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Hellenic Republic Ministry of National Defence

Interview of the Alternate Minister of National Defence Panagiotis Rigas with the KONTRA NEWS newspaper

The Alternate Minister of National Defence Panagiotis Rigas, in an interview with the "KONTRA NEWS" newspaper (03/02/2019) to the journalist Christos Kybizis, stated the following:

What was the cooperation like with Panos Kammenos in the Ministry? How do you view his attitude during the past few days? He reached a point where he accused the government of even intervening in Justice…

The cooperation with Panos Kammenos while he participated in the government was in the context of the goals initially specified. Especially with regard to the Ministry of National Defence, I believe the cooperation was productive and with the contribution of all of us during these four years, many and serious problems were dealt with effectively and the deterrent power of the Hellenic Armed Forces was enhanced. With regard to Mr Kammenos' resignation from the government, that was his choice, a choice which we obviously respect; the way he assesses our cooperation after his resignation is also his choice.

I believe that an attitude of reversing everything we achieved together does not reflect credit upon him or the work achieved. It is not at all productive and beneficial to ruin everything. The parties and the political groups constitute the means for the achievement of goals that serve the society and the country. Any existing subjective or objective resentment or bitterness must not blur the main image, which is the dynamics we achieved and which leads our country ahead. The return to the past and division does not help anyone. Besides, we left all these matters behind, when we formed the SYRIZA – ANEL government. This cooperation constituted an extremely interesting political experiment, the results of which were useful for the future.

The new Minister uses harsh language with regard to Turkey. Is this rhetoric consistent with SYRIZA's philosophy?

Mr. Apostolakis is fully aware of the situation and his presence at the political leadership of the Ministry of National Defence constitutes a guarantee for the management and guarantee of our country's defence, with calmness and effectiveness. There is no issue of "harsh" or "soft" language with regard to Turkey. We do not follow Turkey's aggressive rhetoric and of course, we will not fall into the trap of a potential escalation. Our red line is our country's territorial integrity and national sovereignty. We seek peaceful co-existence, with mutual respect. This will benefit both countries and their people.

The Turkish side must also realise that a potential tension and the creation of instability zones will not benefit Turkey. Besides, it had no gain all these years, raising claims that lacked historical basis and beyond the rules of International Law. On the contrary, both sides will benefit from the consolidation of a normal state in Greek-Turkish relations and the broadening of our economic cooperation. This is what our peoples ask for and we must realise this.

The people expect the government, among other things, to help shed light on the scandals, which to a great extent led us to bankruptcy. What are your actions in this direction?

From the first day we struggled against the situation that led the country to bankruptcy and the society to poverty. These were the political choices of the previous governments, but also the perception of the officials of the governing parties at the time, who considered the state to be a prize to be shared among them. We brought a different political culture, which states that politics must obey society's needs and function as a means for problem solving and not as an intermediary to manage and absorb public discontent. Our role is to serve the people and not to manipulate them whenever big interests and the respective centres say so. This is our way and the people increasingly acknowledge and give us credit for this.

Do you follow the polls? Do you think it is possible to reverse the bad poll trends?

Indeed, the talk is about "poll trends", nothing tangible. Allow me though to point out that we do not function and do not practice politics based on trends. The peoples' lives and their problems are our criterion and measure of judgment, as well as the reversion of the situation through our political choices and the policy we exercise. This is what we must pay attention to. We have still many things to do, but it would be unfair to claim that there is no improvement in many areas of the everyday life of the citizens. From then on, until the elections of next October, the reorganisation of the political arena and the drawing up of two contrasted political plans has already began to take form, based on specific and interrelated innovations: the deepening of democratic institutions, which is achieved through the Constitutional Amendment, the reinforcement of the protection network for social cohesion, the masses, and working people, as well as the settlement of national issues that have been stagnant for years in a nationally beneficial manner. On our side, we will continue to stand by society with honesty and I am certain that, when the time comes, the people will judge based on our achievements and our plan for the following day.

Will we proceed with the agreement for the F-16 upgrade with the Americans? What will happen with regard to the offsets for the Hellenic Aerospace Industry?

The matter of this particular modification you are referring to is not the main one in the whole matter of the upgrade of the Hellenic Air Force's aircraft and the reinforcement of the domestic defence industry at the same time. The F-16 upgrade is underway. This procedure will not only bring operational benefits, since we will possess the most modern and advanced version of these fighters, but the Hellenic Defence Industry will be reinforced as well, a fact that will increase the percentage of Greek added value, as well as the benefits in terms of know-how. The whole matter is in progress and its implementation is expected to start soon.