The Minister of National Defence Mr. Panos Panagiotopoulos, addressing the Parliament during the discussion on the Budget, underlined the following:
“Ladies and gentlemen,
The Armed Forces belong to our Nation. They belong to the entire Hellenic People, from whom they derive and whose exceptional part they represent.
It must be an area that will unite us, and not divide us. It is a meeting area for all of us, no matter what our ideological or political starting point may be. For this reason, partisanship, party-centred spirit and petty politics are elements that should stay outside the general overview of the political world towards the Armed Forces, so as to be able to view clearly the national initiatives connected to it. The Armed Forces is a field of offering and devotion to the country, a field characterized by ideals and a code of virtue.
The Hellenic Armed Forces ensure and establish our national security. They guarantee national sovereignty, national independence, national integrity. If such factors are not ensured, economy cannot function no investments can be made, no financial or social activity can subsist, for the benefit of national security is precious, it is a supreme benefit.
Currently, Greece is involved, not on its own responsibility, at an undeclared financial war; a war we must win.
Now is the time of Europe. Until now, the Greek people have made great sacrifices. The last austerity measures and structural changes approved by the Hellenic Parliament few days ago is a historic benchmark which will lead Europe to facing its responsibilities.
The Greek people are not begging. The Greek people are proud, sovereign and dignified. We ask for initiatives taken by the powerful in Europe, and particularly by countries such as Germany, France and more, in order for Europe as a whole, and not only Greece, to overcome its current dead-ends and re-establish its path towards its political and financial union, according to the what the founders of a United Europe had dictate and visualized, among which was a top German politician, the creator of Germany after WW2, Adenauer.
I referred earlier to an extraordinary financial war for which the Ministry of National Defence and the Armed Forces are at the frontline.
The Armed Forces assume a great burden, overwhelming but historic, of the budget cuts assumed by the entire Hellenic People; cuts that were considered necessary for the salvation of the country and the success of the effort for national recovery and reconstruction, that have been assumed by the 3-party Coalition Government headed by the Prime Minister Antonis Samaras and supported by the Leader of the Panhellenic Socialist Movement Evangelos Venizelos and the Leader of the Democratic Left Fotis Kouvelis.
I will not exhaust you by stating numbers. I will just mention that in 2009, the Ministry’s of National Defence budget reached 6.5 billion. In 2012 it will be around 3.715 and in 2013 it will be reduced to 3.3 billion. Huge cuts which did not affect, nor will they affect in the future, the effectiveness, operational readiness and high deterrent capability of this country’s Armed Forces; cuts in operational expenses, armament expenditures and some small cuts to the wages.
We have given a big struggle, great effort has been made and I would like to thank the leadership of the Armed Forces for the very close and efficient cooperation we had, as well as the two Deputy Ministers, for the fact that we have succeeded to keep these cuts at an average level of no more than 7%. At the same time, it is in honour of the military leadership that it has accepted to make an effort with us, in order to keep the cuts for the lower ranks below 5%, and for the higher ranks at a level above 7%, so as to result at an average level of 7%.
As I have already said, the most important thing is that through hard work we have established and we now promote a new structure of the country’s Armed Forces, a structure strictly oriented towards the important strategic goals of the 21st century and the National Defence Doctrine. The necessary cuts for the salvation of the country were based on this new structure, and not on something ambiguous.
However, I can assure you of the Hellenic Armed Forces’ effectiveness, their deterrent capability and their high operational readiness.
Ladies and Gentlemen – I will say this so that it will be heard from the Hellenic Parliament – the men and women serving in the Hellenic Armed Forces deserve a public praise, for they have disconnected any justified complaints or righteous protest they might have, from the necessity to perform their duty, the need to honour the oath they gave taken and to be devoted and consistent to the mission the Constitution of the Hellenic Democratic State has entrusted them with. Besides, they are a part of the Hellenic people and they share their sufferings and pay attention to their problems; and this is in their honour.
Moreover, our children, the brave pilots of the Hellenic Air Force, deserve our recognition, for they are among the best pilots in the world, they successfully complete interceptions when bad neighbours proceed to infringements and violations of our airspace.
The personnel serving in the Hellenic Navy and Army also deserve our recognition, for they give the struggle, either in the sea so as to protect our sovereign rights, or at the frontier line of Evros and our islands, so that the country call feel safe and our people to make this everyday struggle to escape the crisis and get out of the recession.
Big thanks to all the people who are at the rear; base units, maintenance units and support units of all three branches: Army, Navy, Air Force, whose work and contribution are necessary to make the Armed Forces operationally powerful.
I invite you to also consider the great social contribution made by the Armed Forces, the efficient assistance to forest fires, like for example the fires during last summer (island of Chios, Mount Athos etc) as well as – I am going to say that because it is not widely known – the difficulties that many social ranks experience in their everyday life.
Maybe you do not know, ladies and gentlemen, that based on an accord signed with the Minister of Education, professors and teachers in remote areas of our country can now get meals at the Hellenic Armed Forces’ Officers Clubs.
We live in a highly dangerous world characterised by instability and uncertainness. We must go out of recession quickly as far as our fiscal and financial problems are concerned, since the financial crisis and the current fiscal problem cannot characterise Greece and this is something I say to all my contacts and at all the fora I participate in as Minister of National Defence: NATO, European Union, bilateral meetings with the United States, Europe, countries of the Arab world and Israel.
If there is something to characterise Greece, if there is something to be a classic constant for our historic identity, besides the rest – culture, tradition, language – that is that Greece consists a key country for the global security system, due to its geostrategic position, its geopolitical role, its Armed Forces and its people. Thanks to its natural and mineral resources – for example carbohydrates – a program will be developed from the initiatives we will assume on matters concerning the Exclusive Economic Zone.
In the field of defence diplomacy, we develop intense activity at the turbulent area of South-eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East. We believe that by upgrading our relations with Israel, as well as with countries of the Arab world, like Egypt, we will significantly upgrade Greece’s role in the broader region, a region where rapid turnovers and shake-ups occur, and where Greece remains a stable point of reference.
I would also like to tell you that we assume responsibilities for cooperation at the field of defence industry, as well as for amelioration of the bilateral relations with significant allied states, establishing at the same time new friendships and alliances.
I have so many things to say on the task done within the Hellenic Armed Forces, yet the time I am given is not enough.
I will conclude my speech with one thought. This year we celebrate the 100th anniversary since the Balkan Wars. During these wars, Greece managed to double its territory. We freed Macedonia and Thessaloniki. Such accomplishments were made by our own people, by people from the DNA of which we derive.
It is up to us to face the new challenges of the present and the future and turn winners out of this undeclared yet peculiar financial war that has been imposed to us, as long as we keep national unity, national and social cohesion.
With these thoughts, I invite you to give a vote of confidence to the Government, since it is also a vote of confidence to the budget we will be called to submit.
Thank you very much”.