Greek PM climbs to Brussels on taxpayers’ backs

(Photo by Thierry Monasse/Getty Images)


If Ursula von der Leyen fails to secure a majority vote in the European Parliament in the next election for President of the Commission, Greek PM Mitsotakis could step in as an alternative EPP nominee. But in order for him to stand a chance, he first needs to win over Emmanuel Macron.

Mitsotakis may say that he is not interested, but in reality, he has been paving the ground to become the next EU top official since 2022. Backed by Manfred Weber, he has practically become the EPP’s number two, strengthening his European profile.

In fact, the EPP president himself may wish to give Ursula von der Leyen a taste of her own medicine. After all, she was the one to outrun Spitzenkandidat Weber five years ago, appearing seemingly out of nowhere to snatch the presidency out of his hands.

Now von der Leyen is expected to have a hard time in her bid for re-election. The national-conservative rise all around Europe is changing the balance of power both in Brussels and in Strasbourg. Some of her key former supporters are now skeptical about her candidacy.

According to Blooomberg, the French President Emmanuel Macron, who was instrumental in making Ursula von der Leyen the European Commission president five years ago, is already in talks with EU leaders to find a different candidate for the top job.

The main other option currently discussed is Mario Draghi. The Italian veteran appears to have Emmanuel Macron’s backing. But his case may not seem appealing to those within the EU who do not agree with his views on debt.

Mitsotakis and Macron were once very close. In 2021 Greece and France signed a defence agreement, Athens bought a squadron of French Rafale fighters and FDI frigates, and negotiated the acquisition of French corvettes. TOTAL was also reported to be a favourite for planned off-shore drilling in the Greek maritime exclusive economic zone.

However, the “Grèce-France alliance” spirit did not endure. In 2023 Greece announced the purchase of American F35 jets and its interest in joining the US Navy Constellation frigate programme. At the same time, Athens caved in to US and Turkish pressure and never declared its maritime zones in the Eastern Mediterranean.

Lately things between the two leaders have all but gone sour. In February Macron’s Renew slammed Mitsotakis in the European Parliament supporting a resolution condemning Greece over the rule of law. Then a few weeks ago the French President cancelled his visit to Greece for the Olympic Flame Lighting Ceremony.

So the Greek Premier realised he needs to win back his old ally, if he wants to stay alive in the race for a higher European office. In a surprise move, in April Greece announced the purchase of another batch of Rafales, cancelled its interest in the Constellation frigates and implemented its option to buy another FDI.

“It appears that the PM employs Greece’s defence budget in order to pursue his personal ambitions” former Defence Ministry Communications Director Andreas Papakyriakopoulos told Brussels Signal.

“What is more, it could be for the exact same reason that the Greek authorities are not charging the Italian rail company which runs Greek railroads over an accident in Tempi that claimed 57 lives,” he added.

Mitsotakis may indeed also need Giorgia Meloni in his dark horse bid either for the Commission Presidency, or that of the European Council. The Italian ECR group President is expected to become the ultimate Brussels wildcard after the next European Elections.

All polls suggest that in the coming European Elections the Greek ruling party is expected to lose 20 to 25 per cent of its 2023 voters. It makes sense for Mitsotakis to want to move to Brussels. But according to critics, this pursuit currently comes with a price to be paid by the Greek taxpayer.