Defence Minister Evangelos Venizelos delivered a speech at the Hellenic Parliament in a special session on foreign policy and national defence on January 24, 2011. Here follow from his speech:
On Greek Foreign Policy
«There is a fundamental and uppermost prerequisite for practising foreign policy: Forging and respecting national unity and creating a solid internal front. I don’t just speak about consensus. I'm talking about a commitment of an historical nature. This means that we need to show to Greek society as a whole, a sense of shared responsibility and common fate. It also means that we should not invent and artificially exaggerate what are basically non-existent differences».
On the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ)
«Everybody understands that in theory, a Continental Shelf can exist without an Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) but there can be no EEZ without a Continental Shelf. Why? Because speaking primarily in theoretical terms, the Continental Shelf, not in the Aegean or the Eastern Mediterranean region but in other geographical areas, may potentially have a much greater extent than the EEZ.
In the Continental Shelf there is a geological past that allows for the formulation of legally groundless arguments. On the other hand, the EEZ indeed has no geological past and hence when we talk about defining maritime zones, in reality any baseless and geologically oriented, argument that could be made is void.
Of course we always talk about respecting the International Law of the Sea. Of course we always talk about a process of demarcation through the International Court of Justice in The Hague».
«Because the Greek Government managed the most critical stages, such as that of Greece’s ratification of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, it has an historical sense and knowledge of those issues».
On sovereignty in times of fiscal hardship
«A second principle that must guide Greece’s policy on those matters is the need to defend national sovereignty through the simple and supreme concept of “territorial sovereignty”, especially at a time like this, a period when the sovereignty of even the largest and mightiest countries in the world, such as the United States, is contested, a period during which Greece is subjected to obvious limitations of its fiscal sovereignty.
When one feels they are financially and fiscally week they must send a message abroad that their ability, their will to defend their country’s national sovereignty -its sovereign rights and powers given to it in accordance with decisions based on International Law or decisions by international organizations- is not bent.
This is our primary mission, the primary operational task of Greece’s Armed Forces which operate as a lever for supporting the country’s foreign policy. The Armed Forces’ basic mission is precisely to provide to the Greek people the sense of security and to send abroad –especially within our own region- the message that an intact and insurmountable core exists and that this [notion] establishes the meaning of our national dignity and national power.
In order to achieve this, we need to have a discreet, insightful and unbiased understanding of the balance of forces, to know precisely what the international and regional balance of power is. Let’s always keep that in mind. That’s very useful when carrying out defence procurement policies. A dangerous conflict, both within the political personnel and in public opinion, has prevailed. Nobody wants defence expenditures that, by definition, they see as suspect or unnecessary».
«On the other hand, nobody wants to disturb, even at a minimum degree, the balance of forces in the Aegean Sea and the Eastern Mediterranean region. You know it is very hard to achieve either or both of those [aims]».
On Turkish violations of air space and sea
«It is very important to say that the Air Force daily faces –without bending in any way- any violation of air traffic rules, any breach of Greek airspace, let alone any Turkish aircraft over flight -without diplomatic license- over the Greek territory, any engagement of an area for exercises without permission by the [Hellenic] Civil Aviation Authority. We carry out the correct classification of Turkish aircraft. The fact that there has been a dramatic reduction of reports of incidents in the last year, in 2010, is attributed to the behaviour of those -the other side- who violate the rules or the national airspace, and not to abatement on our part. And of course, it is [also] attributed to the modernization of weapons and aviation tactics.
Indeed there is an increase in non-innocent passages by Turkish warships through Greek territorial waters. This is something that concerns Greece and we engage our counterparts on the other side for that, either because the rules on innocent passage have been infringed or because the rules regarding the sea passage have been violated. Of course, Greece tries to be consistent in keeping with the Confidence Building Measures, but we don’t want this to be one-sided. Greece simply wishes for the application in the Aegean Sea and the Eastern Mediterranean region of what is the norm in all other NATO and European Union areas: for joint NATO and European practices to be applied in the Aegean Sea and the Eastern Mediterranean region. This is the golden rule for both the Confidence Building Measures and for another issue, that is not only highly topical but is also related to the implementation of the new NATO command structure and to operational control and exercise planning issues in the Aegean Sea and the Eastern Mediterranean region: we don’t want [to see] any Aegean Sea and Eastern Mediterranean region oddities. We want for the generic rules to apply, for the same practices to apply and to not have any differentiation whatsoever».
On Greek participation in NATO operations
«Indeed, we do participate in large NATO exercises beyond the Article 5 area of responsibility. Why is Greece present in Afghanistan and in the Horn of Africa? Primarily because it ensures this way a favourable balance of power in the Aegean Sea and the Eastern Mediterranean region. Greece is present there along with many more counties beyond NATO, along with 45 countries, along with the Russian Federation which collaborates in issues of strategic importance such as NATO’s missile defence. Were we not present there, in reality we would be harming, potentially, the regional balance of power and the protection of our own sovereign rights in the Aegean Sea and the Eastern Mediterranean region because there is a reflective influence that’s obvious and which we must monitor. This is how Greece deals with the issue of its participation in the EU’s Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP)».
On bilateral relations and procurements
«This is also how we handle our bilateral relations with Russia, with France and Israel: autonomously and not based on addictive reflexes just because the bilateral relations of those aforementioned countries with some other countries in the region are different. And we do honour the signatures of the Greek governments, because there is a continuity of the Greek state.
But how do we organize our priorities in regards to defence procurement? Under Parliamentary oversight, processing a new force structure with a detailed study for incorporating previous Armed Forces procurements and of course in total transparency, within a fiscal framework which is, in any case, a crucial parameter for any country, even the most rich and powerful one. There is no country in the world that does not take into consideration its fiscal situation when exercising its defence policy.
But nobody should worry. We have clear and honest relations with all the countries which we formulate bilateral defence relations with. I am particularly referring to Russia, France and Israel.
Through this [process] a developmental dividend is being created because, I repeat, we as Ministry of Defence contributed to deficit reduction in 2010 by € 1.6 billion through a proper management of [armament] payments and deliveries. Our contribution is increased by another € 500 million in 2011, without any abatement in our operational status».
On Greek-Turkish relations
«We are dealing with issues with a strategic collectedness. We don’t attach to any incident neither a larger nor a smaller dimension. However, our reactions are not semantic, random or coincidental. They are part of an integrated strategy and design. We do know what the regional contradiction is. We want a rapprochement with Turkey that will reduce tension in the area and make it a region of peace, security and prosperity. We want to promote Turkey’s European perspective. On the other hand we do realise that tension, a formally declared threat from the Grand Turkish National Assembly derives from there. That’s the challenge: To successfully manage this apparent contradiction».
On Greece’s sense of defence
«That is why it is very important to believe in the principles of the national defence and security policy that is based on International Law, on the respect for human rights, on the need to respect present borders, on the need to contribute in peace and stability with the outmost criterion always being our national sovereignty, our sovereign rights. So it makes sense to say that Greece’s military doctrine is defensive and deterrent because Greece does not want to escalate or produce artificial or technical crises, but wants to face problems at the core and take a step forward. Otherwise, Greece will always chase its tail without a real and historical result for the country being produced.
Presently, at a period of crisis, gloom and pessimism we must contribute to national uprising, to emphasise what unites us, to highlight a national strategy that is already there and that we can use. And the Government, on its part, does everything it can and everything it must do and I believe that this will be a positive legacy for this very tough and barren period that not only our country but the whole world is going through».
On the role of the Greek Armed Forces
«The Armed Forces have the actual operational ability to defend Greece’s territorial integrity and national sovereignty. We must believe that! It’s not a rhetorical statement. It’s the country’s actual capacity, it’s the core of our national strength. All political spectrums, the Greek people, all of society must embrace, trust, respect and support the country’s Armed Forces».