The two-day Meeting at the level of NATO Defence Ministers was held in Brussels; the Minister of National Defence Mr. Nikolaos Panagiotopoulos participated in the meeting.
Regarding Syria’s issue, the Minister of National Defence highlighted the fact that a solution cannot be reached via a military approach. He expressed his concern on the implications the unilateral Turkish invasion in Syria will have on the region’s stability, the aggravation of the humanitarian crisis and the increase of migratory flows from Turkey towards Greece and Europe. Mr. Panagiotopoulos underlined that massive migratory flows are a security challenge, not only for Greece, but for the entire Alliance, asking the Alliance to enhance its naval activity in the Aegean Sea.
Concerning the Alliance’s allocation of defence expenditure, he pointed out that Greece, despite the existing financial restrictions, keeps on investing in Defence more than 2% of its GDP, thus proving that it is a reliable and consistent Ally.
The Greek Minister, both in the plenary and in the bilateral meetings he had with his counterparts, stated that our country invests in defence capabilities since it fully apprehends the role it has been called to play in the Alliance’s Defence and Security, due to its geostrategic position; Greece’s critical role to the stability of NATO’s South-East flank is also proved by the recent signing of the updated Defence Cooperation Agreement with the United States, in Athens.
Regarding the security challenges emanating from the South, Mr. Panagiotopoulos highlighted that the Alliance should actively safeguard the principle of “indivisible security”, therefore NATO’s resources and operational planning should equally cover the East and the South flank.
At bilateral level, the Minister of National Defence met with his counterparts from Germany Ms. Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, from the US Dr. Mark Esper, from Italy Mr. Lorenzo Guerini, from Croatia Mr. Damir Krstičević, from Portugal Mr. João Gomes Cravinho, from Turkey Mr. Hulusi Akar, and from North Macedonia Ms. Radmila Sekerinska. The Greek Minister discussed on the security and stability challenges in the Southern Mediterranean and the broader region with the Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR), General Tod Wolters.
Following the conclusion of the NATO Defence Ministers Meeting, the Minister of National Defence Mr. Nikolaos Panagiotopoulos made the following statement:
“During the two past days, the Greek side called to the attention of our Allies the following:
First of all, the migratory flows are a great security challenge, not only for our country, but for the entire Alliance as well.
Secondly, as far as fair burden-sharing is concerned, Greece carries on investing more than 2% of its GDP in Defence, despite the existing financial restrictions. We have done it in the past, we shall carry on doing it, not only because this is our obligation in NATO framework, but also because it is a necessity for our country, so that it has effective Armed Forces.
Thirdly, in view of the security challenges: we have emphasized the issue of a possible infiltration of ISIS terrorists, by means of migratory flows, which is also troubling other Allies as well. We agreed that NATO must actively safeguard the indivisibility of security.
Considering Syria’s issue, our firm stance if that a solution cannot be reached via a military approach, whereas the unilateral Turkish invasion in Syria aggravates the humanitarian crisis as well.
At a meeting I had with my Turk counterpart Mr. Hulusi Akar, it was agreed that we should keep an open channel for our communication, as well as that the dialogue on Confidence Building Measures should resume; provided, of course, that certain conditions are met!
I could say that, firstly, this is a positive effect, however we cannot take one step forward, with CBMs, and two steps back, with the general tension in the area, which is mostly Turkey’s responsibility; in this way, CBMs become pointless and unproductive, basically a dead letter.
What we need to do is show positive attitude, to establish more favorable conditions in the broader region; and I really hope that this will also be demonstrated by the Turkish side as well.
Lastly, in a meeting I had with my counterpart from the Republic of North Macedonia Radmila Sekerinska, matters of cooperation at bilateral level in NATO context, as well as the security and stability challenges in East Mediterranean, were discussed.”