Panos Kammenos, the leader of the junior member of the ruling coalition Independent Greeks (ANEL), needs to reveal on Friday whether he supports the government, Prime Minister, Alexis Tsipras, said on Wednesday.
If Kammenos does not, he, the prime minister, will ask for a vote of confidence before he tables the Prespes Agreement in the Greek parliament.
In an interview to Open TV, Tsipras said that “Kammenos must reply on Friday whether he continues to place his trust in the government. He has to say that clearly, and we shall proceed. If he doesn’t, we will get a motion of confidence and move ahead.”
Kammenos, currently National Defence Minister, has repeatedly said he will not support the Prespes Agreement between Greece and FYROM. The Agreement is currently being debated in the Skopje parliament, which is expected to vote on it within January before it comes to Greece for ratification.
If ANEL withdraws from the ruling coalition, Tsipras asserted, there would be no constitutional problem with such a government, but a political one which would need to be resolved through elections.
Asserting that he would get a vote of confidence, Tsipras also said that he would nominate Greek President Prokopios Pavlopoulos for another term, as he has “defended the interests of the country in an excellent way.”
Among other things, the prime minister accused main opposition New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis of “fishing for votes in a despicable and populist manner, saying things domestically about the Prespes Agreement that he cannot utter abroad.”
On the Novartis drug price case, he called it “one of the greatest scandals of recent history” that harmed the Greek state.
Visit to Turkey
Tsipras revealed he would meet with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Ankara early in February in the context of keeping a direct communication line with Turkey.
Merkel’s visit to Athens
Referring to Thursday’s visit of German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Athens, Tsipras said “she wanted to visit for a long time, and I thought it was useful to invite her following the end of the memorandum era so the Greek people can see the importance of what we have achieved all this time.” Despite great disagreements and criticism, their relationship was founded on trust, he noted.
Asked to comment on what he felt was a mistake in his tenure, Tsipras said, “I didn’t do very well in picking the right people, but I’ve learned my lessons.
“Resolving the name issue with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) through the Prespes Agreement “is one of the most important legacies of my tenure so far,” Tsipras said.
The issue, he added, had been unresolved for the past 27 years due to the inertia of previous governments, and had become a burden in Greece’s role in the region.
If the completion of the loan adjustment programme and the exit from the crisis is the greatest achievement of his tenure, Tsipras said, the upgrading of Greece’s role is the second most important one.
The Prespes Agreement “leaves no room for future nationalist leaders” in the neighbouring country, the Greek premier said, adding that “Greece gains nothing by keeping an open front with the neighbouring country, and by wasting diplomatic capital.”
On the ratification of the Prespes Agreement, Tsipras said that main opposition leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis didn’t manage to find serious fault with the government’s actions throughout the negotiations and therefore chose to center his rhetoric on the use of the word “nationality”, which Mitsotakis says should be replaced by the word ethnicity. He then criticized the ND leader for trying to profiteer politically, using Greece’s national issues.
He continued by saying that all parties and members of parliament have full knowledge of the Prespes Agreement they are called to vote on and therefore need to “assume their historical responsibility.”
Tsipras further stated that should the FYROM parliament ratify the Agreement and Greece not do so, on account of political leaders’ personal interests ahead of national elections, then the country’s international image will be significantly tarnished.
Asked about the date on which the Agreement will come to Greek parliament for ratification, the PM replied that he will start the process immediately after the FYROM parliament has voted and estimated that the Greek parliament will have most certainly voted by the end of January.
Regarding the national elections, Tsipras said that the government is aiming for an October date.