The Minister of National Defence, Evangelos Apostolakis, on Friday 1st and Saturday 2nd March 2019, participated in the works of the IV DELPHI ECONOMIC FORUM – “The Challenge of Inclusive Growth” that is held from February 28th to March 3rd 2019 under the auspices of His Excellency the President of the Hellenic Republic, Mr. Prokopios Pavlopoulos.
On Saturday, March 2nd 2019, the Minister of National Defence gave a keynote address within the framework of the Forum’s theme “DEFENCE & ECONOMY”.
The address of the Minister of National Defence follows:
“It is with great pleasure but also honor that I participate in the works of this year’s Delphi Forum. A forum that has developed into an institution, which quickly managed to get recognized as a reference for the submission of proposals and concerns.
First of all, of course, I would like to congratulate Mr. Tsomokos and all organizers for their excellent preparation; they succeeded in rendering Delphi and therefore our Country into an intellectual focal point for dialogue, exploring approaches and dealing with emerging challenges of the region of Greece and the wider Eastern Mediterranean Sea.
The Delphi Forum has got nothing to be jealous of any international forum. So, this year’s organization with its international influence and dimension, constitutes a great opportunity to address an elegant audience and present to you our approach and the position of the Ministry of National Defence on this matter.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Greece, due to its geographical location in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea, is situated in a rapidly evolving and demanding environment, with many challenges of international geostrategic and economic importance. In order to address such challenges, we have adopted policies that set peace, stability and cooperation as a priority.
The objective is that our Country continues to be a foundation of peace and a pillar of stability, building bridges of cooperation and dialogue with all countries of the wider region and contributing to the development of good-neighborly and interaction relations.
Of course, we have a tough neighbor. We address the provocative actions of Turkey in the area of the Aegean Sea, always reacting with prudence and strategic composure. Despite the existing problems, on our side we are constantly striving to ease and avoid tensions. In this view and based on the relevant political direction given during the recent meeting between the Prime Minister and the Turkish President, we have agreed with Mr. Akar in the meeting of NATO Defence Ministers on scheduling in the near future a meeting between delegations from both countries, in order to set out actions in the framework of Confidence Building Measures. I hope that we will soon have tangible results on the decisions that we have made.
Apart from that, being aware of our role in the contemporary security environment, we implement a defence principled policy that is demonstrated as follows:
We maintain powerful and effective Armed Forces for the implementation of the defence and deterrence doctrine of the National Defence Policy. In other words, the Armed Forces serve as a guarantee for the protection of the territorial integrity, so that the achievement of the country’s strategic choices and the fulfillment of our national interests would be possible. This is beyond doubt. I can assure you that we do that to the maximum.
At the same time, we participate actively in the security and defence structures of NATO, the EU and International Organizations, as well as in the development of initiatives in this context with the purpose of enhancing security. We are constantly improving our outreach, since the retention of our footprint abroad constitutes a strategic objective.
For instance, we have ships and aircrafts assigned to surveillance missions from Libya to Cyprus, where in particular a Greek Frigate patrols in a UN operation in Lebanon. Moreover, there are members of our Armed Forces in missions in the field from Kosovo to Afghanistan, Iraq and Mali – Africa.
We foster dialogue and cooperation with our geopolitical environment on the basis of International Law and cooperative security. The Armed Forces contribute to Greece’s effort to establish a powerful pillar of cooperation in the wider area of national interest.
Within this framework, we are developing a number of activities and joint trainings with the Armed Forces of almost all countries in the region, but also with other countries in the world. With Cyprus of course, with which we are strengthening our brotherly relation, Egypt, Morocco, the Gulf states, Israel, Jordan, the U.S.A., but also with all Balkan countries.
Speaking about the Balkans, please allow me to note that the accession of the North Macedonia to NATO will contribute to the establishment and strengthening of the sense of stability and the enhancement of cooperation and peaceful coexistence in the region.
We are aiming at deepening our cooperation with North Macedonia, because it is to our strategic interest. We have a key role to play, since this country will be required to restructure its Armed Forces, so that the latter would conform with the prerequisite standards and the requirements of the Alliance with regard to interoperability and standardization.
As I have already mentioned during our recent meeting in the margins of the meeting of NATO Defence Ministers to my counterpart in North Macedonia, we are ready to provide Air Space Supervision services that we are already providing to Albania and Montenegro, as well as any other possible support for the smooth integration of the country into the NATO structures.
Our aim is to make our Country the main strategic defence partner of North Macedonia. And we will achieve that.
Furthermore, our defence diplomacy capitalizes the safekeeping of the traditionally good relations between Greece and the Arab world and thus contributes to the stability of Northeastern Mediterranean Sea. In this way, we bring countries with particular, different and/or historically opposite policies together, promoting the cooperation between them.
A very good example of our active defence diplomacy is our very close military cooperation with Egypt, as well as that with Israel.
Besides, Greece is very active in establishing new correlations between forces and alliances. The tripartite co-operations between Greece – Cyprus – Egypt and Greece – Cyprus – Israel prove that in the most eloquent manner.
I would also like to stress that we have a strategic military relation with the USA. The Armed Forces of both countries have an excellent cooperation with a number of activities in operational, individual and academic training. Allow me to note the recent conduct of the 1st US – Greece Strategic Dialogue in Washington DC in December. It has provided further confirmation of our excellent and multi-level partnership in the field of Defence and Security, but also of the further enhancement of our said equal strategic relation. In this direction, we have already progressed in the implementation of what we have agreed.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Recognizing the direct link between the effectiveness of the Armed Forces with the reliability and the availability of materiel and always in full respect of the sacrifices made by the Greek people, we promote the implementation of most needed armament programmes. In this way, we act supportively to revitalize the domestic defence industry.
At this point, I would like to refer to all Greek citizens and the links that the Armed Forces have developed with the Greek society. We are always on their side and we enjoy a relation of trust and respect with the society.
This relation is of enormous importance to us and we are jealously guarding it. It is a key asset, but at the same time a strong incentive and a source for inspiration in order to address the contemporary challenges. In this context, we maintain a multi-level support and contribution to the Greek society, performing various actions of social nature, such as contribution to forest fire-fighting, air evacuation, health support to border regions and many more.
And of course, we contribute as of the first moment, to the refugee crisis response, which constitutes one of the major security challenges, amongst others, that the country is facing. As you all know, as of 2015, Greece has been the access point of more than one million refugees, who were seeking entry into Europe, mainly through Turkish routes. We have shouldered a disproportionate burden, serving the largest number of refugees compared to the country’s population, remaining in fourth place in absolute terms in Europe.
The Armed Forces, maintaining their institutional role, effectively support the operations of the Coast Guard with Hellenic Navy ships and with the initial installation and stay of refugees in hospitality venues.
All these, of course, would not have been possible without our greatest asset, our driving force: the members of the Armed Forces. Throughout our effort, they have been a priceless force multiplier, walking in the path of responsibility with rigour and with their head held high.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
We pursue a coherent, structured and long-term high strategy, playing one of the key roles in the region’s security.
Based on our personnel and our defence capabilities, we demonstrate our reliable deterrent presence and we promote the maintenance, at a global level, of Greece’s role of stability.
With these thoughts in mind, I should like to thank you very much for bestowing on me the honour of speaking before you today.
Finally, I wish you every success in the works of the forum that has actually become a leading institution not only for Greece, but also globally.