ATHENS (Reuters) – Greece, the birthplace of democracy, backs European Union sanctions against Russia after its unlawful invasion of Ukraine and stands ready to host Ukrainian refugees, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis told parliament on Tuesday.
“Greece was always on the right side of history and we are doing the same today. For Greece there are no dilemmas, we are on the side of Ukraine, freedom and democracy.”
Russia’s invasion has awakened old nightmares of war as Russia attempts to dismember Ukraine, he said.
“The European Union was born out of the ashes of World War Two. It responded with the largest package of sanctions it has ever launched. The EU’s actions awaken the world’s public opinion, they are the intangible force of democracy,” he said.
The conservative premier called for more defence cooperation among EU countries and reiterated that defence expenditure should be exempted from the budgets of countries that, like Greece, are guarding the bloc’s external borders.
Mitsotakis said the EU must also support countries and businesses against a further jump in energy costs. Like some other European countries, Greece is heavily reliant on Russia for about 40% of its gas supplies.
Greece has prepared for a “worst case scenario where gas supplies from Russia are halted”, with a liquefied natural gas (LNG) storage facility off Athens being recently replenished and Greek gas suppliers lining up additional cargoes, he said.
“We cannot rule out attempts by Russia to blackmail. We all realise this…will disrupt global supplies and probably trigger a further rise in (energy) prices,” said Mitsotakis.
“But we all agree it is the one-off price European people will pay for defending the values which are the foundations of our continent.”
On Monday, EU energy ministers discussed a Greek proposal for a new EU fund to provide low-interest loans to help governments finance measures to tackle high energy prices.
Athens has spent more than 2 billion euros ($2.23 billion) since September in power bill subsidies for households, businesses and farmers to mitigate the impact of record gas prices. Mitsotakis said the government’s assistance will continue until the energy crisis is seen off.
Greece has increased LNG imports in an effort to reduce its reliance on Russian gas. Mitsotakis said Greece will examine alternative gas routes, including a subsea pipeline, the so-called EastMed, designed to supply Europe with gas from the eastern Mediterranean, if the project is deemed viable.
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(Reporting by Renee Maltezou and Angeliki Koutantou, writing by George Georgiopoulos, editing by Nick Macfie and Mark Heinrich)