Commentary on social media was divided on how Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis handled a heated exchange with a Dutch journalist during a press conference in Athens on Tuesday.
A visibly irritated Mitsotakis defended his government’s migration policy when questioned by journalist Ingeborg Beugel who accused Greece of illegal pushbacks and the prime minister of “narcissistic abuse.”
The exchange took place after a meeting between Mitsotakis and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, when Beugel’s turn came to ask a question during the press conference.
“Prime Minister Mitsotakis, when, at last, will you stop lying? Lying about pushbacks, lying about what is happening with the refugees in Greece?” Beugel asked, referring to allegations by human rights organizations, including the United Nations’ Refugee Agency, that Greece is illegally pushing asylum seekers back to Turkey.
“There has been overwhelming evidence and you keep denying and lying. This is like narcissistic abuse,” Beugel said. “Why are you not honest? Why don’t you say ‘Brussels left us alone, we waited for six years, nobody did anything… Now I have a say and yes, I do cruel, barbarian pushbacks.'”
In his initial reply Mitsotakis remained calm, telling the journalist that he respects the Dutch culture of asking direct questions to politicians. But he told Beugel he would “not accept that in this office you will insult me or the Greek people with accusations and expressions that are not supported by material facts.”
Mitsotakis said that while Greek authorities do intercept boats at sea, they do so in accordance with European Union regulations. The prime minister said his country had already granted asylum to 50,000 people, before being interrupted by Beugel, who claimed conditions in refugee camps were “appalling.”
Mitsotakis responded, “Look, you will not come into this building and insult me. Am I very clear on this?
The incident became a hot topic on Twitter overnight, with the Greek hashtags #ολλανδη #ολλανδεζα #μητσοτακη_παραιτησου all trending.
Some comments claimed Mitsotakis is not accustomed to handling real journalists with tough questions, insinuating that Greek journalists rarely, if ever, put the prime minister in the hot seat.
Other users supported Mitsotakis and his handling of the situation, claiming he acted appropriately to what was an insulting statement rather than a question from the Dutch journalist.
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