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Greek PM praises 'huge step' of European recovery bid

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis addresses the nation in March 2020 on the coronavirus pandemic (AFP Photo/DIMITRIS PAPAMITSOS)

Washington (AFP) - Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis on Wednesday hailed a proposed EU coronavirus recovery package as a "huge step" and said that even skeptical European states would benefit.

European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen laid out a 750 billion-euro package with two-thirds of it in grants -- triggering a cool reception from frugal nations that prefer loans rather than grants.

=Mitsotakis, whose country's bailout had been a major source of friction within Europe, praised efforts both by the Commission and the European Central Bank to lend a hand to a bloc facing a historic recession.

"This will be a huge step for the European Union to actually demonstrate solidarity in a very tangible manner and help us all through the crisis," Mitsotakis told Washington's Brookings Institution and the University of Virginia in a virtual event.

"At the end of the day, even the countries that are hesitant and skeptical about whether we should go down that path, they are very much dependent on a single market, probably more so than we are," the center-right leader said.

Without naming them, he pointed to the comparatively open markets of the "Frugal Four" -- Austria, Denmark, the Netherlands and Sweden.

"If the single market were to collapse for whatever reason, they would pay a very, very big price," he said.

"What the Commission is proposing is not just good for us, it's good for Europe, it's good for the European project."

The European Commission has won the crucial support of Germany -- which had pushed a hard line during the Greek economic crisis -- as well as France but needs unanimity among the 27 member states.

Greece exited its bailout in 2018 and, unlike fellow southern European nations Italy and Spain, was comparatively unscathed by the COVID-19 coronavirus after enforcing strict containment measures.