The European priorities of Greece at an international setting – as per Kyriakos Mitsotakis in UNGA

by Antonis D. Papagiannidis

Speeches delivered by political leaders addressing the UN General Assembly /UNGA seldom stray off the beaten path of diplomatic language and international-relations political correctness. Still, if one takes the pain to dissect such texts, interesting conclusions may come to the surface as to what their countries’ effective priorities and self-limitations may be.

Such was the case with Greek PM Kyriakos Mitsotakis’ address to the 76th UN General Assembly, notwithstanding the fact that the limelight of his visit to New York was captured by the unseemly tussle with Archbishop Elpidoforos over the latter having attended the “Turkevi centre” inauguration – along with Turkish President Erdogan and Turkish-Cypriot leader Tatar.

If one goes over the full text of Mitsotakis, one gets the distinct impression that two main areas of global interest are of paramount importance to the Greek leader – and , presumably, to his country: climate change and the Covid-19 pandemic . Climate change – seen as “the climate crisis” – got the most of his attention, with Mitsotakis speaking of the necessity to “align our flowery rhetoric with necessary action to avert catastrophe of unimaginable consequences”. Such action was approached mainly through the eyes of the Mediterranean fragile environment (to wit the recent EUMed9 Athens Declaration) and of the policies to be implemented  and EU-financed for a faster Green transition; with lignite plants being abandoned by 2025 (instead of the already early 2028 milestone) and 10% of Greek seas designated as no-catch zones by 2030. Also, searches for hydrocarbons in the Eastern Mediterranean seem put on the back burner.

It was interesting to note that the global issue of the Covid-19 pandemic was also approached mainly under an EU-response angle, with most of the emphasis put on joint vaccine procurement through Brussels, or then on the EU-wide “Digital certificate” or else on the Next Generation EU stimulus package.

So it would come as no surprise that the major issue of Greek-Turkish relations – an issue of international stability par excellence, clearly to be brought to the attention of a forum like the UNGA – was dealt with in the Mitsotakis address as a matter of “more days of instability than calm” in the Eastern Mediterranean … “making Turkey’s relationship with Europe more complicated”.

The same goes for the Western Balkans, which were dealt with under a EU integration perspective. Even multilateralism in international relations – to which Greece swears allegiance – is broached under an angle of ‘EU strategic autonomy”, with a European Defense Union as supplement to NATO in the role of stability guarantor.

It must be one of the most Europe-centred addresses the UN chamber has followed, coming from a country faced with a host of international security challenges. One is entitled to be curious as to how the Mitsotakis address was reported to European capitals, to nearby Washington and to Ankara.