The Minister of National Defence Nikolaos Panagiotopoulos, accompanied by the Chief of HNDGS General Christos Christodoulou and the Chief of HAGS Lieutenant General Georgios Kambas, visited the Higher Military Command of Interior and Islands, where he was received by the Commander of the Higher Military Command of Interior and Islands Lieutenant General Georgios Dimitropoulos.
Lieutenant General (ret) Nikolaos Manolakos, a New Democracy MP from the 1st Electoral District of Piraeus and former Commander of the Higher Military Command of Interior and Islands also attended the visit.
During his visit, the Minister of National Defence Nikolaos Panagiotopoulos communicated through video call with the Surveillance Outposts of Panagia and Farmakonisi. He also talked with the Commanders of all the Formations and the local Higher National Guard Battalions Commands.
The Minister of National Defence, while addressing the personnel of the Higher Military Command of Interior and Islands, stated the following:
“Dear Members of the Armed Forces,
I am particularly glad to be here and I am proud to stand among you to closely observe how this long line of communication works, beginning from this point, the Higher Military Command of Interior and Islands and reaching the last outpost at the end of the Aegean.
I will tell you a story. In 2010, if I remember correctly, I was invited to the great parade of the Greek Expatriates in New York. The most interesting part of this parade is the participation of a detachment from the Presidential Guard, the Evzones, who march and are literally adored by the Greek Expatriates. So, that night after the parade, a great event took place, in honour of the Greek Expatriates, with 1500 guests, at a central location in Astoria–New York. During the opening addresses, a Greek-American local candidate senator took the floor and expressed his fear and great concern that the situation in Greece is very bad – you remember that back in 2010 the troubles had begun for us – and he was afraid that Turkey “will occupy one or two islands” and he also said: “what will happen?” and “we are very worried”.
I exchanged looks with a colleague, an MP of the Hellenic Parliament, who was with me at this mission. He nodded asking me to respond to these comments. And I simply said – because I saw the lads there, the Evzones and their Commander being upset because of these comments – addressing of course the Greek-American candidate senator: “I understand that in the context of your election campaign’s needs you need to establish a presence and make intense statements, like those you made earlier. However, it was a mistake. A great mistake. And I am coming from the Hellenic Parliament as its representative, but also as someone who fully understands what the situation in Greece is. Your concerns are unfounded because none of what you mentioned will happen nor will anyone dare to even make the effort, since everyone understands and especially our neighbours, what awaits them if they dare to try”.
So, that was what I said. At that point, as if they waited for a long time to do it, everyone in the venue started exulting, but that which particularly satisfied me was that those lads, the detachment of the Presidential Guard, came one after the other to congratulate me. This is how I felt then and I still feel this way now, even more intensely.
Look, the Aegean is a difficult theatre of operations. It is a sea, but a sea with borders. There is no other view, it is a sea with borders. And the borders of the Aegean are an imaginary wall with towers. These towers are the islands. The towers where the safeguarding of this Aegean wall is deployed are the small and large islands. That is were you stand. You are the guardians on the walls. And while you are aware of your sacred mission, I am sure that you already implement what I am about to say, the only guideline which I have to give you, is to operate first of all with professionalism. Everyone in this country must start being a bit more professional in his/her endeavours.
I already know that the members of the Armed Forces have a higher level of professionalism than the personnel of all the other services and that is how it should be. Professionalism means focus, devotion, continuous training and constant effort for individual and group improvement in everything we do. Finally, professionalism means making a great effort to acquire an even higher degree of readiness.
This is already happening, from what I know and as I can conclude everyday, despite all the problems which you comprehend.
We, the political leadership, are here to cooperate with the military leadership in order to solve existing problems. I cannot guarantee that we will solve everything, but I can guarantee that we will solve several of them and there is a good chance that we will solve most of them.
In any case, I can also guarantee that the greatest possible effort will be made, because we understand that we have to be by your side and we are consciously supporting you, so that you can do your job professionally. So, professionalism is one element. The other element is being aware and feel the mission. The mission which you have undertaken with patriotic sentiment and a sense of duty and urgency is to materialise what we describe as the deterrent force of our country’s Armed Forces. Combativeness, readiness, deterrent force.
Thanks to you, those who have malevolent plans for our homeland, will have to give the matter a very serious consideration and in the end they will probably decide not to move on. With all these problems that we are aware of, as I said earlier. Because at the end of the day, it is not just about the condition of the materials and the weaponry, for which we are doing our best now and in the future, but also about the quality of the personnel, which begins from preparation, training and devotion, but finally reaches deep into the human soul. I always had the feeling that the country’s Armed Forces consist of members with soul, patriotic sentiment and absolute awareness of their mission’s significance.
With these words – and I hope that my speech wasn’t too long – I will urge you to continue doing your job. We will do our best, always in cooperation with the rest of the political leadership and the military one, to help you do it in the best possible way.
We have many things to consider. The briefing has been thus far quite intense, since day one. I have a very comprehensive picture of the situation which becomes fuller day by day and the only thing of which I can assure you is that as a soldier of Greece, as I proclaimed myself when I took office, I stand by your side along with the political leadership and the Prime Minister, who visited us to appraise the situation and be aware of how we are going to move on, all together, to improve the situation in all levels.
So, we fall in line with you and your effort. You may be the guardians on the edge of the Aegean, but your power extents to this location. The Aegean is not just a sea with borders, as I said earlier, but Greece’s vital space. The strategic depth of this country is the reason why it has endured so much, but also overcame so many more, it has the depth and the vital space to maintain its powerful presence, which transmits signals of stability, prudence and solemnity in the wider region.
Even our most powerful allies comprehend that we are the ones on whom they must invest and back, so that our region will become one of peace and stability, to overcome any instabilities. We are aware of the instabilities, the neighbours’ provocative stance, however this stance, no matter how provocative it becomes, will not eliminate the fact that there are “red lines”, as you and we know very well. When the “red lines” are nearly crossed, we are also here to transmit a powerful message of composure but also of decisiveness, deliberation and mettle. This is the country’s deterrent force and you one of the basic gears of this deterrent force’s manifestation.
We thank you once more and me personally. We are proud of what you are doing. We stand by your side and our mission is from now on to prove that with deeds.
I wish you, your families and your loved ones all the best. And we are actively here, by your side”.