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Hellenic Republic Ministry of National Defence

Defence Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos’ speech during the discussion in the Parliament, relating to the Amendment concerning the regulation of Hellenic Navy and the Skaramanga Shipyards’ issues

SPEECH:


Ladies and Gentlemen, dear colleagues,

Before starting, since it was on my way to the Parliament that I was given this question, allow me to explain to you the “overdue”, according to the parliamentary procedure, nature of the amendment we are discussing today, regarding the submarines.  

It is a matter-of-course that, essentially, it is anything but “overdue”.

I would rather say that the urgent nature of this amendment is self-evident and it was introduced as soon as the sensitive and difficult discussions, that led us to this point, were completed.

Since that moment, we could not wait my dear colleagues, not even one moment, because of the Easter vacation. I remind you the time schedule of the entire effort to save the submarines: On February 13, I committed myself before the Parliament that we will proceed with quick action. On March 20, the meeting between the Committee on National Defence and Foreign Affairs and the Committee on Armament Programs and Contracts at the Ministry of National Defence and after 20 days we are here, still consistent with our commitments, which, at that time all Parliamentary wings had encouraged and supported us to legalise, through the votes of Greek people. It was a clearly national development in the field of defence and security.

Today, by introducing this amendment which you are called to vote for, the first – and allow me to say the most important – phase of the “rescue operation” of the submarines is completed. The submarines are now in Skaramangas Shipyard, under hostage, for reasons we are all aware of and it is not the right time to come back to issues which are already known.

We had the opportunity to discuss this issue more thoroughly, here in the Parliament in plenary session, during the discussion about the topical question by the Leader of the Opposition, Mr. Tsipras, as well as two more times later in the framework of the meetings of the Committee on Armament Programs and Contracts of the Parliament which regarded exclusively the submarines.

And, of course, all relevant documents have been submitted and distributed to you.

We strictly implemented everything we had said and proposed. And today, with the proposed provision we close this chapter.

I am particularly delighted to propose to the Parliament today to vote for the provision that brings a definite end to an adventure that lasted more than twelve years.

The adventure of building five submarines, one in Germany, “PAPANIKOLIS” and four in the Hellenic Shipyards SA. The “PAPANIKOLIS” submarine was delivered after many problems we all know and the 4 submarines “PIPINOS”, MATROZOS”, “KATSONIS” and “OKEANOS” remain until now trapped in a lasting argue between the Greek state and the owners of the Hellenic Shipyards SA.

This permanent postponement of the problem between the Shipyards and the submarines will be definitely over when this provision is voted for.

Dear Colleagues,

As a Ministry, we had to keep a strict stance against the owners of the Hellenic Shipyards SA to reach this point.

Because nothing happens accidentally in political management of public affairs.

We demanded, with assessment acts, for the total amount paid by the Greek State from 2010 till May 2011, of approximately 360 million, to be refunded as unjustifiably paid. Because in the respective period they did not fulfill the works provided for by the contract and since 2012 the owners closed the Shipyards and they remain closed until today.

Moreover, based on the assessment acts which have already been notified, the Greek State – I would like you to note that – will apply to the competent courts and claim the whole amount from the owners of the Shipyards, which the Greek State has paid as resulted from the contract for the submarines.

The important thing today though is that certainly we can schedule the integration of the four submarines in operational readiness to our fleet, in excellent operational condition from all aspects.

The men of the Hellenic Navy, our personnel have excellent experience and they will complete all remaining works and tests quickly for the submarines to be certified and set into operation immediately

We have already put the Greek flag for symbolic reasons and the submarines have been manned by their crews.

Our Navy is present there. They are present on a daily basis at the submarines.

They coordinate the beginning of their completion works.

They have contacted the subcontractors with whom the main guidelines for the completion of the works have been agreed upon.

Everything is ready.

And the technical problems have also been solved.

The Ministry of National Defence, I personally as well as the Chief of the Hellenic Navy General Staff, we expect today for your approval.

Dear colleagues,

As I have explicitly informed the Parliament and it has also been written in the justification report, our aim is to complete the works as soon as possible thanks to the abilities of our Navy’s personnel without exceeding our initial budget, with the unavailable amount of 75, 5 million euros.

We have already taken every action for the amount of 35 million euros, from the 75, 5 million, to be deposited to the relevant code of our Ministry for this year.

On the other side, if finally the court’s judgment favours us for the amounts of the assessment notice to be refunded, we will have achieved a significant reduction of the final cost for the construction of the submarines, even in comparison to the contractual price.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I believe that we, as a Ministry of National Defence, fulfilled until now our commitment before the Parliament that we will solve the issue of the submarines fully respecting public money and the battleworthiness of the Hellenic Armed Forces.

It is this policy that we will keep applying for any other matter regards armament programmes of the past and maintenance issues, trying always to prevent problems from arising in the future.

And let me say a few words about the Hellenic Shipyards S.A.

The Ministries of Development, Finance and Labour are from now on assigned as fully responsible to address issues regarding, on the one hand, the operation of the Hellenic Shipyards SA, on the other hand, the court argues which resulted from the executive agreement,

With the solution we discuss about, the other issues of the shipyards do not directly regard responsibilities of the Ministry of National Defence. That is, the complicate and thorny problem of the shipbuilding industry and employment in this sector, as well as the future of the Hellenic Shipyards SA and the issues pending before the European Commission.

However, in this field, we offer a relief to employees, as far as the Hellenic Shipyards SA are concerned.

All employees of the Hellenic Shipyards SA will be paid as long as the works are underway, on a monthly basis through an automatic transfer of the amount to their accounts, and their insurance contributions will be covered by the Hellenic Navy, at the expectation that a permanent definite solution will be found in the meanwhile, so that all work posts and the general operation of the Hellenic Shipyards SA are saved.

The Hellenic Navy wishes to be a customer of the Greek shipbuilding industry in general in the context of the current legislation in force. Without any violation of the competition and state aids framework of the European Union.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The discussion-briefing which was conducted in the Ministry of National Defence with all parties resulted in a positive conclusion. The important thing for us is that we took a message of encouragement to proceed firmly as we started solving the Gordian knot of a big problem and certainly opening a new perspective for the ship building and repairing industry taking the submarines in our possession. And this has been fulfilled. Therefore, with consistence we keep doing what is best for our country and defence.

For a powerful Greece which confirms its stabilising role and gradually recovers its primary action.

To the benefit of security and peace which are prerequisites for growth and prosperity of people and citizens.

I thank you and ask you to vote for this provision. Thank you.

REPLICATION:


Please allow me, after Mr. Papadimoulis referred to it, although it is not the subject of my presence here, to say a few words without any intention to boast. Of course, I wish also to avoid any querulousness at this time.

Dear cooleagues, every country, I stress it, every country resorts to international borrowing to acquire funds and fund its actions. It is not something new, this is how it works. And how does this work? By issuing bonds. There is no other way. The purchase of bonds by the financial markets is a vote of confidence to a country for its prospects and capabilities.

Who are those who seek for funds in the financial markets after all? The powerful ones. Nobody shows interest in the poor.

There is therefore a question: could Greece address to the financial markets when it was signing the memorandum? Greece that was really anxious about remaining in the eurozone? Greece that was mocked at by every fortune-hunter.
 
Answer: Of course, not.

Are we finally returning to the markets today?

The answer is yes.

Are Greek bonds of value?

The answer is yes.

We are now at the mercy of every fortune-hunter and blackmailer?

The answer is no.

And that is something we all succeeded!

I am not an economist, yet at the first year of University, we learned the basics on international economy and international financial relations. I will not reference you there, however I remember certain things, and I do not act smart, yet I am telling you what reality is today. And this reality is the outcome of national effort and great sacrifices.

What was said, that the war is not won yet, was very right. However, a battle was won. The road map towards the final exit from the crisis still needs time, yet a very important step was made. No matter which Government would be here today, it would have chosen the same path.

Because the other path, since I heard some proposals, mister Papadimoulis, talks about debt haircut.

You know that this involves a haircut, wages and pensions’ cuts. And we have already said we are finished with such solutions, forever.

Our goal is for economy to recover, this state to be reconstructed, this battle to be won, and this country to return to the group of modern, dynamic economies, to open a new perspective. What ensues today is a message for optimism.

Since we talk about debt, do you know a typical example of one or more countries that had zero external debt and never turned to the financial markets? I say that because all countries – and you know that – are indebted. And the most debt-laden country globally is the United States of America.  

So, which are those two examples? Romania under Ceausescu and Albania under Hoxha. I presume that not you, nor us, neither anyone in this room would dream of Greece becoming someday Albania or Romania of those times.

We wish for and we construct a stable and trustworthy economy. I always believed and supported a certain view: that we should all work together in this effort. We should leave aside the petty little things and unite our thoughts, forces and efforts. This way we would win a lot more, much faster.

This Government strives for that, completely feeling the responsibility. Today’s exit to the markets justifies not only the Government, but also the Greek people. It sheds light to the dark road of a lasting fiscal isolation and decline.

I float to surface with the submarines, mister Papadimoulis, to discuss this issue. First of all, I start with something that might surprise you. I want to thank all of you, personally, and the colleagues of the opposition who, in our recent meetings, showed national responsibility at a high level.

Today I would expect you to not vote “present”, and I still expect it; to give the green light so that the course to a final solution of this long-lasting national problem would open. The questions were sententiously set by Mr. Dritsas. To these four questions I respond with a simple yes, so as to not repeat them. The briefing I presented in the Pentagon and what I said today respond to them.

I would not like to believe that there is room for disbelief. I referred earlier to what we discussed a few days ago and will still discuss in the future simply because we all have the same goal. What did we do? I remind you. This is why I said earlier that we cut the Gordian knot. What was our initial action? To dissociate the defence part from the investments part.

I made it clear, here in the Parliament, that as far as the Ministry of National Defence and the Hellenic Navy are concerned, we are clients of the Shipyards. All these years some people identified them and a time came when they tried to solve a problem and they couldn’t do it, exactly because they did not dissociate them.

I also said something more in my introduction. That in the negotiation made, in the institutional negotiation, at the presence of the Hellenic Navy leadership, we are very strict. Few days later, we had a reply. Therefore, your question concerning whether all these have been agreed upon, of course they have. We did not act randomly. You were right to ask for more facts yesterday, they are on their way.

I will say something extra to what you asked of me. However, it is my obligation, and our Ministry’s obligation, to frequently inform the Parliament. You know that the Ministry of National Defence respects the Parliament and we have proven that.

Therefore, what you said, to assemble the committee for a special discussion, this time we want the same thing too. From now on, in this new road map until the final solution of the problem, we will not cease briefing the Parliament. I should tell you that I said that when the committees met at the Pentagon and I repeat it now, that you helped us respond to all questions with your public stance and releases. Actually, a part of my speech was replies to your questions. I remember that, in the end, you too said that you received your answers, as you do today.

Ladies and gentlemen, my colleagues, referring once more to Mr. Varemenos and Mr. Dritsas, I answered a series of questions. By the answers given by the colleagues, what was pointed out many times, was finally affirmed. What do all political parties, all wings want? The solution. You clearly said it, to take the submarines; to ensure the employees. This is what we want too.

The solution we bring you today, this regulation, was my commitment to you at the time. I expected a phone call, or a message after that, where you would tell me to act fast to what I promised, yet you never sent one. We did it; we broke the record, in 20 days we are back here. This is why I did not think it would be appropriate to refer to the overdue. Because it was not overdue, it was within the framework of our own communication. So, we cut the Gordian knot. And this is something we should recognise.

What is the difference, since you asked, in regard to the years that passed, 12, 14? Let’s say 13, so as to not disagree. That the submarines, mister Papadimoulis, are at the hands of the Hellenic Navy. The owner, excuse me Chief of the Hellenic Navy, for you are present here, is the Chief of the Hellenic Navy. He communicates immediately and he already made agreements, very quickly. He communicated with HDW, we also resolved there a problem. Actually, next week, on Wednesday I think, the Chief Executive of HDW will come, following a prior communication, so as to validate in the Ministry of National defence what was agreed upon.

What is the important thing here? The state of hostage is now over; didn’t we want that? If someone goes back to older discussions in here, even at the time you filed your proposal, - at the time I had answered to Mr. Tsipras- that was where we had concluded. The state of hostage is now over. That is a true and undisputed fact.

Question: is there a safer agreement that that? I mean, than the concrete result we are discussing today? Than the goal of every agreement? Have we abrogated mister Dritsas, mister Varemenos, mister Papadimoulis, any of our rights? The answer is clear and definite: none.

Have we made allotments on the shipyards’ ownership? Of course, at the amount of 362.5 millions. We will not sell out not one euro. You will receive the documents soon. We act at very high speed, because we expect some documents by the Legal Council of the State, if I am not mistaken maybe even within the weekend. Since the query, I must say, was only filed yesterday, mister Dritsas.

This Ministry has an open door policy, no one can put that to question and no one will. Naturally, also having to keep security clauses for certain issues.

The question you have made: are responsibilities cancelled? Not for anyone. Mr. Rigas already said it. The procedures are running. Whoever is responsible for the situation we are in, it is justice that will set it out. Did anyone waive any right? No one, of course without prejudice.

And, please be careful, we shouldn’t drift to inventive distinctions on receipt and operational integration. The submarines will be integrated after the end of the works, after their completion, and absolutely no receipt will be performed without complete safeguarding the Public Sector. This is in reply of your third question, concerning public interest assurance.

Do we claim all our rights? Of course. I would say rather richly. With a stand-alone legal action, as I also said at the Pentagon. With defendants and Abu Dhabi Mare which has a great financial capacity and is the umbrella-company for Mr. Saffa’s business, we earlier referred to. It exceeds 25,000 euro.

Ladies and gentlemen, reality is undisputed. As far as success is concerned, it is real and big. It is everybody’s success. When years will pass and someone will later refer to the way this problem was faced and how successful we were, I wouldn’t like a “present” vote today to be the one to accompany this regulation, but a “yes” so that I will be able to say something I will say anyway, that in facing this problem and in serving public and social interest, on the basis of our common goal, we are all together.


Thank you.