Greek PM Mitsotakis under fire for secret Saudi World Cup offer – Politico

ATHENS – Greece’s conservative government has been slammed by the opposition after Politico revealed a secret offer by Saudi Arabia to cover costs for Greece and Egypt if they agreed to team up with the Gulf heavyweights to host the 2030 soccer World Cup.

The main opposition Syriza party has called on the ruling New Democracy Party to release details of private communications between Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, citing a more urgent need in the wake of the Katargate scandal. Serenity.

“We want to know why Greece is giving Saudi Arabia the strong brand name of a European country synonymous with freedom and democracy,” Syriza said in a statement.

POLITICO revealed that the oil-rich country has offered to “fully underwrite the costs” of helping Greece and Egypt host sports mega-events in the three countries, but in exchange for three-quarters of all matches to be staged.

The dramatic offer – worth billions of euros in construction costs – was discussed in a private conversation between Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler Mohammed bin Salman and Mitsotakis in the summer of 2022, according to a senior official familiar with the matter. The Greek government declined repeated requests for comment before the story was published.

“There is a general sports cooperation with Saudi Arabia, it involves various steps but obviously there is no final decision on this matter yet,” State Minister Giorgos Gerapatritis told local radio. “There is no discussion at the moment on anything specific, we are in the discussion phase.”

“Politico article about Saudi Arabia’s ‘buy out’ of Greece for 2030 World Cup is full of inaccuracies,” Deputy Sports Minister Lefteris Avgenakis said In a Twitter post. “Communications are ongoing between the two countries and Egypt, but they are still in the early stages of exploring the possibility of a bid,” he added.

Asked by Politico to elaborate on the blunders, a sports ministry spokesman later said that “the main blunder was that the crown prince suggested to the prime minister that Saudi Arabia would cover the cost of the event.”

As Politico noted in a story published Wednesday, it is unclear whether Greece has accepted the offer. But the three countries are now working on a joint proposal to host the 2030 tournament, a move that has sparked backlash from Greece.

The fog of opposition

In an attempt to convince members of soccer’s world governing body, FIFA, of the merits of the Saudi-led bid, the proposed tournament would feature matches across three continents, providing geographic balance. The Middle East’s sole World Cup bid is unlikely to succeed, just eight years after Qatar hosts the tournament in 2022.

Syriza said that while in power they promoted a bid to host the World Cup with Balkan countries to bolster peace and stability in the region.

“What are the aims, values ​​and objectives of the bid to jointly host the World Cup with Saudi Arabia?” Ask it.

The opposition Socialist Pasak Party is against a general bid, a senior party official told Politico.

“The organization of events like the World Football Championship, the Olympic Games can only be organized with countries with which we share a common value, we have a common understanding of democracy, respect for human rights and the rule of law.” Officer Dr.

And there was more criticism from the left.

“It is impossible that we have learned nothing from Katargate [Greek MEP Eva] Kylie and the Greek government are discussing our country’s joint involvement with a country that killed Jamal Khashoggi, brutalized women and LGBT+ people, and mistreated migrant workers,” the small left-wing group MeRA25 said in a statement.