Speech by the Minister of National Defence Mr. Panos Panagiotopoulos during the handover ceremony of the Ministry of National Defence.
P. PANAGIOTOPOULOS: Dear Minister,
Ladies and Gentlemen.
You are present here today, the top of the Hellenic Armed Forces leadership.
I would like to thank you for the welcome we received today and to express some thoughts that outline the self-evident for all of us.
We, the new political leadership, assume duties as political leadership in the Ministry of National Defence during an extremely critical circumstance for our country. We are possibly experiencing Greece’s most critical period in the past 100 years.
As you know, few days ago the Hellenic people voted for the second time, at the elections of June 17th, from the ballots of which a very clear message emerged: that the broader political powers of the country should cooperate, leaving behind their party differences, intolerances or, if I may, the aspirations that petty politics had in the past and, with Antonis Samaras at the post of Prime Minister, to strive and succeed in leading the country out of this crisis.
We have no illusions. This course will not be easy. The fairies with the magic wand are left behind, in our childhood’s fairytales. This course will be difficult. We will carve the steps, day by day, on a hardly accessed and uphill rock.
However, what is important is to stop the country’s free-fall, to stabilise the conditions and to place the country once more to the course of growth; with gasping, on an uphill road, with difficulties, yet we will climb it, step by step, carving the steps, working our way to the glade on the peak.
We will be able to show to the Greek people this glade; we shall see again the starry sky, for the last years we are in the middle of a dark forest and can no longer discern the sky and the stars.
I just heard with great attention my dear friend, the outgoing caretaker Minister, Mister Fragkoulis Fragkos. I expressed to him yesterday, and I would like to repeat it today in public, the best of my feelings, not only for his career in the Hellenic Armed Forces, his successful and great contribution, but mostly his morale, his spirit, his faith and devotion to his duty for the country.
You might wonder, isn’t this self-evident in the field we are today? Certainly; however, at a time when the country is experiencing this crisis, we need more than the self-evident. We need much more.
For a long time now, the current Prime Minister Antonis Samaras and all of us, we have underlined that our basic objective must be the financial crisis. This deep financial crisis which has presently worn down Greece should not pervade into the Armed Forces, nor turn into a crisis of national sovereignty and national security for this country.
Please allow me to have a moderate optimism as far as economy is concerned. With persistence, effort, national unity, togetherness, the Hellenic people, altogether, we will be able to go up the hill, we will rebuild Greek economy into a very important, productive and competitive one, we shall make the smile return on the Hellenic people’s faces, notwithstanding the difficulties, the efforts.
On one condition, that the country will not experience a wound at the level of national sovereignty and national security. Because these are wounds difficult to heal.
Therefore, as of today, we are loaded with this great mission. To make sure that the financial crisis will not become a crisis of national sovereignty and security.
To ensure thereupon and, allow me to say, to enforce the country’s deterrence power, wherever needed. In order for us to establish peace, stability, security, good neighbouring relations, peaceful coexistence, and cooperation, indefinitely in our region.
Of course, for all this, support must be offered from the State; spare parts, fuel, armaments. Yet, may I say that the first and foremost that will be needed is spirit and morale. And I believe that the leadership –before all– and the men and women in the Armed Forces have proven that they have, and that they will keep on having, this spirit and morale.
Disengaging this spirit, this morale, the decisiveness for the defence of the country’s national sovereignty and security, disengaging it from any kind of justified complaints they might have, and they do have; I know that because this is not my first time here, I know about the cuts in their salaries and earnings.
I would like to thank the Prime Minister and President the ‘Nea Demokratia’ Party, for the initiative he took forming the present Government of national salvation and assigning me with the duties of Minister of National Defence, along with the Deputy Ministers, accomplished Chiefs coming from the Armed Forces, misters Panayiotis Karambelas and Dimitris Elefsiniotis.
I would also like to thank the President of the ‘PASOK’ party, Vaggelis Venizelos and the President of the ‘Demokratiki Aristera’ party for the trust they have shown in me and in the two Deputy Ministers, in the new political leadership of the Ministry of National Defence.
I would like to straighten out from the beginning that my aim is to strictly abide by the right operation, the correct structures and the proper leadership in all the services and for all the fields supervised by the Ministry of National Defence.
I would like to assure you that I will be your friend and ally at all your daily, hard and conscientious efforts to succeed in and guarantee for all the issues aforementioned.
My aim is that no one will be wronged. And I do not say that simply because this is a Government of broader political and parliamentary support, a Government for Greece’s national salvation, but also because I personally believe, being in the political party of ‘Nea Demokratia’ since I was 17.5 years old –and I consider that an honour– that when someone is the political leader of the country’s Armed Forces, before entering the Ministry, he should leave his political identity outside, he must embrace everyone, irrespective of ideological, political or party provenance. And, along with them, he will strive, he will strain for what is best for the Armed Forces, for what is best for the country.
The Hellenic people, and I mean all of us, since the Armed Forces are a special part of the Hellenic people, have already done and keep on doing extreme sacrifices in order to offer to the Armed Forces the necessary means, the necessary equipment, the necessary supplies so as we will be able to complete the task assigned to us by the Constitution, by the Democratic regime, by the Nation.
Our duty is to fulfil this mission.
I would like to thank the outgoing Minister, my friend, mister Fragkos, for all that he has offered during his long career. I might slightly discontent him by saying that I will not let him take a vacation, I will kindly ask him to be close to us in this course, and we will find the formula to have him close to us during this course, because I believe that with his experience, his knowledge and his morale, he still has a lot to offer.
I would like to ask of you to carry on with even greater ardour and decisiveness, in the task assigned to us by the Hellenic people.
Thank you very much. May God give us guidance and courage. The best of strength and good luck to us all.
Please allow me mister Minister, as it is customary, to honour your presence here at the political leadership of the Ministry of National Defence which, whereas short in duration, it was great in contribution.
F. FRAGKOS: Mister Minister, I am very pleased to receive this plate from your hands. Be sure that the military, even when they pass on, they have the Hellenic flag in their hearts.
P. PANAGIOTOPOULOS: All the best. Good luck to all of us.