tv Greek Prime Minister at Atlantic Council CSPAN January 8, 2020 12:22pm-1:32pm EST
i think that have actually led to the rise of new media. on sunday, 9:00 p.m. eastern, peggy orenstein discusses her book of "boys and sex." >> we don't talk about it. we don't talk to them in school. for that matter, masturbation is natural and important. what's different for this generation is that with the rise of internet and smartphones and dropping of pay walls on porn sites, they can get anything they want and a whole a lot of things that nobody wants at their finger tips on their phone. >> watch it this weekend or every weekend on c-span 2.
[ applause [ applause ] mr. prime minister, we have a stand alone crowd. they're also out in the lobby, we got live streams in the lobby. i think there is a lot of interests in hearing what you have to say. good morning everyone, happy new year, i am frederick kempe, i am delighted that you can join us this year. i am honored to welcome our mr.
prime minister a warm welcome, thank you to coming to atlantic council. we are delighted you start with our meeting here before you meet president trump at the white house. after you met with our international advisory board in september on the sideline of the u.n. general assembly. the prime minister joins us this morning as part of the future initiatives. in the series, we welcome head of state and ministers to discuss challenges facing the trans atlantic community and opportunities for deep enga engageme engagement. promoting leadership and strategy with shape and secure a strong atlantic alliance. it is sometimes considered an american organization, it is really a transit atlantic, a
global organization that brings together friends and allies to shape the global future. mr. prime minister, your first six months in office and what a six month it had been. investors are taking note and i am hoping more and more u.s. investors will take notes. cuts on property taxes and corporate taxes are on the horizon and unemployment has fallen 18% with the influx of capitol. this is an incredible turn around when unemployment was hovering around 25% and the gdp deficit was 5%. greece is a country that spends 2% of its gdp defense. it is a key strategic ally of the united states and you have been a strong voice mr. prime minister for nato and european
defense, leading the rest of the united states by examples. your commitment is vital. in december just before the nato leaders meeting in london, you rightly said and i love quotes, let's capture a moment. quote, "we should not forget about euro zone because we are not facing a crisis, you build a roof when it is not raining." this is the attitude that we should carry with us when we start the new year. we face many challenges ahead, escalating conflicts and tensions in the middle east returning to great power competition with china and russia and the immediate and global threat of climate change. of course, the spread of in
information and rising authoritarian targets of the way of life that we watched so har. some of the problems in our path are crisis, some of them have not yet spilled over. we have the opportunity to build the roof before the storm to borrow your metaphor and we know greece will be key in this endeavor. the atlantic council has invested on greece or in greece when others were looking and abo observing the crisis. greece is establishing itself as a pillar stability in south eastern europe. a dedicated eu member state and is steam nato member of a key ally of the u.s. washington and athens sherianare share androgen share and
share an agenda. much of that work has been under taken by close friends of the atlantic council ambassador jeff piat, who are both here this morning and it is wonderful to have you with us. thank you the ambassador for the dedication. it is extremely encouraging to see that hard work paying off as it is. to our colleagues at state, the united states is by your side. president trump last month signed the act, energy cooperation among the u.s., israel and secretary state pompeo traveled to athens to update our mutual agreement. our future europe initiative which organized this event leads
the charge by building a relationship with your government and business leaders to encourage social growth and security. in 2019, we sent a high level delegation to the economic forum in february, stopping in athens for higher meetings with local leaders. wilson, the executive president for program and strategy spoken at the event about greece's final strategic role and the broader trans atlantic relationship. we hosted three of your ministers in november for conversation on the future greek economic envestmeinvestment inc the minister yoyadis, who is joining us this morning, mr. minister, welcome back. we have members from our board of director from greece and
international advisory report where they provide valuable thoughts leadership and our work in greece. i want to salute our board members. we also have a stand up senior fellow with the -- we got a small village of our own people working on this relationship. we are thrilled to announce today and beyond that that through our future, your global energy sector led the ambassador richard morningside, the rockefeller foundation signed a letter of intent with the city of athens. the initiative working towards one billion people. we are working with greece on
this issue. mr. prime minister, you established your strength of conviction, we are honored you are here today to share your perspective on the role of europe and the trans atlantic partnership. with that, i will turn this over tod to damon wilson and our prime minister discussing on the future of our u.s./greek relationship. please join us and give us a warm welcome to the prime minister of dpregreece. [ applause ] >> i want to welcome you here and your foundation and ministers who have joined you, we'll discuss in a few minutes and of course the ambassador who has been a great partner of ours here in washington and our
newest partner in greece. all of our guests here and all of those watching live, i want to encourage you joining this conversation on u.s. greece, a vision for a new decade using the #strongerwithallies. you are here exactly six months to the date in your new term. >> exactly. >> tell us what you hope to achieve with this visit to washington? what's your objectives here? >> thank you very much for that introduction and thank you to the council. for commitment to the relationship and the work that you have done in dprees, i gree. i am happy that you broaden the agenda by looking at issues that are at the center of your priorities which is climate change in select cities are very much related to the new agenda that we want to pursue as a
country. i am here literally six months to the day when we received the mandate by the good people to change the country and leave the crisis behind and drive a path towards sustainable and inclusive growth. i think we are coming to washington with a broad education at a time when there are some clear results in terms of us being able to implement our strategy. we are also coming at a time of great geopolitical turbulence but the greece and america's relationship is the best it could ever be. also, to say a new war, ambitious target. i am sure we'll discuss this issue and strategic or defense priorities. the breath of our economic operation where i can do much
more, cooperation on energy, cooperation of education and climate change and this is a very, very relationship to greece. it is also important relationship to the u.s. and i think it will be an opportunity with my discussion with president trump to reaffirm this mutual agreement to a relationship that has strategic depths and to look at how we can take it further. we'll always be and i think we have an additional region to claim that in these turbulent times, we are very reliable and dependable partner of the united states and admittedly complicated. >> mr. prime minister, we'll unpack some of the issues you are mentioning there. >> we talked about the theme greece is back. you are here in washington after a decade of depression and a country that lost over a quarter
of its output, over 450,000 greeks left the country and unemployment was over 27% and now 50%. and yet the country emerged from this democracy and society and coherent and cohesive and external are in retreat. the center is empowered and an increase in confidence. you were remarkably collected on a platform for greece, something that had not been popular in the past. how is that going? what have you been able to achieve so far the first six mo months and what comes next as you seem to transform the economy? >> our election was at a turning
point. greece having to experience with pop laularity and it left us. the radical party and the party that's to the right democracy. we made a clear case to the greek public that we need to change. we need to embrace reforms. we need to do reforms because they are good for our country. and, we receive a strong mandate to push down that path. we are one of the few good ones today. a huge bonus i can tell you, look at how complicated coalition have been. this is a huge advantage for us to be able to take decisions very quickly and implement them.
i think also at a time where greek society is brought in support of policies were viewed with skepticism in a few years. we have the mandate and we have a good team, we have the world to deliver, this is exactly what we have done so far. we have passed the legislation in six months. the economy is reacting positively. i tried to point out a cos cost -- we repaid the imf. we kept the capital markets. we are able to deliver on a gross strategy that's actually making a real difference for peop people. in the country, we started lowering our taxes and real estate and corporation and starting january 1st of this year.
and, i think there is a journal sense in greece that we are open for business, we are looking to aggressively atrack foreign investment. it is already beginning to happen. if you look at our performance over the last six months. there is always this advice that others head of the government gave me. make sure you do the reforms very quickly. when you look at how other governmentperforms, that's not the case. i am sure the economy is going to react, i expect growth rate to 3% for 2020. this will give us also the breathing space to address some of the more complicated issues
regarding reforms that take time to really show a clear result such as public administration and justice. >> you said some aggressive benchmark by the end of 2023, 100 billion euros and new investment in greece. one of the things that you pointed out is concerns about what had begen a straight jacke, 3.5% of gdp surplus as a result of the program and the desire to ren re-negotiate this. you are talking to european p t partne partners, how do you see the flexibility that you may have and making investment decisions? >> we are 3.5% restriction on our primary surpluses.
it is a policy that comes in a different era. it was agreed at a time when there were concerns of our debt sensibility. the idea was simple. we keep greece on a tight fiscal leaf. we'll do the same thing of dropping the prices in the first place. i think we have every reason to argue this is no longer the case today. we need to change the 3.5% starting in 2021. this is what i said when i got elected. i don't want to change the target of 2019 or 2020. why? because i need time to establish my credibility. we are starting this discussion in earnest with our creditors and the euro group. we'll have the support.
i will see after my discussion. imf have argued convincingl convincingly -- as we continue these discussions with european partners and it is also very important to point out that we want to use additional fiscal space in order to further protection. and use only 20% of further space, 20% will be used towards targeted social spending to address extreme equality and poverty in greece. the stage is set for us to make a convincing case why we need to change the primary surplus targets because we need this additional fiscal space to global charge the group that's already demonstrated in greece
today. the american company is factoring in. your message was in september when you were in the united states, greece is opened for business and now certainly heard that. what you see is the opportunity for increase, u.s. greek trade investment. your opportunity are clearly. i am and when i looked at for investing numbers, clearly the u.s. is punching below its weight in terms of how many companies have actually invested. it is already beginning to change. you are all aware of the fact that we are trying to block the old project and we are working hard with our ministers to make sure that we remove all the unnecessary bureaucratic impediments in order for this
investment to take place, we have two american companies bidding. license is important for the first time, serious money is going to be invested by american companies. the opportunities are numerous and in various sector. and comparative advantage and anything, real estate and renewable and energy and greece as a logistic center. this is something that may surprise some of you but greece is a country that has excellent human capital. highly trained engineers and companies such as cisco and fvizor are looking to set up research center in greece. it is important to convince american company to take a new look at this part of the world
to the extent that we have removed the political risk of the country, i think the case we are investigating greece makes a lot of sense and i would like to thank the investor for it the work he has done and investor piaot on our end and he's working hard. i am looking for more u.s. investment in greece and i am sure it will happen very soon. >> you yourself and we heard from secretary pompeo that the united states and greece have among the closest relationships historically, it is a significant statement at a time of some divisions across the atlantic and rhetorical food fights occasionally among trans
atlantic greeters. we heard americans official say not for attribution but we gotten pass the americanism of greece and how to open the new chapter, what has made it possible? >> first of all, it is important to point out that a country which was very anti-american anti-american, '70s or '80s. that's no longer the case. contacts have really strengthens the foundation of this relationship. on a political level, we are hoping to point out that there is across party consensus regarding the importance of this relationship. for the party i have a privilege of meeting and this is obvious, it was not necessarily obvious for the previous one which makes 1880 degrees. in terms of their policies and
supports the deepening of the u.s. relationship and there are some clear and important benchmark one can point to. we sign a new defense cooperation agreement enhances u.s. presence on the ground. our defense cooperation is moving in the right direction. we are looking and we'll start the discussions to explore the possibilities of greece joining f-35 program. this is an important priority for me and the government wants the fi-16 program completed in 2024. we feel we have a fiscal space and hopefully our american fans can help us by taking into consideration the fact that we are not - we can't spend as much as we would like on our defense.
i think it is also related to the state of relationship of the fact that is when you really look at the map of the eastern mediterranean and you look at the fundamentals, greece have been a nato member since t the '50s and a member of the community since 1979 and a member of -- we share the values and we fought together in war and sometimes we keep on forgetting all that. it is very important. when you look at this part of the world, we are reliable partner and of course, the whole concept of the trilateral, with the additional of the united states, there is a new impotes,
i could point out that you mentioned in your opening that it is a milestone and it clearly lays out why it is important. the united states, who the partners are and how these partners should be given the context of highly volatile region. >> let me ask about nato and the defense side and come to these issues. you attended london's leaders meeting when there is some sharp words destroyed whether it is president macron or president erdogan, president trump and yet, the security defense relationship in greece is bedrock, what was your sense of the state of alliance coming out of your first leader meeting in london. how did greece see the role of
the alliance given some of the uncertainty in your region and eastern med with turkey itself than the western balkins. trans atlantic it is not going to change regardless of the fact that europe, probably through a coalition of the pine is going to look to strengthen its own defense cableableti defense capabilities. the eye license today is meaningful as it ever been. >> having said that, i made it clear during my remarks that it is unacceptable of the concept who are not lying. we have one ally clearly provoking another party or ally. this is something that within
the context of our lives should not be brushed asigh. until general approach with nato, okay, we have two ally members, they have issues and we'll sort it out. we have a clear a clear case to make that now the situation is rather different, and that we're faced with turkey, which is behaving in an extremely aggressive manner, but at the same time it remains an ally member. so these issues at least should be raised and discussed within the alliance. they also have a very clear security implication. i think it's very obvious also to the united states administration that one cannot sell 35 airplanes to a country that is procuring at the same time 400 antiaircraft missile systems, the two cannot go together. i think also within the context of the relationship regarding
the united states and turkey, these are important points that were similarly raised by me during the nato leaders' meeting. >> turkey may come up again, but i want to pick up on the east medac and some of the issues related to that. greece has already played a pretty fundamental role in diversifying europe's energy supplies whether new energy imports through greece ports, the tap pipeline, the interconnect with bulgaria. it's quite significant. you've just hosted in athens prime minister netanyahu of israel, the president of cyprus, to sign the east med project, the idea of a pipeline that would bring eastern med gas to europe. i don't think this is tomorrow, this is a bit off in the future. but talk a little bit about how you see your strategy in the eastern med on the energy side, and the role the united states is playing in helping to realize that vision. >> i think this is a very, very important angle of our
relationship with the united states. for a long time, we have been talking, in the interests of europe but also in the interests of the united states, to diversify our energy sources. and greece has been at the forefront of this effort. and we are actually in a position to deliver on our commitments. tap is going to become operational in 2020. the interconnector is being built. we're really looking to strengthen our ability to import lmg. we've expanded the lmg capacity of our main facilities outside athens but we're also looking to complete a floating storage unit, an fsru, outside a port. i consider this project
absolutely critical for greece. i've given it my full personal support. it will be an additional source, entry port for lmg, also american lmg, into the european market. and of course as you pointed out, we have also signed the east med pipeline, which is an ambitious, long term project that will bring gas from the east mediterranean into the european markets. this is an important project for europe, not just for greece. eastern mediterranean is the only proven source of natural gas, new proven source of natural gas, that europe has access to. for the next 30 years at least, natural gas is going to be the transition fuel that will allow us to move towards a carbon neutral europe. this is also important for greece and our energy transition. and i think the countries of the region have taken the important
due political decision that the best way to get this gas out of the region is through a pipeline that will go through cyprus, greece, and up in italy. so this is an important statement of intent. and we're very, very happy that we signed the project in athens a few days ago. >> some of your neighbors have also noticed this activity, and this agreement was preceded by a pretty remarkable agreement between ankara and tripoli which also perhaps infringes on some greek claims around crete as a turkish play in the eastern med. tomorrow president putin will be in turkey for the opening of turk stream. how do you see your neighbors and these actions responding to what you've been doing with your israeli and cypriot and egyptian counterparts? >> let me first of all point out, and i made this point also
in my remarks during the east med ceremony, that we don't seek to exclude anyone from energy corporation in the eastern mediterranean provided they respect international law and play by the rules of the game. so this is not an agreement that goes against turkey or any other country. we have a framework of cooperation of countries that think in the same way. turkey clearly does not think along those lines. and i would be very, very happy if turkey were to reconsider its overall approach. you mentioned the two agreements with libya. as far as the agreement regarding the limitation of maritime zones is concerned, it's clearly null and void. but it's also geographically ridiculous. you just need to look at the map to understand there's no connection between turkey and libya. and of course the agreement
assumes that our islands, including our biggest island, crete, does not have an exclusive economic zone, which goes against everything we know in international law. and it has the additional problem that it has not been ratified bit libyan house of representatives. so it's an agreement that clearly has no legal basis. we don't consider it to produce any legal ramifications vis-à-vis turkey is concerned. but it is an indication of how turkey thinks in terms of the eastern mediterranean. we have our differences with turkey. and at the same time we're very open to keeping the terms of communication open. there is a political dialogue that is taking place between the secretary generals of our ministries. it will start again in a couple
of days. and as far as our differences regarding the delimitation of maritime zones which we consider to be our main difference with turkey in the aegean and the eastern mediterranean, i've publicly stated that if we cannot sort out our differences, we're open to discuss going to the hague and having the court decide on our behalf. but in order to reach, you know, this, which i think is a very fair and, you know, logical approach to solve our differences, assuming that we all believe in international law, but in order to get to that point, we need to refrain from any activities that clearly add degrees of escalation and regional tensions. i think we've been extremely reasonable in terms of addressing the situation. i'll also make it very clear that we will not accept any infringement upon greece's sovereign rights within our
exclusive economic zone. >> let me turn, if i might, to the western balkans. as an opposition leader you expressed opposition and skepticism about the presba agreement that resolved the name disagreement between athens and scopia. yet you've been supportive of macedonia and albania. you've even described president macron's decision to veto the opening session negotiations as a mistake and you've pointed to perhaps the irony of a french president in the late '70s really standing by greece at an early moment in its development to join the european economic community. how do you see the next steps here? what is greece's role going to be with the vision of how the western balkans is integrated into the european union? is this going to be a stalled, perhaps longer term project? or do you see an ability to get
to yes on opening negotiations sooner rather than later? >> first of all, let me clarify that i did oppose the presba agreement for very specific reasons. i also did everything within my capacity to make sure that this agreement was not ratified in parliament. i also publicly stated that once the agreement is ratified, then there is very little we can actually do to change it, and that i have to respect it once i come into power. and this is exactly what i have done. we still have issues with the agreement. and we're working on them. we have issues, important issues regarding trademarks, regarding the ownership of what we consider to be the greek brand, which is the macedonian brand. we're helping our companies, making sure they protect their trademarks. and we will be working in that direction very, very
systematically. at the same time, we've also publicly said that it is in our interests to anchor the western bloc to the european union. also if we want to have, in terms of the bilateral relationship, if we want to have leverage over our northern neighbor in terms of making sure our interests are fully taken into consideration, we need an accession process that is open. we don't need to slam the door shut into their face. so we supported the decision at the last council to give a date to both countries to start accession negotiations. and we're disappointed by the results. but also vis-à-vis albania, we also made it very clear that also there we have very specific preconditions. preconditions have to do with the fact that in albania we have a national greek minority, recognized national greek minority, and the rights of the national greek minority need to
be respected, property rights, their ability to participate in -- you know, in the civil and economic life of the country. so i also made it very clear with the prime minister that we support you but we will not accept that the rights of the greek minority are not fully protected. at the same time, when there was an earthquake in albania, we were the first to send our special team to help our neighbor beiing country. we are by far the largest economy in the region. we're the oldest, we're the oldest member of the european union. for ten years we were too focused on our internal problems. it's about time to return to the region with a forward-looking agenda and to punch above our weight, which is exactly what we
tried to do not just in the region but also in the discussions we have regarding the european union. it was very frustrating for me to see, you know, past greek leaders only talk about our own problems and only try to defend why greece needed any support or assistance or bailout packages. i think we're leaving this period behind us for good. this is a new, very confident country that intends to play a role in the region and a role within europe because that's where we belong. >> do you feel you're making progress in paris with france putting proposals on the table? >> i think some progress has been made, looking at the process itself, and whether we can make changes to the process. and hopefully once we get to zagreb, in may, you know, the french, also the dutch and the danes will reconsider their position. >> let me pick up on some
broader issues, strategic issues in the middle east. china, before i turn to the audience for your questions. you're here at a tumultuous time, in the wake of the drone strike that took out soleimani in baghdad, outside of the baghdad airport. this is dominating the discussion and the debate here. what comes next, what will be the iranian moves, what's the u.s. strategy. can you give us a little bit of perspective from athens,historig ties to the middle east, what does this mean for greece, what are you bringing to washington, to president trump, on this issue? >> first of all, we're allies with the u.s. so we stand by our allies, through difficult times and this particular decision was a
decision that was taken by taking into consideration what is in the u.s.'s national interest and we stand by that decision. at the same time, we have to recognize there is concern in the region, broader concern about a possible escalation. and i think efforts should be made, now that a clear statement was made by the united states regarding the red lines it is willing to draw, to move towards moves that will de-escalate overall tension, and i hope this is a message that is received by everyone. yes, we've had close ties, and we still have very close ties with the arab world. and we consider ourselves an honest power broker in the region. but we don't forget who our allies are and where we belong geopolitically. so you were right to point out, and fred pointed out in his introductory comments, that a lot of things that were taken as granted, as constants, are no
longer there in this highly and very complicated world. but what i can say is that the fundamental -- the foundation of the post-world war ii global economic miracle but also a miracle of peace and stability was the trans-atlantic relationship. and any other what happens, the dialogues between europe and the u.s. need to be kept open. we may have our occasional disagreements. but one should not forget how important this relationship has been for everything that has happened since the end of the second world war. so i'm always a big, you know, believer in the trans-atlantic relationship. and any organization such as yours that is looking at how to sort of reinvent the relationship in very complicated times, will always play an
important role in this context. >> we have our work cut out for us. and one of the issues that obviously the trans-atlantic relationship is grappling with is the rise of china. china has played a significant role in southeast europe. in your country, you've had the opportunity to visit china as prime minister, greece was a showcase country at the trade expo in china. you've hosted president xi in athens. you'll be going back to china for the 17 plus 1, leaders from northeastern europe. how do you think about china in the context of the european union, the trans-atlantic relationship, where there are great opportunities on the economic and trade front, where the chinese have talked about greece as a door to western europe, yet at the same time issues of how to manage solidarity across the atlantic and dealing with china and how
to protect, mitigate risks to the critical infrastructure investments, possible debt traps. how has this played out for you, how are you managing the opportunity and risk of china and europe? >> with flexibility and dexterity. what die meo i mean by that? we have an important economic relationship with china. they're big investors in our port. they've done a very good job in taking over a port that was essentially a nonplayer and transforming it into the biggest port in the mediterranean, creating lots of jobs in the process and having very ambitious plans, and why not become the biggest port in europe? you can't argue with geography. kyrgios is the natural entry point for goods coming from asia but also from eastern africa into the central and eastern
european markets. that's not going to change. and it would be very naive for us not to take advantage of that important geopolitical position. i'm a big believer in free trade. if you are a big believer in free trade then you also have to acknowledge the fact that you are in a position to facilitate free trade by virtue of your geography. greece is a natural entry point, a logistics center for this part of the world. we're not overly exposed to chinese investment. of course my goal is always to have foreign sources of capital, to be as diversified as possible. there will be new opportunities, if you look at ports, new ports to be prioritized, looking also for american and european interests in participating in these investment opportunities. greece and china also have important cultural ties. we're big civilizations. this is important within the context of, you know, the people
to people narrative between our two countries. and of course china is a very big market for greek goods. so agreements signed by the european union and china regarding the protection of geographical origins for agricultural products is important for greece. are we concerned about critical infrastructure? of course we are concerned. i can tell you that greece is one of the few european countries that is -- that as far as its core net worth is concerned regarding 4g and 5g, it does not have any chinese suppliers in its core networks. so we're setting very clear benchmarks regarding the protection of our critical infrastructure. and on that issue, i am sure that we will take into very serious consideration concerns voiced by the united states on these issues. >> mr. prime minister, let me
open it up to the audience and take a few questions at a time with your permission. why don't i start with these two over here, kathy and this gentleman over here. please use the mic for our i don't know online audience. >> thank you very much. mr. prime minister, you mentioned climate change as one of the key issues you're facing. you've also talked about your new energy and climate strategy and attracting renewable energy companies and at the same time have had heat and fires and the fire in monte. i wonder if you could say a word or two about both the risk and the opportunities that climate change poses for greece. >> let me pick up also on this gentleman as well, please. >> hi, prime minister. nicholas varon at the institute for international economics.
my question is about the former greek stasistasistician who has prosecuted and persecuted for over a decade. you said that matter had to be brought to an end, that it had damaged the reputation of greece. my question is what efforts will your government do to restore the reputation of agregreece ont matter and give appropriate representation to the statistician. >> first of all, regarding climate change, we live with the implications of climate change. they are already there. they're affecting us. be it droughts, be it wildfires, rising sea levels, impact on our biodiversity. this is something which is
happening today, it's not going to happen in a few years. you look at the horrible fires in australia, the magnitude, the scale of destruction, it's mind-boggling. we're actually sending our elite teams to australia today in response to a call for help made by the australian government. but we've seen what these wildfires can actually do and we need to protect ourselves in the best possible way, making sure we contain the damage. but of course if we don't have an aggressive approach vis-à-vis climate change in general, things will get much, much worse. and i've been at the forefront of pushing for a new model that puts climate change at the very center of what we want to do
with the country. we've put forward a very aggressive plan to move away from lignite, which is the most polluting form of fossil fuel. so we're shutting down all our lignite plants. the latest, by 2028. and all but one by 2023. and of course we're looking for european assistance to make sure that the one region of greece which is very dependent on lignite mining is not faced with severe economic implications for this decision. that's why we've set up a fund in the european union for regions which will be faced with the challenges of making this transition sooner rather than later. we have a vision of a country where renewable energy will be the main source of energy production. we have the advantage of having access to unlimited wind and in
particular solar power. and we will very, very aggressively push towards that direction, at the same time we're looking to privatize, partially privatize our distribution grids because we need investment also in our grids to be able to support this transition. so we have a very complete plan regarding energy transition. and of course a very clear vision of where we want to take the country going forward on this, on this topic. i've been a big supporter of the new green deal proposed by the new president of the european commission. it's an ambitious plan. but now we also need to make sure we have the proper financing tools to implement it. one of the most difficult discussions at the european union level we will have in 2020
regards the next european budget. i've made it very clear you cannot implement these policies without the necessary financial tools. so the big, you know, the big countries need to step up to the plate and accept the fact that we need a bigger budget at the european level, if we want to do climate policy in the right way, and if at the same time we want to maintain agricultural policy and cohesion policy which are the two nonnegotiable pillars for many european countries as far as the european budget is concerned. so expect some interesting discussions regarding the european budget in 2020. but what we're doing is we're stepping up to the plate. we're -- and by stepping up to the plate, we also publicly state our claim that we want to be one of the first christophe access to the transition fund. other chrystele us that they want to keep their coal mines open forever. i don't see any reason why they should benefit from a just
transition mechanism if they want to burn coal. but a country taking a bold decision to shut down its coal mines by 2023 should be supported by the european union as we manage that transition. i've spoken many times on this issue, i will not add anything to what i said. it's an issue to be addressed by justice. it will be very good if this issue finally comes to an end, and we give closure to him. it has not helped greece's international reputation. but my job is not to intervene in any open judicial process and i'm not going to do it now. >> this gentleman here has been waiting, let me get the mic to him. and please, we'll come to the front as well. >> my name is ali baki. i'm from the council on foreign
relations. my question is on the potential refugee crisis you may face. as the situation deteriorates and refugees go to turkey, president erdogan has allowed refugees to go west, to europe. is greece capable to handle these refugees? how would you stop them? you have all these islands which are easy to get to. essentially could you talk a little bit about that? >> let me take this young woman here and, please, to the front row to the ambassador. please go ahead. >> hi, i work for general electric. i wanted to know if you could address the issue of brain drain and the young greeks who have left and what you're doing to bring them back. i have friends all over and we're all kind of scattered everywhere and it would be nice to hear what your plans are for the future. thank you. >> important question. please, sir. >> thank you very much. mr. prime minister, thank you very much for your -- and
congratulations on your success. for us, the croats, it's beautiful to see the year opening here in washington with the european success story which is greece, congratulations on that. my question is related to the crisis as aforementioned by the colleague. clearly this is something we face and this is some of the critical issues we all have to deal with. we have been feeling the pressure, obviously greece is on the front line. what are and what may be the policies, specific policies greece wishes to pursue, wishes to enact as european policies in that regard? because this is a clear case in which no single country can do it alone. again, it's great to have you here with us. >> thanks, mr. ambassador. we'll take those three. >> let me address the refugee question. it is a very important one. and this is clearly a problem
with a global but also very clearly a european dimension. it cannot be solved by greece alone. and i've been making the claim repeatedly that unless europe gets its act together, there's going to be a new fault line that risks ripping europe apart on the migration issue. that is something which we should not accept. you cannot have a shenzhen zone, a movement of free people, while at the same time you don't have common asylum policies and a coherent on how to protect europe's borders. so i'm really looking forward to the european commission presenting its new migration pact, it's views on how we reach common asylum rules and common agreement on how we manage our external borders. it's very, very unfair to place all the burden on the countries
that constitute the external border of the european union and then pretend as if this problem only relates to italy or greece or spain or cyprus. so we have not been very good as showing the necessary european solidarity on that front. having said that, to get to the first question, i can't wait for the european union to come up with a coherent answer to this problem. i need to look at the situation we're facing on the ground and make sure that we take all the necessary initiatives at our level. what have we done? we've changed our asylum policies. we changed the asylum legislation. as of january 1st, we've really tightened the process. we need the asylum applications to be processed much, much quicker than they have in the past. and for all of those whose
application is declined, they need to be sent back to turkey, according to the eu/turkey statement which in spite of its problems, it's the only coherent agreement that we've with turkey and we need to work upon it, we need to build upon it, and we need to improve it. at the same time, we're facing lots of precious on our islands. so we have to take the decision, although that was not my first choice, to move some people, especially the more vulnerable people, off the islands and into the mainland. but at the same time, we're also increasing the capacity of the islands to welcome refugees and migrants by building new facilities where we'll monitor who comes in and who comes out. we're looking at the role of ngos. modified most of the ngos have been very supportive but some have not been supportive and are sort of
undermining the policies implemented by the greek government. of course we're also strengthening our coast guard. the greek coast guard is doing a fantastic job in a very difficult situation in protecting our boulders but also in saving lives at sea. so we're adding additional boats and we're strengthening our presence on the frontier. and we make it very, very clear that our coast guard will save anyone who is at risk of drowning at sea but we're not a welcoming committee. we're not a tourist agency. the job of the coast guard is to protect the borders of the country. and i made that very, very clear. and i'm also sending a very clear signal to the smugglers and to those who take advantage of the pain and suffering of these people. this is a different ball game, starting, you know, the beginning of this year. if you come, if you send people
to greece who you know do not have refugee status, be assured that these people will be sent back. so you're essentially wasting your money. i'm talking to the people who actually pay the smugglers to come to greece, knowing that they don't have refugee status. we will do everything in our capacity to send them back to turkey. now, to the question which is very dear to my heart, and thank you very much for asking this question regarding brain drain. 450,000, approximately, young greeks left the country during the crisis, in search for better jobs, or in search for jobs, abroad. and it was very painful, very painful for the people who had to leave. of course there are always people who choose to leave and in a globalized world, that's good. but there are lots of people who had to leave because they couldn't find a job in greece. the brain drain needs to be reversed. two points on how this could
happen. first of all, the brain drain will be reversed once we have more jobs, better paying jobs, and more opportunities in greece. you work for ge. i'm sure you would be happy to return to greece provided that greece offers you a decent, good-paying job. so we need jobs and we also need to lower taxation and social security contributions on higher incomes, because a lot of these jobs are good-paying jobs which were massacred by the policies of the previous government in terms of taxation and social security contributions. so my commitment has been that once i gain additional fiscal space, and i will be able to do that in 2020, we will start reducing what we call the solidarity surcharge, which was another tax imposed in particular on high income earners. and by revamping our social security system, we will also reduce social security contributions for employees like
yourself who have been looking to come back to greece to find a job. the other option which is open now in greece, which is very interesting, is a career in entrepreneurship. one of the most fascinating things that happened during the crisis was young greeks suddenly realizing that at a time when they could no longer get a job with the state and bang on the doors of a politician to help them, through the old traditional rules of pay troof politics, starting a business actually makes lots of sense. we've seen a lot of interest in people seth up their own companies with a vibrant startup culture in greece. we're doing everything in our capacity to support it. of course for those people who have succeeded abroad, this is a point i always make to them, especially to the vibrant greek-american community here, why have you succeeded here? because you have a culture of
free entrepreneurship, relatively low taxes, and regulation which is not too intrusive. we want to replicate the same culture in greece. the other aspect i consider very important which is particularly relevant to your generation is the fact that we finally succeeded in giving you the right to vote from where you actually live. and that is very, very important, because it connects the diaspora with greece. we've not been able to do it to the extent we wanted, because of necessary compromises. we had to get to a super majority of 200 mps in order to introduce this legislation. it's a constitutional constraint which we have. what we have managed to legislate covers the entire brain gain and generation. you'll be able to vote from where you actually live without having to return to greece to do so. this will increase i think the level of political participation. and finally, you will return to
greece not just when you get a good job but also when you really believe that the country has turned the corner. there is a case to be made about the long term prospects of the country. no one, myself, i hadn't made this decision to return, it was not just about the job, it was about my belief that the country was moving in the right direction, and that we've left the crisis behind us for good. nobody in their right frame of mind would return to greece only to believe that they will find themselves in the situation where they will have to leave again after a couple of years. so that's why i insist in all of us sharing the narrative that we've actually turned the corner, left the crisis behind us for good and that the better years are ahead of us in the long term, not just in the short term. and that i think will give us the possibility to attract talented people who haven't returned to greece. i will also stress one aspect i haven't touched upon, that is
the fantastic work that we're doing in education and research and development. we're opening up new partnerships, educational participates with top american universities, creating new opportunities for research in greece. we have all the abilities to make greece a regional educational center. for the first time, greek public universities are offering english-speaking courses in areas where we -- i think everyone would be excited to study in greece. these courses were never offered. so there is a small revolution taking place also within our universities. and that i think is also going to be particularly important to your generation. >> mr. prime minister, this is an optimistic note to end on. before we conclude, let me just say two quick things. i think you've made a compelling case that greece is turning, has turned the corner. i'm going to ask that everybody remain seated when the prime
minister leaves with his delegation. i want to close by saying, we've had a very measured conversation today, a very sober, serious conversation about important issues. yet it's against a backdrop, as fred began with, of turbulent, sometimes chaotic times. your leadership, mr. prime minister, has been one of reassurance, it's made the case of greece having turned the corner. and it's quite remarkable, against the context, as you yourself mentioned, of backlashes against democracies across the west. you've had a platform of structural reform and political stability. we want to thank you here at the atlantic council and our family for being a champion of the greece/u.s. relationship. please join me in thanking the prime minister for your remarks today, wishing you luck on your visit. thank you so much. [ applause ]
thank you for a remarkable conversation. [ indiscernible conversation ] and live now here on c-span3, a discussion on u.s. foreign policy and how to fight anti-semitism around the world. it's being hosted by the u.s. commission on international religious freedom. one of the speakers expected today is senator jacky rosen, a first term senator from nevada. before she became senator in 2018 she served as president of her synagogue. we're expecting the meeting to come together here shortly. we'll watch the room as people begin to take their seats.
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