The Alternate Minister of National Defence, Panagiotis Rigas, in an interview with the "NEA SELIDA" newspaper (16/09/2018) to the journalist Giannis Koroneos, made the following statements:
The Prime Minister's recent announcements in the Thessaloniki International Fair, totalling €3.5 bn in four years, were criticised by the opposition as "mere pre-election promises". Are the society support measures promises in view of the elections?
The opposition, particularly New Democracy, is in a serious strategic impasse, since reality disproved all its catastrophic predictions. Today, without any other narrative left, it accuses the government of pre-election promises, as well as of imposing a fourth MoU on the country. The truth is that there is neither a fourth MoU, nor pre-election promises. The country has finally put the MoU and guardianship years behind it and the Prime Minister's announcements from the Thessaloniki International Fair constitute a realistic, costed, and targeted programme. It includes interventions of a certain character, within our abilities, based on society's needs, which should now start to see the rewards and the relief after its great sacrifices in its everyday life. So we proceed to the implementation of structural reforms to rebuild the Greek economy, starting by supporting the working class, restoring collective agreements, and increasing the minimum salary.
The country has entered a long pre-election period. Polls show a clear advantage for New Democracy. In the remaining time (and I'd like your estimate on how much that is), will SYRIZA be able to reverse the climate?
Since 2010, when the country got into the eight-year long MoU regime adventure, following the criminal handling of matters by New Democracy and PASOK, the SYRIZA-led government has already been the longest-running and the one with the greatest social consent. The Greek people showed patience and maturity, contrary to Mr. Mitsotakis who, right after becoming president of New Democracy, started calling for elections every week. Now that Greece regains its ability to exercise independent economic policy, we, as SYRIZA, present a coherent and structured plan focused on society, spanning over four years. New Democracy, when there is nothing else in the dictionary to call the Prime Minister, talks about tens of thousands of layoffs and a Pinochet-style insurance system. They said it, not us. After the end of this government's four year term, in accordance with the Constitution, Mr. Mitsotakis' prophecy for an election will be fulfilled and the Greek people will make their assessment. I think that a reversal of the polls will be a surprise to no one.
As secretary of SYRIZA, until recently, you are well aware of the situation in the party. Is the party apparatus ready to respond to the requirements of the following months and the many elections after almost 3.5 years of government attrition and the loss of officials?
The past 3.5 years were definitely a difficult period for the party. We were called to deal with a dual loss of officials, on one hand, due to the walk-out of part of our party's officials and, on the other hand, due to the participation of a great number of officials to the government. At the same time, we were called to implement an economic programme with many rough edges which, and this is the most important part, was not ours. Through the collective efforts, unity, and collegiality of all officials and members, we achieved, despite the adversities, to keep SYRIZA's ties with society and the groups we represent alive. The end of the MoU regime and the accomplishment of a historic goal for the government now afford the ability to implement a policy of fair growth, radical democratic changes, and social justice. I am certain that the entire party apparatus will be ready and effective during the great and critical struggles ahead.
You are now in the Ministry of National Defence. The Prime Minister had a pleasant surprise for the Armed Forces personnel, announcing the payment of the rest of the retroactive compensation to them. I'd like your comment on the decision and on how it will be paid.
From the first moment in office I stated in public that the payment of the retroactive compensation to the Armed Forces personnel was part of a comprehensive and thought-out plan of the government's financial staff for the first post-MoU period. The implementation of the Council of State's judgment concerning the Armed and Security Forces personnel, as well as the judiciary and the academics, is part of the actions we can now take, free from close economic guardianship. How exactly is something to be announced soon. The Prime Minister himself announced in public that the process will start by the end of the year.
The men and women of the Armed Forces have provided and still provide social work in addition to protecting the country, and this became evident during the crisis. What must be done in order to maintain this character now that we return to "normal"?
Particularly during the crisis, the Armed Forces carried out consistently, sufficiently, and effectively their social mission, whenever and wherever it was required. The handling of the migration/refugee issue is a case in point. At the same time, the contribution in areas such as health, with the presence of military doctors in remote areas, as well as in case of natural disaster, is critical. We are well aware that our personnel, our Officers, NCO's, and enlisted soldiers, are our great comparative advantage, our real force multiplier. In order to maintain the social character of the Armed Forces and even enhance it, we must ensure even more that their contribution to society is beneficial to all: the country, society, as well as the people of the Armed Forces themselves.