Lally Weymouth is a senior associate editor for The Washington Post.
Kyriakos Mitsotakis, the young leader of the Greek opposition, visited New York this week. He talked to The Post’s
Q. Many say you will be Greece’s next prime minister.
A. The question is not whether you become prime minister but how you will leave office.
Do you favor the labor and structural reforms that the IMF has been demanding in order to allow the economy to grow?
I would go along with a substantial percentage of those reforms. I would certainly go along with privatization very aggressively. There are a lot of assets to be sold at reasonable prices.
But you can’t really sell your way out of this crisis, can you?
No, but if you really want to attract significant foreign investment, you need to sell off state assets.
Do you really think that foreign direct investment is going to come in without seeing reforms take place?
I think no one is going to buy rhetoric until they see results.
The IMF has had differences with the European Union on Greece.
Yes, especially when it comes to the debt. The IMF thinks our debt is not sustainable.
Do you agree?
We certainly need an intervention on the debt side.
Isn’t the problem that if the European countries were to agree to help Greece with its debt, there would be other countries standing in line ready to ask for help, too?
People are probably afraid that they’ll be setting a precedent. The structural reforms are as necessary, if not more necessary, than the debt restructuring. [Prime Minister Alexis] Tsipras put all his eggs in one basket: debt restructuring. He never wanted to implement reforms. This government has done a lot of damage.
First of all, you have the economy in recession. We’re the first European country that imposed capital controls. Our banks closed for three weeks.
Wasn’t money fleeing the country?
But why? Because he failed to do a deal [with the International Monetary Fund, the European Commission and the European Central Bank] when he had the chance. The negotiation was a complete fiasco. He is to be blamed for the banks and the fact that the economy is still trying to recover. There’s a level of incompetence this government demonstrates which is just mind-boggling on all fronts, including the migration problem.
What would be your solution to the refugees?
Unfortunately, there is no easy solution. But they haven’t been able to even build the camps across the country for the 50,000 who are stuck in Greece. This is a government with zero experience. They never ran anything. They’re all sort of leftists who feel very comfortable drinking coffee and dreaming about the revolution. Tsipras deceived the Greek people. He lied left, right and center to get to power. He promised everything to everyone. Unfortunately, the Greeks believed him.
Do you think you can actually deliver if elected?
If I didn’t believe that, I wouldn’t be doing this job. I think that Greece, first of all, deserves a serious and competent government with good people in top positions. I think if we do these reforms, the economy will grow again, we will create jobs and we will stop the young people who are leaving Greece and looking for a job abroad.
Your father [Constantine Mitsotakis] was prime minister [from 1990 to 1993].
My father was prime minister. I spent 10 years working in the private sector. I wasn’t sure until relatively lately that I wanted to get involved in politics. I decided to run in 2004. At some point I found myself complaining about lots of things in Greece, and I said look at least you have the ability to. . . . It’s easy to enter politics if you come from a prominent political family.
But the elections aren’t for three more years?
It depends. I don’t think this government coalition will last. They could dissolve at any time.
So are you asking for an election?
I am, yes, because I think we could have a much better government than the one we have. . . . Tsipras is trying to control the media, which is completely unacceptable.
We have an independent agency which is in charge of media licensing and regulating media. He’s taken away the responsibility from this authority and given it to his best friend, who happens to be a minister for media. And they decided [to] give out four TV licenses [instead of eight]. It’s a cozy way of controlling the media.
So he’s going to shut down four [stations]?
If they don’t get a license they will have to shut down. He’s [also] intervening with justice by having the minister of justice calling up judges and asking what they’re doing with case x, y, z. One of the reasons I’m asking for an election is that I feel that there is an erosion of our democratic institutions taking place.