Kyriakos Mitsotakis

Disrupter No. 8 — Greece

Human rights abuses, stifling the press, spy scandals. That appears to be part of the legacy of Kyriakos Mitsotakis, the center-right Harvard-educated son of a former prime minister who marketed himself as a moderate and an outsider despite his pedigree.

Washington loves him. Greece spends more on defense as a share of GDP than even the United States itself; Mitsotakis, 54, has been critical of Moscow and has sent military equipment to Ukraine to aid its war effort. He became the first Greek prime minister to address a joint session of the U.S. Congress.

On rights, however, Brussels has been ineffective in getting him to stop what human rights groups say is the illegal pushback of migrants back into international waters. Instead, Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has praised Greece for its efforts to enforce its borders, calling it Europe’s “shield.” Meanwhile, the government’s record on press freedom continues to plummet, and the EU’s annual rule-of-law report echoed concerns expressed by several media rights groups about rising violence against journalists and selective media funding by the state.

With his eyes on an election next year, Mitsotakis is eager to move on from accusations that his government was illegally spying on political opponents and critical journalists, which he has repeatedly denied. The polls indicate that the spying scandal hasn’t hurt Mitsotakis too much, and his New Democracy party still has a healthy lead over everyone else. With a right-left coalition now unlikely, experts predict he could move further to the right. Expect voices talking about the rule of law in Greece to get even louder.

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Check out the full POLITICO 28 Class of 2023, and read the Letter from the Editors for an explanation of the thinking behind the ranking.

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