Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, in a press conference at the Thessaloniki International Fair (TIF) on Sunday, said that the measures for the protection of public health will continue to apply and that we will continue to use masks for a long time.
On the vaccination strategy, he said that it is not the government's intention to extend the mandatory vaccination in other sectors. "At the moment it is not in my intentions, however I cannot rule it out," he said. Regarding the course of the economy, he said that he feels safe with the forecast for 5.9 percent growth in 2021. "This is the minimum level of growth that we can achieve in 2021," he underlined.
On the measures he announced on Saturday, he said that they comply with the government's overall strategy to create wealth and distribute it fairly.
"I presented a set of measures aiming at offering young people equal opportunities, better access to knowledge, extroversion and, above all, the opportunity to participate in the economic, social and political life of the country. The measures we have announced are targeted and we should communicate this message perhaps with meetings across the country in which we should also listen to young people," the prime minister stressed.
Asked about state support in the face of price increases and whether there is a broader plan if higher prices persist, the prime minister said that "we are facing a global phenomenon which is mostly imported and is a problem faced by all European countries."
"First, Greece had inflation at 1.9 percent compared to 3.0 percent in the eurozone in August. Apart from being a temporary phenomenon, we have significantly boosted disposable income. That was the reason for the reduction of taxes," he said.
"We have at our disposal tools such as the reduction of VAT in specific product categories, and we plan to activate them by June 2022. The second line of defence is market control to ensure the proper functioning of competition. There is the relevant legislation on profiteering," the prime minister said and added: "We are making a very important intervention regarding electricity tariff increases in order to minimize them. We monitor developments. We move before the problem affects the society. Measures will be announced on Monday including the increase of the heating allowance which will be much more targeted."
Asked about the polls and the decline in the government's popularity, the prime minister said he apologized for what had happened in the summer over the forest fires. "Although we tried hard and were more prepared than any other year, we did not manage to protect the natural environment to the extent we would like."
"If there is some form of discontent," he pointed out, "we must see it seriously, understand what we have done wrong, do our self-criticism and improve." "However," he added, "the government is ahead with a double-digit number of the main opposition in the two-year period that is a turning point ."
Regarding the policy towards Turkey, he said: "Our policy towards Turkey does not change. We seek good relations, based on international law and respect for our sovereign rights. Everyone knows that our right to self-defence is completely non-negotiable. I consider it positive that 2021 did not have the tension of 2020."
He added that "we can cooperate more on the refugee issue. Our recent discussion was focused on this issue. There is a basic agreement between Europe, Greece and Turkey."
Asked whether there is a scheduled meeting with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan in New York in the framework of the UN General Assembly, he said that there is not. "After all, our programs do not coincide," Mitsotakis said.
On scenarios about early elections, he replied: "I know that there will always be a discussion about early elections. But the government will complete its term."
Referring to the course of tourism this year, he replied: "We have won, we are winning the tourism bet. We had a plan. From the Digital Certificate to the clear communication and clear protocols. We opened tourism safely. I believe that we will surpass the goals we had set."
Asked whether the information that the discussion on the renewal of Greece's defence cooperation with the United States is taking place on a five-year and not annual basis is correct and how it is combined with the upgrade of defence cooperation with France, the prime minister said that the information is accurate.
"I am glad about this because it allows both sides better planning, a more important US presence in our country and a confirmation of the strategic cooperation between the two countries... Greece is emerging today in Washington as a very credible interlocutor in the eastern Mediterranean and this defence cooperation will be a confirmation."
However, he said that this cooperation does not close the door to other strategic agreements.
"We have a very good cooperation with France and all the discussion that takes place about the strategic autonomy of the European Union is a discussion in which Greece must play a leading role."
Asked by the Athens-Macedonian News Agency (ANA) on migration and whether he feels confident that we have secured European solidarity, Mitsotakis replied: First of all, the situation on the islands has nothing to do with the situation a year ago. It is much better.
There will be permanent first reception structures on the islands. In Samos the structure is about to be completed. This will allow us to close the structure in Vathi and launch the new safer one. We did the same in Mytilene while in Kos and Leros, the projects are progressing. We have also made significant progress in Chios. So in the five islands we will have permanent structures. Moreover, these five islands have lower VAT. Therefore, in case of a new wave, we have the infrastructure, the prime minister said estimating however that this will not happen.
As for the European solidarity, Mitsotakis acknowledged that it exists, but most of the work is done by Greece. It is done by the Coast Guard, the Greek Police, the armed forces and this will continue to be the case. The EU's solidarity is expressed with financial support. The greatest European solidarity we could have is the agreement on the new Migration and Asylum Pact, which will fairly distribute obligations and rights to all member states to deal with this complex problem.