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Hellenic Republic Ministry of National Defence

Address of the Minister of National Defence Evangelos Apostolakis at the Hellenic Parliament During the Talks for the “Ratification of the Protocol for the Accession of the Republic of Northern Macedonia to the North Atlantic Treaty”

Mr President,

Ladies and Gentlemen MPs,

It is an honour to address the plenary session of the Hellenic Parliament for the first time as the Minister of National Defence. 

At the same time however, the responsibility is even greater, especially now that our country is taking an initiative of historical importance, for a future with more stability and cooperation in the region.

And it is with this sense of responsibility that I wish to speak to you.

You are well aware that our country, as the oldest member of NATO and the EU in the wider region, while exercising an active defence diplomacy, has taken proper initiatives and has promoted alliances and synergies, which strive to enhance our role as a pillar of stability, but also an essential energy “actor” in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Balkans.

These initiatives have already been proven fruitful, in the bilateral as well as multilateral and allied context.

And it is essential that our neighbouring country is now acceding to a Balkan zone, not only geographically but also historically and politically, with more homogeneity, common strategic goals, peaceful and developmental perspectives.

Every step towards the de-escalation of tensions in the region is strategically beneficial to us.

Every turbulence and effort to upset the status quo is strategically harmful, especially now that the refugee flows overwhelm the whole Western world and the wealth-producing resources of Middle East and the Southeastern Mediterranean are turned into hotly claimed zones.

Ladies and Gentlemen MPs,

The ratification of the accession protocol of Northern Macedonia to NATO constitutes the natural continuation of the ratification of the Prespes Agreement and it is in the interests of Greece to facilitate the unhindered accession of Northern Macedonia to NATO.

Allow me to paraphrase the well-known saying and state that as “nature abhors a vacuum”, the same stands for geopolitics.

I would also like to stress that the accession of Northern Macedonia to NATO will require from that country systematic preparation and efforts to transform their Armed Forces, so that they meet the prerequisites and requirements of the Alliance, pertaining to inter-operability and standardisation.

This transformation pertains to organisation, among other things, individual and collective training, exercises and materialisation of required programmes.

We have an essential role to play at this point.

And we can do it.

We can do it well and effectively since we have tradition, knowledge, experience and the proper personnel.

Ladies and Gentlemen MPs,

At this point I would like to mention two factors which I consider essential:

Firstly, according to Article 17 of the Prespes Agreement, cooperation with the neighbouring country in the field of defence will be enhanced and expanded, through frequent mutual visits and contact between the two countries’ military leadership, transfer of know-how, provision of training, execution of joint exercises, capabilities building etc.

Cooperation in the aforementioned fields will solidify relations of mutuality and will secure multiple benefits which will not be restricted in the field of defence.

Secondly, our contribution will displace other regional candidates who try to take advantage of the situation and exercise their influence on the neighbouring country, with possible negative consequences for us.

Furthermore, I would like to remind you that in the beginning of the previous decade we provided military assistance to our Northern neighbour, with personnel and assets, so that it would successfully face its security problems, while a civilian-military cooperation is already in place in the context of the Southeast European Cooperative Initiative.

Our goal is to become the main strategic defence partner of Northern Macedonia.

Always striving for the preservation of peace and the enhancement of cooperation for the greater good.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I understand the fears, the concerns, even the objections.

However, we ought to deliberate things when the situation is critical, to have the right judgment and be decisive.

Actions which contribute to mutual understanding and cooperation between countries, at the same time contribute to the development and prosperity in Finance, Culture, Sciences and the people’s everyday lives.

They contribute to the prosperity and the scope for improvement of the peoples in our region.

The future ahead of us is bright. Let us not remain focused on a barren and turbulent past.

For all these reasons I propose the ratification of the said protocol.

It is strategically beneficial for a Greece stronger in the region, leaving behind the useless hostilities and inaugurating a long period of cooperation and peaceful coexistence.

Thank you”.