Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis’s victory in the recent Greek elections was historic. Not since democracy was reestablished in 1974 has an incumbent increased his power so significantly (by 40.5%), with the left-wing opposition party losing nearly 40% of its power, collapsing to just 17.8%.
Something has changed in the way the Greek electorate is making decisions. After a traumatic 10-year economic crisis, voters appreciated the stability and professionalism Mitsotakis brought to running the country. A highly educated former management consultant and venture capitalist with degrees from both Harvard and Stanford, Mitsotakis managed to turn the country around in the midst of successive challenges including the Covid pandemic and the migration crisis.
For Israel, Israeli investors and the Jewish community, Mitsotakis is good news. His father, the late former prime minister, Konstantinos Mitsotakis, recognized The State of Israel on his first day in office in 1989. Greece was the last European country to do so. Mitsotakis’s great aunt is a ‘Righteous Among the Nations,’ so honored for sheltering a Jewish child during the Holocaust, and Mitsotakis has never been shy about his affinity for Israel, ever since, as a member of parliament, he belonged to the Greece-Israel Parliamentary Friendship Group.
Israel has a friend in Kyriacos Mitsotakis. And so do investors, since it’s his management skills that have turned Greece around, pushing real estate prices higher – a boon for thousands of Israelis who have bought properties in Greece. Mitsotakis also gave the nod for Israel Aircraft Industries to purchase Intracom Defense, one of a handful of Greek defense companies. Elbit, as well, is a beneficiary of the government’s open-mindedness and so are several Israeli companies in all sectors. In other words, under Mitsotakis, Israeli companies are welcome in Greece.
To be sure, the recent elections did have a worrisome outcome in the entry into parliament of three extreme right-wing parties. One of the three, the Spartans, is openly neo-Nazi, the successor of Golden Dawn. One reason for these parties’ success was the low voter turnout in the second round of elections since it was clear from the May 9th first round that Mitsotakis was heading for a landslide victory. But part of their success is the fact that a solid percentage of Greeks are xenophobic, racist and antisemitic. This is unfortunately true in all European countries and the members of the Greek Jewish community have long felt their presence in their daily lives.
Mitsotakis has put together an impressive cabinet. For the first time, many members are technocrats, rather than politicians and this is a good sign. Unfortunately, the strong showings of the extreme right in the elections, apparently forced Mitsotakis to include Makis Voridis in his cabinet. Voridis is a former leader of a Neo Nazi youth group and an admirer of Jean Marie Le Pen, the leader of France’s National Front, who supported the racist party ( Greek Front ) that launched his political career. LePen was a speaker in Voridis’s early campaigns and even a guest at his wedding. Even though he has tried, in recent years, to tame his rhetoric, true feelings about the Jewish people and other minorities are clear.
But overall, this is a liberal, technocratic, growth oriented, centrist government destined to reinforce the already good relationship between Greece and Israel. I have no doubt that the Mitsotakis government will be good for Greece, good for business and good for Israel and the Jewish community.
Chairman of the Israel Greece Chamber of Commerce and Industry