DELPHI, Greece — The EU must act fast to combat soaring energy prices at a European level or member states will have to act unilaterally, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said.
Speaking at the Delphi Forum in Athens, together with Secretary-General of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation & Development (OECD) Mathias Cormann, Mitsotakis said the bloc should use the €230 billion of unused loans from the Recovery and Resilience Facility, created to help EU economies cope with the fallout of the coronavirus pandemic, to mitigate the crisis in the short term.
“I think we need to be creative and, with the help of the Commission, think how we can use these loans, which members states have expressed no interest in using, to repurpose them in order to help us deal with high energy prices, but also help members states to deal with the migration crisis,” he said, in a chat moderated by POLITICO’s Florian Eder.
“We did this back in 2020 with the RRF and it was a huge success. I don’t think there is an appetite in the Council to increase the envelope of the funds that would be available at the supernational level, but let us be creative in terms of repurposing existing funds to help countries in the short term deal with this issue,” he added.
He warned that a decision needs to be taken at the next extraordinary EU summit toward the end of May. “If this does not happen for whatever reason, it will be up to the member states to spend more money to support businesses and households,” Mitsotakis said.
“This is what we will end up doing in Greece. It will have fiscal implications, but I hope that we will be able to do this at a European level.”
Russia’s war on Ukraine has led to unprecedented price hikes and supply chain issues, with citizens struggling to cope with the increase in cost of living. There are concerns across Europe that this will lead to anti-government protests; the issue is already dominating 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 reemerge stronger,” the Greek premier said. “It will be a terrible mistake if, for economic reasons, we will lose the support of the population.”
Mitsotakis also said the European Council should look into the proposals submitted by Greece, including putting a cap on wholesale prices of gas and delinking gas and electricity prices, as now “we have a non-functioning gas market.”
Referring to the sanctions imposed by the EU to Russia, Mitsotakis said: “Sanctions cause pain and we must protect our citizens, especially the most vulnerable ones. We cannot replace Russian gas overnight. We do not support that there should be sanctions of Russian gas supply disruptions. We don’t want a solution that would put us in a weaker position than Russia.”