The head of the Financial Times in the US estimates that the Mitsotakis administration marked the return of Greece to the normality of the Eurozone and Europe in general
Greece's return to the normality of the eurozone and Europe in general, the Mitsotakis administration marked, estimates the head of the Financial Times in the USA, Peter Spiegel, in an interview with the Athens-Macedonian Agency, in view of his participation in this year's Delphi Economic Forum.
“It is night and day” from an economic point of view, the difference between the country from the start of the Mitsotakis administration until today, as the confidence of the markets towards it has been restored and any problems are dealt with in the context of the normality faced by all the countries of the eurozone and wider Europe. As he notes: “after the particularly intense period under SYRIZA, where we went from crisis to crisis, economically, the markets did not know whether they could trust Greece or not, it is admirable what the New Democracy government has achieved. To restore confidence in the markets and in financial matters”. According to him, “…from an international perspective – and this comes from the bond market – (Greece) is a normal eurozone country and I think that was also the goal”.
Asked about the existence of concerns regarding the political stability of the country after the elections, Mr. Spiegel notes that “… there are concerns as to whether – not only SYRIZA but also some of the smaller parties that increase their popularity before the elections – will succeed to put the ND out of government, but I don't think it is outside the measure of the normality of modern political dialogue in most Western economies”.
Finally, referring to the dependence that the EU has developed on the USA for its defense security and on Russia for meeting its energy needs, he notes that although President Em. Macron was right about these remarks that angered Washington because of the place and time they were made, linking them to Macron's visit to China. According to his estimates, this is due to the magnitude of the threat that the US attributes to China.
The following is the full text of the interview that Peter Spiegel gave to APE-MPE and Nikos Drosos, ahead of the Delphi Economic Forum.
Q. At this year's Delphi Forum, you are scheduled to have a discussion with the Greek Prime Minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis. What are you going to ask him? What do they want to know about Greece abroad?
A.Look. I don't want to divulge the set of questions I'll be asking “on stage”, but obviously with the election coming up, these will be uppermost in my mind. In a sense it is unfair, politically, that he is heading for elections at a time when, internationally, he is considered to be in a lot of controversy. Obviously the train accident drew attention to issues of state management, there was the scandal involving allegations of surveillance on opposition figures and journalists, which received wide publicity abroad and all of this colored what we know, finally, about Greece in the international press, in international arena and all these could dominate the agenda.
At the same time, as you know I have been covering Greek issues since the time of the crisis in 2010, and if we look at the beginning of the Mitsotakis administration and where he is now, from a purely economic point of view – obviously the Delphi Economic Forum is about the economy and we at the Financial Times are particularly interested in financial matters – it's almost night and day.
After the particularly intense period under SYRIZA, where we went from crisis to crisis economically, the markets did not know if they could trust Greece or not, it is admirable what the New Democracy government has achieved. To restore confidence in markets and financial matters. These are the things I will focus on. That is, if he can convince voters whether economic governance is more important than recent crises.
Q. You just got to my next question. You have obviously been following Greece for a long time, since the time of the crisis and the memoranda, and I would like to ask you directly about your assessment of Greece today. Where are we fiscally, in terms of economic policy… Are we regressing or not?
A. I think, from an international perspective – and that comes from from the bond market – (Greece) is a normal eurozone country and I think that was also the goal.
Are there issues, if we look at the budget, that show evidence of regression, that are problematic for the IMF and others? Obviously there are. But, I think, it is no different than in Italy, Spain, or other larger economies of the Eurozone, or even the US. I think it's the normal issues that affect every government, heading into a, (s.s. referring to Europe) probably a recession year, in 2023, with rising interest rates at the ECB, etc. So I think we're talking about normal economic issues, now, and I think again – not to give credit to the Mitsotakis government – but the fact that there are questions about the Greek budget, without (being accompanied by) a new crisis, is due to the confidence that the markets have in his government.< /em>
And I think if we look at the level of the debt, the deficit, there are some questions but again no different than in other eurozone economies. and the difference lies in the parameter of trust. The confidence that comes with having a strong hand at the helm, who manages the economy in a way that will not be (corresponding to) the one that Varoufakis and Tsipras followed, which was, let's go all the way to make a deal, when everyone's nerves will have collapsed. So I think, yes, there are questions about the budget but I would categorize them together with the normal eurozone issues, which would not upset international markets.
Q. It's interesting that you say that. Is there any kind of concern about stability in Greece after the elections?
A. I think there always is. And I would say that one of the achievements of Greece in the last 3-4 years is that it is in the same category as many other countries in this respect. We've seen the rise of both right-wing and left-wing populist currents in various countries in the eurozone and the wider EU, and frankly I think we can put Britain there too, with Brexit.
So I think there is a general concern about having political stability but again not very different from what was discussed when Meloni became prime minister in Italy, with whether they would support the allies on the Ukraine issue. Same thing with Sweden, which had a nationalist party supporting the government. So I think there are concerns as to whether – not only SYRIZA but also some of the smaller parties that are increasing their popularity in the run-up to the election – they will manage to put the ND out of government, but I don't think it's out of the ordinary of the modern of political dialogue in most Western economies.
Q. Let's stay in Europe. Recently French President Macron raised a dilemma between vassals and allies regarding the relationship between the EU and the US. Where exactly do we stand on this issue? Delegating issues of security to the US and energy sufficiency to Russia has made Europe somewhat powerless these days. Is this true?
A. Macron has identified a problem and he is not wrong about it. I think what was problematic about his comments was where and when he said them. He had moved to Beijing and tried to position France and Europe more broadly as a kind of counterweight between China and the US. But he's right. He is right.
Look what happened in Ukraine. NATO allies supported Ukraine but the vast majority, over 85%-90% of the aid came from the US. And this emphasized that for matters of national security European countries are left to the US, regardless of whether France has its own nuclear weapons or strong defense forces. Almost all of Europe relies heavily on the US for its security. Which means that if they wish to act as independent entities, possibly negotiating peace with Russia, over oil supply issues – not that this would happen but if it did happen – they would “stick” to American pressure. They could not do it, because of American pressure to avoid it.
What is admirable, however, to me, is the unity within the alliance in the—for lack of a better term—American view of the (Ukraine) war. What remains almost in unanimity, despite the differences from time to time, especially from Hungary, but in alliance with the US on the issue of Ukraine and especially willing to find alternative sources of energy vis-a-vis Russia. We've seen nuclear through Nordex recently, we've seen attempts to increase LNG imports, move away from Russian supplies, and most supplies today, thanks to the warm winter, suggest that Europe will be able to survive another winter without resorting to Russian supplies. .
So I think you are correct in your analysis. Europe, because it has not worked hard enough on its energy independence, – let's be honest, led by Germany which for decades was dependent on Russia for its energy needs – and because it has not worked on its energy independence or in defending its security by building up its military forces, it is dependent on third parties in both of these matters. Safety and energy efficiency. This is the issue that Macron seeks to solve, in terms of rhetoric and diplomacy, but in the meantime the whole issue is about money and resources. And the money and resources are with those who are energy and military independent and currently Europe is neither.
Q. Right, and I wonder if there is the will for progress to be made on them, but this is more of a rhetorical question. One that is not, however, concerns whether European foreign policy towards China is on the right track? Is it wise to differentiate ourselves so sharply from our strongest ally, the US? At least Ursula von der Leyen thinks so.
Ans.This I think is much more problematic because China represents a longer-term and long-term threat to Western democracies than Russia does. I know it's not polite to say this now that there are casualties on the battlefield (in Ukraine) but I think that if you go to the Pentagon, in Washington, D.C. – which I have recently done – and talk about the existential dangers that the USA, they are much more concerned about China than Russia. And on this point, Europe and the US are divided. And as you said von der Leyen… but it was always a matter of German policy, which promoted the inclusion of China in the family of states, through trade, through the economy.
Germany is a big export economy, VW is a big car manufacturer in China, so their export engine is geared towards China, so I find that we are seeing cracks in the alliance there, and I think Macron's comments are the only visible element of that event. Which really pissed off the US, where while few things are elements of cross-party consensus, this is one that finds Democrats and Republicans in agreement. The threat posed by China. It is not just about technology, computers, artificial intelligence, but much more. For some it is about a new cold war, where an authoritarian leader tries to impose his will on the world and the family of democracies must stay united – today they are not – and stand up to China.< /p>
I know we've forgotten this over the last two years because of the crises in Afghanistan and the war in Ukraine, but when Biden ran for president one of his foreign policy principles was to put democracy and human rights back at the heart of American foreign policy. And he still sees China in this light. He sees China as a threat, the rise of authoritarianism – and in your region of course Erdogan is part of that family and to some extent Orban – Dealing with the rise of authoritarian leaders around the world is something he has put at the top of the agenda . He has been preoccupied with other things, but this remains especially important to him and to the Republican Congress. This is why Macron's comments have sparked outrage. Not that he was wrong, that Europe should find its own way, but that he did it while visiting Xi, or after he visited Xi. The time and place angered Washington.