DELPHI, Greece — The EU must act quickly to tackle soaring energy prices at European level, otherwise member states will have to act unilaterally, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis has said.
Speaking at the Delphi Forum in Athens alongside Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Secretary-General Mathias Cormann, Mitsotakis said the bloc should use the €230 billion in unused loans from the Recovery and Resilience Facility, created to help EU economies cope with the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic, to alleviate the crisis in the short term.
“I think we need to be creative and, with the help of the Commission, think about how we can use these loans, which Member States have expressed no interest in using, to reallocate them to us help deal with high energy prices, but also help member states deal with the migration crisis,” he said in a conversation moderated by POLITICO’s Florian Eder.
“We did this in 2020 with the RRF and it was a huge success. I don’t think the Council is keen on increasing the envelope of funds that would be available at the supranational level, but let’s be creative in terms of reallocating existing funds to help countries in the short term deal with this issue,” he added.
He warned that a decision had to be taken at the next extraordinary EU summit towards the end of May. “If that doesn’t happen for whatever reason, it will be up to member states to spend more money to support businesses and households,” Mitsotakis said.
“That’s what we will end up doing in Greece. This will have tax implications, but hopefully we can do it at European level.
Russia’s war on Ukraine has led to unprecedented price hikes and supply chain problems as citizens struggle to cope with the rising cost of living. There are fears across Europe that this could lead to anti-government protests; the issue already dominates the political agenda in France, where the first round of the presidential election takes place on Sunday.
“If we don’t do this, we will allow the forces of populism in Europe to reappear stronger,” said the Greek Prime Minister. “It will be a terrible mistake if, for economic reasons, we lose the support of the population.
Mitsotakis also said that the European Council should examine the proposals submitted by Greece, in particular the capping of wholesale gas prices and the decoupling of gas and electricity prices, because now “we have a gas market which does not does not work”.
Referring to EU sanctions imposed on Russia, Mitsotakis said: “Sanctions cause pain and we need to protect our citizens, especially the most vulnerable. We cannot replace Russian gas overnight. We do not argue that there should be sanctions in the event of an interruption in the supply of Russian gas. We don’t want a solution that would put us in a weaker position than Russia.