarding changes in the economic policy mix. Mr. Mitsotakis refrained from speaking publicly about the goal of revising the primary surplus. Later on, and provided that he will have implemented the SYRIZA budget for 2019 while covering the 2020 surplus obligation, he will then set the target of revising the surplus for 2021 – the goal is to drop to 3% from 3.5% and to 2.5% next year. Until then, the political support Mr. Mitsotakis seeks is costless for President Macron, and the French diplomacy has a long history of many centuries to not offer it in fine words. Mr. Macron, as he publicly stated, benefited from the fact that Mr. Mitsotakis’ first visit to a foreign capital (with the exception of Cyprus) took place in Paris.
The question is what the Greek Prime Minister has to offer even just for the political support he seeks, as well as for the investments he wishes to attract; privatization comes first. If the Figaro report – which included the prime minister’s interview in the newspaper – is well founded, the “water and electricity companies”, which constitute areas of French interest, will also be included. The call for foreign investors, French investors in this case, comes with a reduction in business taxation to 24% for 2019 earnings and to 20% for 2020. The prime minister’s offer to Macron includes arm programs. During the meeting, the defense relations between Greece and France were also discussed, since the interest Paris has shown in modernizing the Mirages as well as in the frigate agreement is well known. People around the prime minister have said that in the near future the outcome of the defense alliance will be apparent.
Interestingly, however, no mention was made of Kyriakos Mitsotakis on Turkey’s provocations within the Cypriot EEZ and in the Eastern Mediterranean. This occurred even though the subject was raised by Mr. Macron, who said that neither the EU nor France would leave Cyprus alone, and that they would show no weakness. The Maximos Mansion proceeded to no more than just expressing its satisfaction for Macron’s statement, which he had previously made for the first time at a meeting of southern countries in Malta. From the Greek side no mention was made of the agreement with North Macedonia, although the latest news in the Balkans were brought up during the discussions.
Naturally, it is not of no importance the fact that the Greek Prime Minister, from the court of Champs Elysees, sent the message that “he wants to change the narrative for Greece”. The impact of the political support will be evident when specific demands for changes in the fiscal policy mix and a reduction in surpluses will be put forward. Until then, he will have to go through Merkel and Saltz, whom he will meet in Berlin next week. The diplomatic whims of the French are nice, but it is the Germans who hold the keys to the economy; and that is one more reason, him not wanting to upset Berlin, why he did not mention the surpluses, but he merely stated in his discussion with reporters that “when we find ourselves in a growth trap (meaning a recession in the EU) then all tools must be used for development, more than ever now that Greece can turn out to be a pleasant development surprise.
The Parthenon’s Metope from Louvre to Athens
The Greek side considers the fact that the French president accepted the proposal of the Greek Prime Minister to come from Louvre and expose Metope from the south side of the Parthenon to be a unique contribution to the 200th anniversary of the Greek Revolution. One of the metopes is located in Athens, one is on display in the Louvre and fifteen others in the British Museum, after the sculpture was looted by Lord Elgin. In this context, Kyriakos Mitsotakis and Emmanuel Macron agreed to have an exhibition in 2021 with unique exhibits from Louvre and other institutions at the Acropolis Museum as well as in the Athens Byzantine and Christian Museum, whilst the first Greek bronze exhibition will be held in Louvre.
Request for a photo opportunity with Trump
Maximos Mansion declares that it will change the narrative about Greece not only in the European capitals, but also across the Atlantic. Therefore, after Berlin, Kyriakos Mitsotakis’ next stop will be Amsterdam and after that New York. Greek diplomacy has tried its best to get a handshake and a brief meeting of Mr. Mitsotakis with President Trump as part of the UN Summit. The request has been made through diplomatic channels, but has not yet been confirmed, since there is a big number of similar requests of leaders wanting to meet with Trump during the annual UN gathering.
Interestingly, the request is submitted at a time when the renewal of the Suda-based agreement is under discussion. Diplomatic sources leaked that the agreement would become annual again. Yet that causes problems in the relations with the American ambassador, who has prepared a three-year agreement. If it finally becomes annual annual, it will affect Mr. Pyatt’s position in our country, since his term of office has expired. According to certain projections, the agreement on the bases and the reflection on Mr. Pyatt might affect Mike Pompeo’s planned trip to Greece in October. If Mr. Mitsotakis complies to the request for a three-year term, let alone a five-year renewal, he should pass it through the House, taking all the criticism he will gather for the lack of exchanges./ibna