The Minister of National Defence, Mr. Nikolaos Panagiotopoulos, accompanied by the Chief of Hellenic National Defence General Staff, General (HAF) Christos Christodoulou, and the Chief of Hellenic Navy General Staff, Vice Admiral Nikolaos Tsounis HN, visited the Fleet Headquarters in Salamis Naval Base, where he was welcomed by the Commander in Chief of the Hellenic Fleet, Vice Admiral Stylianos Petrakis HN.
The visit was also attended by the Deputy Minister of National Defence, Mr. Alkiviadis Stefanis.
The Minister of National Defence visited Gunboat "AITTITOS" and Submarine "PANANIKOLIS", and had a teleconference with the Fleet Headquarters Operations Centre.
During his visit to the Fleet Headquarters, the Minister of National Defence gave the following address:
"There is a lot of glory and honour here. You can feel it as you arrive at the Naval Base and, as I said at the briefing and the subsequent discussion, for me nothing causes greater awe than watching elements of the Armed Forces set off, either from the Air Force or the Army, the awe caused when one sees the Fleet, even some ships of the Fleet, depart. It is the feeling of a calm, but mighty force deploying for battle, for training.
But this tremendous power of the single combat unit that is a warship, let alone the entire Fleet, really pierces one's very soul – that's what happened to me – you realise all that tremendous power that sets sail, calm, silent, but also determined and mighty, to protect the interests, the country's sovereign rights in its seas, also projecting the country's power, both in the Aegean, as well as in the broader East Mediterranean region.
So, what the Hellenic Navy and the other Services send out, we must not only maintain, but also enhance, so that the projection of deterrent power is at the best level possible, with all the effects this has for our country.
Things are of course not ideal. From the first moment in office, without any intent to pin blame, this is not our concern, we are concerned about the way forward, everything else is only food for political debate and we leave this behind, we can't have a political debate on matters concerning the Armed Forces, we have stated in every way possible and clearly that our mission from this point onwards is to do whatever we can to help you, the Armed Forces, be at the best level possible to carry out your mission to the fullest. We rallied around this mission, I think it is a sacred mission, and it couldn't have been otherwise, and consequently we started an intensive briefing process by the Staff, the Headquarters and the briefings we have during the visits to Headquarters and then to combat units everywhere, wherever we can, to be briefed and understand the current situation. To be briefed on all deficiencies, on all problems, and at the same time all challenges and prospects.
This was our strategy. There was a first pretty intensive round of briefings, which resulted in inviting the Prime Minister to visit us at the Ministry to become aware of the current situation, to become part of our efforts, an ally, we had no problem with this, and propose the way forward. What the problems are, the deficiencies, the needs and, consequently, on what basis we should carry out our planning, short-, medium-, and long-term. Of course, in harmonious cooperation and according to the recommendations of the Leadership of the Armed Forces, it couldn't have been otherwise.
That's how we will move forward. The effort to maintain a high level of operational readiness for the entire Armed Forces is constant, continuous. I think it has always been the main strategic goal of every government, I can't believe it could have been otherwise, but now it must be intensified. It must become more intensive, more visible to the Officers, and more effective. Based on the way in which the Prime Minister functions since day one, thus setting the tone, we have set goals for time schedules, strategic objectives, tactical choices and, in any case, a very tight budget, so that we can do the work that will bring us from the planning to the results, because that's how we are all evaluated. So, based on this modus operandi, I think we already follow these plans.
So, we come close to you, we have has a very constructive discussion. We listened to the problems mentioned by the Commander in Chief. Rest assured that these were also clear from the discussions we had with the Chief of General Staff, repeatedly, it is an ongoing process. I understand that a Surface Unit, a ship, must be seaworthy, but this is not enough when certain systems don't work at peak efficiency. In order to be complete and, consequently, effective, mighty and frightening to the enemy – a threat that must also be felt by the others, not just the threat we feel – such a unit must have all its systems operational, not just be seaworthy or fast. That's the goal towards which we work, there are many matters that have been brought to our attention, we will do it with you, there is no other way.
But we are fully aware of where we are and where we want to go. And we will try to do it, as I said, quickly and intensively, because I and the Deputy Minister, the political leadership of the Armed Forces, are there to do work and help you do your job better, because when you can you do your job better, the country is safe and the Greeks can feel safe and it is very important, during these difficult times, that they feel safe.
We will do our part. We will say what we must to international actors. We met with all of them and we will meet even more. We will bring our message home to powerful allies and everyone else. We do not mince words.
The Deputy Minister and the Chief here can attest to this. We just do it in the way we should do it and the main message we convey is that we are certainly concerned, but not afraid. We are not afraid because we are backed by the power of our Armed Forces. We stay alert, we can't do otherwise, we do not lower our guard, but we are not afraid. But we must work more. We must enhance capabilities. We must help you operate with systems in an excellent operational condition. Wear at sea occurs obviously, as we all know, much faster than anywhere else, in any other element. This is taken into consideration. We have the proposals of the competent instruments. We will move forward based on these. We will set priorities, obviously, because prioritisation is very important, and we will move forward with what we have.
I just want you to know that this is the message we send. We stand beside you. We are the political leadership of the Ministry, but we are here to help you. I will prompt you to act with the eagerness, the spirit, the patriotism, the sense of patriotic duty that comes with your mission, but also with professionalism. As I said before, we must all be professional in whatever we do. And if we all, not just the Officers of the Armed Forces, become a little more professional n this country than we were until now, the results will be so impressive for the country that we won't believe our eyes and we will wonder "how we didn't do it before".
Bless you, stay strong in everything you do. To the navy men, fair winds and following seas. May Saint Nikolaos protect the Navy.
This is very important, because Greece has always been closely connected to the sea. The Greeks are closely connected to the sea. Seamanship and the contact with the sea are in our blood and we will never abandon them, either within the framework of the Navy's peaceful missions or within the framework of a Navy which, when deployed, everyone understands that Greece might be a small country, as someone said recently, but it is also a strong country. You are the projection of this strength and it is our duty to help you do it in the best way possible".