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Hellenic Republic Ministry of National Defence

Alternate Minister of National Defence Panagiotis Rigas’ Interview to the “NEA” Newspaper (25/09/2018)

The Alternate Minister of National Defence Panagiotis Rigas, in an interview he gave to the “NEA” newspaper (25/09/2018) and to the journalist Manos Charalambakis, stated the following:

How do you comment the accusations regarding the Ministry of National Defence funds’ improper management in relation to the refugees issue?

All these publications started after Mr Kostarakos expressed his views publicly, actually accusing the Hellenic Government, in an inelegant manner and probably on the grounds of political tendentiousness. Those who refer to such matters must be extremely cautious, all the more so, if they do not have a complete picture and knowledge about them. Last week, an inter - ministerial meeting was held, regarding the Refugees issue management, with the participation of Mr Avramopoulos, the competent European Commissioner and the European institutions confirmed the proper work performed by the Greek side. Regarding the Ministry of National Defence, it is insulting for the Armed Forces personnel, who have shouldered the difficult task of the refugees flows’ management, to be subjected to what is said and written, without any evidence provided.

Is it possible that the Macedonia Naming Dispute will bring the elections sooner? Panos Kammenos insists that if the agreement is presented to the Parliament, he himself and his ministers will resign from the government…

We have made a very specific agreement with the Independent Greeks Party, despite our differences, to take the country out of the memoranda and the supervision, to reconstruct the Greek economy and to armour the state against phenomena of corruption and conspiracy. I believe this agreement is implemented in a respectable and effective way. Our common priority is political stability, which our country needs, in the first period after the memorandum. When the Prespes Agreement is presented to the Parliament to be validated, we will see the stand each one holds, in the context of the parliamentary procedures. Until then, we have a lot of work to do, with the protection of the work - force, the relief of those most afflicted lately and the implementation of the mitigation measures, announced at the Thessaloniki International Fair, constituting our main priorities.

Do you see a change in Ankara’s behaviour? The two military men have returned, but the violations and the provocative rhetoric of Turkey regarding the Cyprus Exclusive Economic Zone continue…

It is true that the neighbouring country appears aggressive lately, especially regarding its rhetoric. The origin of this tension lies in the southeastern borders of Turkey and especially in the geopolitical developments in Syria. It is an effort, on behalf of the Turkish government, to negotiate regarding its aspirations there, by exercising asymmetric pressure in its western borders. On our side, we constantly seek a good and peaceful neighbourly relation, since we believe that our sovereign rights and the respect of the international treaties are obviously not subject to negotiations. At the same time, we seek to forge sincere relations of alliance and cooperation with the rest of the Balkan countries. This is, after all, another important reason for the Prespes Agreement to proceed.

A strengthening of the Greek - US relations is recorded lately in the Defence field as well. What is SYRIZA’s view on this, since it accused previous governments of “being attached to the USA”?

In international relations among states, each side seeks the best possible agreement of mutual interest. The Hellenic Government, for 3,5 years, implements a multi - dimensional foreign policy and Greece is considered a pillar of stability, in a widely unstable region. So, there is no attachment to the USA. Keeping always in mind our national interests and based on international law, the government develops its relations with all the big strategic actors in many levels, regaining a key - role in the geopolitical developments of the region.

Finally Minister, will the pensions’ cut be revoked? The Institutions’ messages differ…

Using the words of the Minister himself, as well as of all the competent ministers, the government’s intention not to proceed with the pensions’ cut has been finally announced. We are optimistic that we will succeed. We possess all data certifying that this is not a structural measure and that not implementing the pensions’ cut will not compromise, but on the contrary, will contribute to the development of Greece’s economy. Since our financial goals, which we have agreed with the institutions have been achieved, the selection of means and policies implemented, lies only with the Hellenic Government. Besides, we are not under a negotiations phase with the institutions anymore, but rather under an honest discussion phase.

 

The New Democracy Party has been well - established as the first party in surveys and furthermore it has acquired a double – digit lead. Can this lead be reversed?

 

If governments were decided out of polls or polls defined referendums, the recent political history of Greece would have been written much more differently. Since 2012 and onwards, the people have proven in the ballot – boxes – where it counts - that they trust SYRIZA and acknowledge the Party as the big progressive pole in the country. The SYRIZA - led government fought during the last three years a hard battle and succeeded, whereas the New Democracy and Movement for Change Parties completely failed. The eight - year memorandum adventure of the country came to an end. From now on, it is us that make proposals and we have already started to implement a four – year first package of measures, which aims to benefit society. The final review will be conducted in the fall of 2019.

 

Are you a special education teacher, the secretary of SYRIZA’s Central Committee or the Alternate Minister of National Defence?

 

If we look at the big picture, all three capacities are true. Deep inside me though, I feel proud and humble at the same time, regarding my capacity as a teacher. I am certain that if I were to start all over again, I would have chosen to be a teacher once more.