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Hellenic Republic Ministry of National Defence

Interview of the Alternate Minister of National Defence Panos Rigas to the Kontranews Newspaper

The Alternate Minister of National Defence Panos Rigas, in an interview he gave to the Sunday Kontranews newspaper, on 09/06/2019 and to the journalist Christos Kymbizis, mentioned the following:

What will be your arguments with which you will try to convince the people who did not vote for you in the European Parliament Elections?

It is not just about one argument or the other. It is about the promotion of the real and dominant stakes of the coming elections, which have to do with the country and society continuing on the path of recovery from the severe crisis or whether they will return to the past, led by those who caused the disaster in the first place. Our approach with the people is not an issue of an election campaign, but a relation of constant feedback and interaction. We have received the message of the European ballot and we respond to it, addressing the citizens with sincerity and putting forth the real dilemma of the national ballot.

Citizens’ discontent because of their problems is also our discontent, it is a discontent against a situation which we did not cause but which we tried to change, something which we managed to do with varying degrees of success. The above must be established by the people, through their own experiences, and we must help them express their conviction through a political act. It is a fact that under the burden of the great obligations, we left unoccupied territory, we left a gap. We can now, after the great expansion preceding the elections, fill that gap. Any remaining discontent must not lead to self-destruction. Even if we did not manage to become the ones we wanted, we are still here and we will continue to be for a long time!

What are the causes of SYRIZA’s defeat? Do you believe that you can turn things around?

First of all, there should be no misconceptions. We should not consider the European and national elections as one and the same thing. The result of the European ballot has it own characteristics, being a more relaxed voting procedure, as can be concluded from the national and international experience, with a recorded intense strain, which mainly has to do with the financial middle class. I say once more, we receive the message, we take it under consideration and we move forward. The Left, SYRIZA has an inherent capability of turning things around. We took office setting aside stereotypes and preconceptions about who has the right to govern this land, due to family traditions. We managed a historically critical situation, disproving all predictions, but mainly reversing the course to disaster.

So, we can reverse the European electoral result. Our main concern is twofold and pertains to the re-approach of voters who supported smaller parties in the European Parliament Elections and also to the activation of all those people who had supported SYRIZA back in 2015 and who did not vote during the European Parliament Elections. Re-approach of all those fellow citizens who made a great effort these last ten years and who are exhausted, now that we are finally in the clear. These citizens must compare political programmes, compare policies, detect the coming threat, draw strength from the positive work which was conducted and support those who did it, so that the effort may continue, now that it bears fruit. They mainly must judge by comparing the past to the present, them and us.

Panos Skourletis, the party’s Secretary, has recently been strongly criticised because he did not seek the Centre’s approach and expansion of your municipal parties. What is you opinion?

Anyone can be criticised by anybody, especially when those criticised hold positions of accountability. Furthermore, the exercised criticism may be part of a necessary soul-searching and in any case “Perfect is the enemy of good”. Our presence in the field of self-government did not correspond to the wider impact caused by SYRIZA. Apparently there were some weak points and mistakes were made, the acknowledgement of which does not constitute part of a punitive procedure, but of a procedure of course correction, much more in the current conditions with the battle for the national elections underway. It is a fact that the front against SYRIZA worked both at the municipal and regional level, which has been established, either officially or unofficially, by almost all the other parties, each prompted by its own party interests. At the same time, the strategy of breaking the vote down into multiple poles with the same conservative ideology, had the desired effect, giving at the same time the impression that there are many different electoral choices. I do not believe that the issue is to approach or not the municipal parties of the Centre, but to deal with a lack in society’s approach.

What actually happened with the resignation of Lieutenant General Zachariadis? The New Democracy party made mention of secret discussions with Turkey…

The New Democracy party, blinded by its oppositional wrath and characterised by arrogance, does not hesitate to use sensitive national matters for its own campaign purposes. No secret discussion was made, unless if the New Democracy party believes that intergovernmental meetings should be conducted under the rules governing TV shows. The Greco-Turkish contacts regarding the Confidence Building Measures are an organised procedure, about measures for the consolidation of trust between the two countries and the avoidance of events which none of the two sides desires. In no case do they constitute a Greco-Turkish negotiation on Greece’s sovereign rights.

We daily read about dozens of air space violations committed by the Turkish. What are you doing to do in order to prevent this phenomenon? Is there a danger of an accident or incident occurring?

Turkish violating stance in the Aegean constitutes a consolidated tactic with highs and lows, against which our country, steadily and lastingly, responds with composure and decisiveness. The Hellenic Armed Forces, characterised by a high degree of readiness and staffed with personnel of high morale, constitute the spearhead of our deterrent strategy and dissuade any evil designs or even plain thoughts, against our national territory and sovereign rights. We move and respond within this context, being a force of peace and stability in the wider region. Especially concerning the dangers of an accident or hot incident, the only way to deter them is through composure and decisiveness with simultaneous effort of consolidating trust with the neighbouring country.