Contacts and substance in the Prime Minister’s trip to the US

Contacts and substance in the Prime Minister’s trip to the US

By Pavlos Levaditis

The Prime Minister’s trip to the United States lasted five days and was rich in meetings, contacts and statements on the Prime Minister’s part; yet the briefing was once again limited and the questions left unanswered were more than the actual answers given by the Government spokesman and the Prime Minister himself who… did the Greek journalists the honor of speaking to them for about 20 minutes.

Although the trip was focused on meeting businessmen in order to attract investments, the Prime Minister’s associates refrained from specifying who the meetings actually involved, a tactic followed by Antonis Samaras as well back in 2013 – unless they’re holding back for a selective and exclusive announcement to media favorable towards them. The problem is the Prime Minister’s meetings are not private dates – unless they did not want for international investors to be exposed, which is certainly not the case. Although the economic climate has changed as a result of the country’s general improvement under the Tsipras government, the Prime Minister’s appointments will end up the way all previous Prime Ministers’ contacts did, unless neoliberal Kyriakos Mitsotakis literally offers them land and water.

Yet the Prime Minister’s other open case, that of promoting foreign policy, generates more questions. In a meeting with Erdogan, which was the most important one following the cancellation of the 15-minute contact with Donald Trump, the Prime Minister, as the government spokesman admitted, did not raise the issue of the Greek-Turkish differences or the provocations in the Aegean, just so he does not upset Erdogan. In fact, both before and after the meeting, Kyriakos Mitsotakis did not even mention the matter of sanctions against Turkey as a result of its offensive conduct, in contrast to his predecessor. If anything came out of that meeting, that was for Kyriakos Mitsotakis to simply acknowledge the effect Tayyip Erdogan would like to have on the Muslim traits of Greece with the two mosques in Athens and Thessaloniki.

All this happned while the Greek Prime Minister appeared even more toned-down compared to Alexis Tsipras, just to preserve a solid climate. Kyriakos Mitsotakis was happy simply by hearing Tayyip Erdogan not referring to the Muslim minority of Western Thrace as “Turkish”. He will certainly do so, though, the first time he makes statements on the subject.

When it came to issues regarding the Balkans, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, while promising Vucic that he would not recognize Kosovo’s independence, is nonetheless the first Greek Prime Minister to officially meet with Hashim Thaci. One wonders whether that constitutes a change in foreign policy in the Balkans or simply whether the new government, being inexperienced, did not think it through, thus disrupting the country’s traditionally good relations with Serbia. At a foreign minister level as well, though, he also called for a four-part meeting with the participation of his Croatian counterpart, but not with the one from Serbia.

Yet, while maintaining a mild attitude towards Turkey, when it came to Zoran Zaev he appeared arrogant, an choice that consists of rather contradictory elements: while declaring that he recognizes the Prespa Agreement, he refrains from referring to the country by its new constitutional name, that is North Macedonia (Kyriakos Mitsotakis did use the name at his off the record briefing with the reporters, though it is unclear whether it was intentional or not).

In the end, the biggest news of his trip came not from the ten meetings he held, but rather from the one he did not have with Donald Trump, which he promoted while still being in Athens. The communications staff was counting on this meeting, mainly because Mareva Grabowski Mitsotakis would be there at the beginning and pictures of her could be taken, as was the case with the Emmanuel Macron meeting. The staff considers Mrs. Grabowski Mitsotakis to be an ace in the hole for the Prime Minister. Besides Mrs. Grabowski made her presence felt both in the Astoria meeting and in the next day’s Diaspora lunch, with the Archbishop’s visit.

However, all previous Prime Ministers had sought and achieved a normal visit to the White House, rather than a 10-minute small talk. The Minister of Defense nonetheless confirmed that during the canceled meeting the renewal of the defense agreement would be discussed. Kyriakos Mitsotakis left the matter regarding its extension open for discussion while speaking to the reporters./ibna