Main opposition New Democracy (ND) leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis faced reporters on Sunday, for a customary Q&A session held on the sidelines of the Thessaloniki International Fair (TIF), the same venue where his rival, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, appeared at a similar briefing a week ago.
Highlights of Mitsotakis' answers included, among others:
- Greece remains excluded from cheap borrowing, and outside markets, "this is the reality".
- A "cash cushion" isn't meant to be exhausted, it's there to safely return to market borrowing.
- ND's program iis different from the one proposed by leftist SYRIZA party and Tsipras. "We want to reduce taxes and social security contributions, and to reduce the state. Mr. Tsipras wants to increase the state." The ND leader said his goal is a 4 percent annual GDP growth and the creation of 70,000 new job spots over the next five years.
- Greece exited the third bailout with strict primary budget surplus targets, and with already passed austerity measures for pension cuts, as well as a lowering of the annual tax-free income threshold, "this constitutes a fourth memorandum", he said.
- Shifting property tax (ENFIA) proceeds, by 2021, to municipalities' coffers, with the simultaneous and equal reduction in central government funding towards the latter.
- The "Prespes Agreement" to resolve the long-standing fYRoM "name issue" creates results that will be difficult to overturn, "only elections can prevent this". He again stressed that his party will not support the Prespes (Prespa) agreement.
- Dismissed the leftist-rightist coalition government's criticism that he and ND are following a populist platform, "next to the word populist, you'll find Mr. Tsipras' name, not mine. Greek citizens know who fooled them, and who continues to fool them."
- Maintained that his party's platform has been cost-calculated and is based on a reasoning of persuading creditors that annual primary budget surplus targets must be reduced.
- Mr. Tsipras knows he'll lose the next election and is now engaging in divisiveness, thus damaging the country.
- Against a referendum for constitutional revision. "Mr. Tsipras is rediscovering constitutional revision just before elections ... ND will not enter into a debate over revision if significant articles, such as Article 16 for private universities, are not included in the revision process." Article 16 prohibits the establishment of non-state, non-profit universities in the country, essentially enforcing a state monopoly in the higher education system.
- No post-election cooperation with SYRIZA, as part of a future "grand coalition".
- "If an order for an evacuation had been given, people would have been saved," he said, referring to the deadly (99 victims) July 23 wildfire in coastal eastern Attica prefecture, and specifically the Mati settlement.
- Promised a Parliamentary committee of inquiry over the current coalition government's first six months in office - i.e. the first half of 2015 - a period followed by capital controls in late June 2015, a controversial and divisive referendum in early July 2015 and a subsequent cave-in by the Tsipras government to creditors' demands and the signing of the third memorandum, coming in August 2015.
- Promised that no firings of tenured civil servants will occur under a ND government, but added that he remains steadfast in the necessity to evaluate employees in the public sector. He also insisted that the constitution is crystal clear in stipulating that contract workers in the state sector cannot be transformed into permanent public sector employees. "The Greek state (in a future ND government) will hire contract-workers, but not to the extent that Mr. Tsipras does."
- Predicted that a necessary majority (180 out of 300) in Parliament will be found to elect (or re-elect) a president of the republic in 2020. "Before then, a change in the election law will be effected," he said, again promising to reverse recent amendments making the country's election law more simple representational.
- Promised to also include personalities from the center-left political spectrum in ND's election ballots.
- Vilified the government's handling of the migrant/refugee crisis, pointing to disgraceful images, as he said, from a large hotspot (Moria) on the eastern Aegean island of Lesvos (Mytilene). "What's going on in Moria is a disgrace, a complete depreciation of human life by a so-called leftist government. When so much money has been funneled to the country (to deal with the migrant crisis), and for the UN to say that not even in Africa do such centers exist, then responsibility lies exclusively with the government".
- He accused the coalition government of not being interested in secure European borders. "The issue of secure borders is taking place across Europe. The only one who doesn't care is Mr. Tsipras. We'll be on the front line for secure borders from the very next day (of being elected). Allow me to welcome a proposal by (Commission President Jean-Claude) Mr. Juncker to boost the (European) border patrol. We will also simplify the asylum process; there will no longer be four stages ... but two, a fast-track system... those not granted asylum will be returned to Turkey."