During the parliamentary session regarding the Bills of the Ministry of National Defence regarding the Ratification of the Agreement between Greece and the USA about the consular benefits and immunities and also regarding the Ratification of the Modification Protocol for the Mutual Defence Cooperation Agreement between Greece and the USA, the Minister of National Defence Mr Nikolaos Panagiotopoulos made the following address:
“Ladies and gentlemen, dear colleagues,
Allow me, first of all, to stress that the strengthening of the bonds between Greece and the USA, at the level of strategic cooperation, constitutes a major priority for our country. You are aware that all the governments of the recent decades systematically strived to upgrade our bilateral relations. We can now say, with certainty, that they are going through a period of geometrical progression.
The juncture is important since, due to Turkey’s unstable stance or its gradual detachment from the West, if you will, the USA understand that Greece is the country of the frontline, steady, reliable and with potential, a pillar of stability in the Eastern Mediterranean, a fact increasing our strategic gravitas.
This fact, among others, leads the USA to return to our territory, after a period of constant decrease of their presence and furthermore at a time when many countries ask for the US forces’ presence in their territories, for security reasons and they are even willing to fund their stationing, with large sums of money.
The text of the MDCA was drafted at another time, at the end of the 90s, with the US forces gradually withdrawing from Greece ever since, as we all know. Thus it was restricted at the area of Souda for the US Naval Support Activity Souda Bay.
Given the new geopolitical developments in the region, the recurrent deployment of US detachments in our country’s military installations was a useful and desired activity. The USA already had a presence and demonstrated activity in the military facilities of Stefanovikio and Larissa, but also at the Alexandroupoli harbour, however such a presence, even if it is not permanent, requires the building of infrastructure in our facilities. So, as is the case with other Agreements, after the passing of 30 years, MDCA required an update so that it would adjust to the new conditions and requirements of the defence cooperation and at the same time to edit out the facilities which have ceased to exist for several years.
Consequently, the Agreement’s update had a dual purpose: the formal editing out of the non functioning facilities, but also the inclusion of facilities with US presence that were previously not included in the Agreement and in particular in its Annex. This addition is done for the common interests of the two countries in the Alliance, in Europe and in the wider region of the Eastern Mediterranean. I believe that the letter of Mr Pompeo, the US Secretary of State, to the Greek Prime Minister, publicly records what I am expanding on.
In this context, we considered the capability for the building of infrastructures in Greek military facilities and state infrastructures as useful, based on the strategic, operational and military requirement for the countering of challenges and threats, which we currently face or will face in the future.
The document you are called to vote in, is the result of successful negotiations with the US side, conducted by a joint team of the Ministries of Foreign Affairs and National Defence and, as I already said, it includes the following modifications:
a. 1st: Editing out of areas and facilities which have long ago stopped being used, such as the Nea Makri and Elliniko bases, the Gournes of Heraclion – Crete etc.
and b. 2nd Addition of:
(1) Armed Forces areas and facilities of common interest, within which the detachments of the US Armed Forces will be able to operate, as is currently the case, particularly in Larissa, Stefanovikio and the area of Marathi at the Souda Naval Base, but also of state infrastructures and particularly the Alexandroupoli Harbour.
(2) Update of the activities which can be conducted in these facilities, based on modern requirements.
(3) A modification mechanism of the number and type of facilities and activities, always under the condition that it will first have been agreed by the two sides and ratified according to the regulations and the Domestic Legislation of the two countries.
That means we secured the absolute respect of the two states’ national legislation, always securing transparency and control by the Parliament in case any modification of the Annex is deemed necessary by the two sides.
(4) An executive instrument for the Annex’s future changes: the Department of Defence for the USA and the Ministries of Foreign Affairs and National Defence for Greece.
At this point I would like to stress that the difference in the regulations of Command and Control, between the new facilities and those in force at the US Naval Support Activity Souda Bay, was set forth in the document.
On our side, we believe that the upgrade of our country’s strategic importance in US planning constitutes an opportunity which can enhance our deterrence in the following ways:
First of all, with the increased presence of the US forces and the investments in infrastructures which will be realised in selected and clearly defined locations. So, by cooperating and establishing an array of joint investments on infrastructures, no one can harm the Greek interests without also harming those of the USA.
The second and pertinent element is that the granting of larger US investments is now possible, for the building of infrastructures in other facilities of the Armed Forces, apart from the US Naval Support Activity Souda Bay, because their integration in the Agreement’s Annex constitutes a necessary legal basis for the granting of the required funds. These infrastructures will be able to be jointly used by the two countries’ Armed Forces. They (e.g. pipelines) will be able to be jointly used for US systems at Greece’s disposal, already acquired or acquired in the future by us (e.g. UAV, fighter aircrafts, warships, vehicles etc).
You are all aware of a typical example, that of the salvage of the dredger “OLGA” from the Alexandroupoli harbour, an act which increased the harbour’s potential. A harbour which is of strategic importance, on one hand, used most of the time by us, and on the other hand, with the greater part of the credits paid by the USA being given to Greek hands, to Greek companies. This type of cooperation will be constantly repeated at a greater scale, after the authorisation of the updated agreement by the Parliament. The next investments will be made at the Larissa airport and at the area of Marathi of the Souda Naval Base.
Third, the coexistence of Greek and US forces in specialised facilities, essentially upgrades the level of training and experience for our country’s Armed Forces, through training activities as well as through everyday cooperation. A typical example is the joint training of Hellenic and US Armed Forces’ units, currently taking place at the Army’s Aviation Base in Stefanovikio.
Fourth, the Armed Forces are constantly facing the problem of obsolete main material, which needs to be modernised or even be replaced, so as to respond to their mission and at the same time to secure their deterrent force with modern assets. However, that cannot be done in snatches and by investing resources “in retail price and methods” as was often done in the past. So, the defence expenses will be covered in the following way:
a. First, in a methodical fashion, which will achieve economies of scale in acquisition as well as in follow on support and constant upgrade.
b. Second and most important, by giving added value to the economy. That can be achieved through the substantial participation of the public and private national defence industry, but also of other potentially contributing bodies.
Dear colleagues, I have to stress that we saw MDCA as a vehicle for the materialisation of the components of Strategic Dialogue with the USA, which pertain to Defence and Security issues. Because, the main body of the Agreement, which cannot be modified, includes articles 9 and 10 which allow a greater scale of coverage for national defence requirements through the strategic relation with the USA and which so far haven’t been widely used.
For example, they stipulate the development of cooperations in the fields of Research and Development, Research and Technology, development of cooperations for joint production of defence materials through the promotion of programmes for the cooperation of national defence industry and the country’s scientific and technological capabilities, by finally connecting them to the financial well-being of the country.
Consequently, the acquisition of defence capabilities is not our only goal. Nor is the new and costly next generation aircraft or the grant or purchase of an old weapon system, requiring a lot of support and many infrastructures to be functional in our country, with an uncertain operational horizon. The goal is to build from the ground up, to the future, along with the capabilities that it offers and the requirements that it has. Something that will enhance the Armed Forces as well as the national industrial, technological and scientific base. And that is the true meaning of deterrence. It is a national goal with Defence as its vehicle and connecting tissue.
That will be the contribution of the field of Defence to the country’s development. Since, these last years, we have witnessed the huge hemorrhage of our young people going abroad, proficient scientists, of a workforce for which we invested valuable resources to educate, because we weren’t able to create the environment that would keep them here and allow them to utilise their capabilities. So we strive to contribute, through the field of defence, to the creation of appropriate conditions and opportunities for the future which they deserve and merit.
Lastly, the Agreement, like any other agreement, isn’t an end in itself, it is merely a tool. We turned this agreement, from an anchor which held us back in the past, to a means of security, cooperation, work and development, so that we will head to the future in full force, building our country’s strategic relation with the USA”.