At the international meetings, a Greek Prime Minister is expected to promote the issues of concern to the country, though not necessarily in the form of demands.
Kyriakos Mitsotakis did not follow this rule at his meetings in Paris, Berlin and The Hague. Under the motto “Greece is not a beggar country”, he went to three major capitals – the first two beyond doubt – in order to present his credentials as the new prime minister and reassure them that they would not have the problems they had with the previous ones.
Because, of course it was not only Alexis Tsipras who raised issues and was seeking political negotiation to overcome the stalemates with the Institutions. So did Antonis Samaras, with a prime example being his last visit to Berlin, where instead of a green light from Merkel he received a deep red, which led to his downfall. Kyriakos Mitsotakis in the area of budgetary obligations follows the opposite tactic. He restricts issues to the level of institutions. When asked about this in one of his visits, he replied: “we have seen how the negotiation of the previous ones have ended up”.
Mr Mitsotakis, however, avoids raising national issues. Not just the “Macedonian” issue, of which if he repeats the positions he adopted that made him prime minister, he will cancel any profile of a liberal reformer he is trying to craft. After all, his counterparts have not forgotten his position on the Prespa Agreement.
In his three visits, the prime minister did not refer to Turkey’s behavior in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Aegean, while referring to Turkey’s actions in Cyprus’ EEZ, he merely reiterated the European position formulated by Anastasiades and Tsipras at the previous EU Summits and at the Meetings of the countries of the European South.
Neither did Kyriakos Mitsotakis refer to the Cyprus issue. Of course, when he was in the opposition, he was referring to the Macedonian issue at every turn, and he was also blaming the Tsipras administration for Turkey’s behavior, claiming that “with its failures it allowed Ankara to play out its policy”.
The above show that, despite being the leader of the conservative faction, Kyriakos Mitsotakis is not only not a rightist or a nationalist – as SYRIZA naively blames him – but rather he is moving in the opposite direction. He treats external issues as an unpleasant obligation. Mr Mitsotakis has a neoliberal view, seeing foreign policy through the prism of the economy. He prefers economic diplomacy over classical foreign policy. He also made it clear in his statements with Mark Rutte in The Hague where he asked for the Dutch expertise in this area.
It would probably be a good strategy if Greece shared borders with Belgium and Switzerland. But it borders with Turkey and the Balkan countries, where history has shown that differences are not resolved through the development of economic relations.
National issues however also produce results, and in the domestic political arena they could come back and bite you in the ass.
In the Prespa Agreement, he is confronted by the “nationalist wing of his party” who expects him to stay on the hard line. The u-turn he made abroad is already causing discontent.
In Greek-Turkish issues the right wing is waiting for him. Despite the protection he enjoys by the friendly media status quo, it will at some point become apparent that the provocations of the Turks in the Aegean continue. And now the Cyprus issue is emerging, where a new round of negotiations under the Annan plan is always open.
An indication of Mr Mitsotakis’ attitude is that the Maximos Mansion did not even announce the telephone contact with Nicos Anastasiades and their meeting next week. In these issues he will not be helped by economic diplomacy; he will be faced with the expectations he cultivated when he was thoughtlessly outbidding to garner the votes of the “patriots”./ibna