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Hellenic Republic Ministry of National Defence

Defence Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos’ speech at the Interparliamentary Conference for the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) and the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP)

“I would like to welcome you in Athens, the historical capital of our new broad country of Europe, for such an important meeting which I hope will contribute to a common policy that we have started several decades ago, ultimately aiming at sometime reaching the desired result which is the political unification of Europe.

Today I am here, representing of course the European Union in the field of Defence and Security, in this action of the parliamentary dimension of the Greek Presidency of the Council of the European Union, as presiding Minister of Defence of Europe, at a period when the European Union puts more emphasis on Common Security and Defence Policy.  

At this point, I would like to remind you that Greece always promoted the historical necessity and the political significance of the European cooperation in the field of defence and security. The fact that the last time Europe centered upon issues concerning defence was exactly ten years ago, when Greece had again the Presidency of the Council of the European Union, is not accidental. It was exactly when the European Defence Agency was founded.

At the very beginning, I would like to underline the importance of National Parliaments in the process of European unification and for the reassurance of democracy in the European Union; particularly in areas such as Security and Defence that is an area of “higher policy”, since it imminently involves peace, stability, security and prosperity of citizens.  

Ladies and Gentlemen, dear colleagues,

The geopolitical developments inside the Union, as well as in Europe’s imminent and broader neighbourhood, demonstrate the vivid relevance between internal and external security. The arc of instability, which currently extends from Ukraine to North Africa’s coasts and, in some way, encircles Europe, is a threat to trade, energy routes, tourism and the effort paid by our countries to accomplish sustainable growth.  An arc of instability that might have a negative impact to the interior of member-states, with unpredicted consequences to internal security, and by that we mean the citizens’ security and, by extension, social cohesion which is absolutely necessary in our times.

Facing this unstable international and regional environment, the Union is obliged to firstly define and defend its geopolitical interest, but also to explicitly designate it. In the case we will not do so, we run the risk of being overtaken by historical developments. And, when History overtakes you, what usually happens is to lose control over the facts, your freedom to affect it and shape the developments and, in the end, you run behind them, as the dramatic history of Europe’s past has proven.

Europe of the 12st century must look international reality right in the eyes, and realise that the cohesion and security of our societies firstly depends on the formulation of the European vision for global security, stability and peace, the development of an active European foreign policy, the protection of our common borders and the reinforcement of European mechanisms and actions of defence cooperation and intervention.

Moreover, the appearance, the emersion of new competition, beyond Europe’s borders, competition of geopolitical and geostrategic nature between Russia, China, the United States of America, but also competition in the field of energy efficiency, make the reinforcement of cooperation between member-states and the evolvement of a credible, coherent, sustainable and independent CSDP, a critical necessity for us all.

There is no doubt that political will is necessary so as to overcome the stereotypes and myths of the 20th century. Above all, we should overcome the myth that in the modern global era, as European nation-states, we can face by ourselves the current security challenges. Europe is called to give a joint answer to modern threats. It cannot adhere to the past during such a critical turn in history, delaying to fulfil its inborn role as a factor of stability, prosperity and security.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

This was the direction demonstrated by the European Council of December 2013, which signalled the beginning of a common European future in the field of defence. It would be essential to define the European Council of December 2013 as the start -and not the result, the end- for the establishment of a complete political framework for the management of European military and defence issues. It is true that since 2003, when the “European Security Strategy” was adopted, under Greek Presidency I remind you, until 2008, when a first assessment of European proceedings was made in this field, but also until 2013, not many things have changed in this area. It should be considered to be the start, since it was the first meeting having as defence as its key agenda, which confirmed that the reinforcement of cooperation in the field of defence will contribute to the reinforcement of citizens’ security and it will decisively contribute to our era’s demand, which is the establishment of peace and stability to our neighbourhood and the entire world.

At a time when defence expenditures are minimized while, on the contrary, the fronts of instability in our planet expand and increase, it is my firm belief that nations can do nothing else but unite their military capabilities. Otherwise, their sovereignty and independence will be jeopardised.

As it was made clear by the Conclusions of December’s European Council, the development of a healthy and competitive European industrial and technological basis in the field of defence, which will be profitable for development, employment and innovation in Europe’s industrial field, is a priority.

The defined priority actions are three:  

- first, the increase of efficiency, promotion and impact of CSDP,

- second, the enhancement of capabilities developments and

- third, the enhancement of Europe’s defence industry.

In order to achieve this, so as to accomplish it, I suggested to the Conference of EDA in Brussels, a few days ago, to convert the Agency into the European Union’s official policy, as a pylon along with political and financial unification. In other words, under these arguments and goals, it is time the European Defence Agency converted to a security agency for Europe, always on the principle of complementarity, as far as NATO relations are concerned. From now on, the military/defence arm of the Union should move towards the direction of a more effective cooperation with all the partners, global and regional, in a spirit of complementarity, mutual support and cohesion of all actions responding to the entire web of challenges in internal and external security.

Common Security and Defence Policy will now act by resuming action in the field of cyberdefence, maritime security and energy security. Moreover, it aims at the development of synergies in the fields of freedom, security and justice, so as to face illegal immigration, organised crime, terrorism, but also in order to support third countries for a more efficient managing of the borders, which is an issue tormenting member-states and especially the ones which constitute the borderline of the European Union, such as our country, Greece.

As far as the reinforcement of capabilities development is concerned, we must ensure interoperability, putting an end to overlaps, and resources’ efficiency. This is something that will be achieved through a better, deeper collaboration with NATO. In this context, the role of EDA is very important, regarding the development of remotely piloted aircraft systems, the well-known RPAS, the creation of a capability for air supply of fuels, satellite communication and cyberspace.

The enhancement of defence industry is the corner stone of am efficient and competitive CSDP, and one of the key priorities set by the Greek Presidency.  In order to accomplish an unobstructed defence equipment market, it should be based on transparency. The Directive of the European Commission 2009/81 is today the regulatory backbone of the European Defence Equipment Market and it enhances competitiveness in EU context.

At this point, it is important to underline the role of the SMEs as an important link in the supply chain. Measures should be taken in order to establish their role while, at the same time, big industries should be encouraged in order to allocate subcontracts to SMEs.

In order to achieve the maximisation of synergies, it is also very important to continue working on the basis of cooperative research programmes, which were agreed upon in December and in which the EDA indisputably pays a decisive role, as it is called to collect expertise in the field of Research and Technology; to collect, that is, the national programmes that will be able to contribute to CSDP.

Actions were also proposed as far as the establishment of standards and certification procedures are concerned, as well as in the very significant field of security in supply.

There are many things we could do jointly, so as to avoid double effort, overcome the current fragmentation of European defence market, attain a better cost-effectiveness ratio and finally make Europe capable of maintaining a competitive basis of defence industry and technology.

The role of the European Defence Industry and the High Representative is very important, but the role of member-states and our eminently democratic institution is even more important, since they are closer to the citizens and the Parliaments of EU member-states you represent.  

Dear colleagues,

A possible inability of the European Union to express a coherent, comprehensive CSDP will come out to be fatal for the future, not only of the European integration, but also of the member-states themselves. We should proceed as soon as possible, given the experience we have gained the past years and in view of the new challenges that emerge, to a greater deepening of Europe, towards European integration. This is the only way for European citizens’ security.

We should not forget that the course of European integration started by the field of defence. The first European Agency that was established after the Second World War was solely defensive; let me remind you of the Western European Union. The reason that brought us together as European nations and that led to the historical course of European integration was the will of Europe’s countries to never experience again confliction and bloodshed.

As far as this fact is concerned, each member-state should assume its own historical responsibilities in a time which actually generates, creates new History. This is the importance of our today’s meeting. Not only the role of European Union for European citizens, whom you, Ladies and Gentlemen, represent here today. But, further than that, at a purely practical level, the participation of European citizens for the achievement of security in their house, the European Union, and its neighbourhood.

The years that have passed since the establishment of the first defence agency of Europe until now, and with everything that has intervened, and especially in front of the big challenges that emerge before us, lead us all towards one path; a decision that, in my opinion, should seal the current era and to which the next generation of citizens, but also the delegates of National and European Parliaments, will refer. And that is the fact that we realised the situation and we do not want Europe to return to its old past; we want to overcome national segregations, to strike at its very foundations the phenomenon of nationalism and populism that, unfortunately, keeps on rising to prominence and emerges in the European setting and I fear that if we will not take measures, the next European Parliament may be the first in history that will unfortunately have anti-European forces in its bosoms. This is the responsibility of National Parliaments and National politicians.

Yet, all that should always lead to one goal – middle-termed in this phase: to promote policies that will politically complete Europe. Since in this field, we should admit it, we are left behind.

The vision and aim through Defence and Security Policy, is a Europe that is politically more integer, and this is one more step towards our common goal, which is also the vision of a generation that has suffered. We should not experience the same in order to realise that we also have a great deal of responsibility concerning the future of our new, great country.

Thank you for your attention”.