The text of the speech delivered by the Minister of National Defence, Mr. Nikolaos Panagiotopoulos, during the debate that was held today, Tuesday, July 7th 2020, at the Plenary Session of the Hellenic Parliament on “Ratification of the Agreement between the Ministry of Defence of the State of Israel and the Ministry of National Defence of the Hellenic Republic on the Supply of Defence Equipment and Services” reads as follows:
NIKOLAOS PANAGIOTOPOULOS: “Thank you President. I have an objection myself, since today only those who express objections are entitled to speak.
The fact that representatives from parties come here expressing objections and in view of the substantial debate on the Agreement, bringing up a large number of international political issues, without going into the substance of the Agreement that is a purely Defence Agreement, for the purpose of being heard and gain political impression, in my opinion constitutes distortion of the parliamentary procedure. The objectors spoke about everything, but the Agreement. Complaints even for the implementation of the UN’s decisions and the International Law were heard, but apart from that they have not allowed any other political party to argue. I am refraining from this practice, just like I did during the debate at the Committee on the 1st of July, which was used as a pretext for the objection to this Agreement in its essence, due to the PM of Israel’s announcement about the annexation of Palestinian territories and for that reason, it was requested that the debate is postponed, that we should not proceed with the ratification of the agreement, etc. And that pretty much brings us up to date, where nothing has been annexed so far. There is just this announcement. We know that the domestic political situation in Israel has to do with a coalition government and perhaps there are also other views with this coalition government and maybe that is the reason why this annexation has not moved much further on. But that is not the point of today’s debate.
We came here to discuss about an agreement between the State of Israel and the Hellenic Republic in the field of Defence Cooperation and nothing more. The political parties should not raise objection to this Agreement and they rather deflect the debate to a comprehensive debate on the Palestinian. And moreover it seems odd that the party that has concluded this Agreement in 2016 when it was in Government – and rightly in my opinion, from an international political point of view – comes here today urging the House on not ratifying it due to the situation in Palestine and the announcements of the PM of Israel, etc., invoking also the International Law! All this is at the very least surprising.
Our country makes an effort to seek and intensify its international alliances, for the purpose of safeguarding its own national interest and its own role in the geopolitical scene, which is currently very fluid and very complex. The same effort is also made by the Government, which for a year now has really intensified the pace for strengthening these strategic alliances and particularly, at the level of bilateral contacts.
There is the European Union and there is NATO; but there are also the bilateral contacts that offer great scope for the intensification of strategic alliances, for the benefit of Greece amongst others. The benefit is also bilateral, same as the gain. Greece will benefit from this Agreement with Israel.
I shall make it brief, President, because I think that the issue has been exhausted as to its substance in the Committee, the reasons for which the ratification of this Agreement by the House is a beneficial case have been explained at the Committee.
The Agreement reflects the very good relationship between both countries at a bilateral level. Let me remind you that until recently, the allied relations with Israel were extended to the field of exercises between sections of both countries’ Armed Forces and lately, at more intensive levels. There has been a more specific move by way of the leasing of two “Hero” unmanned UAV vehicles on our part from Israel. I would say that this is the first, more specific move, at the level of acquiring Defence material from Israel.
But allow me to tell you some more things apart from the foregoing:
Recently, the Agreement on “Eastemed” pipeline has been concluded. I would suggest that a way was opened for joint geopolitical interests particularly in the field of energy resources exploitation in the Eastern Mediterranean. This has undoubtedly some impact on the field of Defence Cooperation as well.
Earlier this month, the Prime Minister and the Government Mission visited Israel. There, we confirmed the great margins for cooperation in the field of the Defence and Security. I would say that we gave assurances for the intensification of contacts with Israeli companies in the field of Defence production, which (the Companies) are interested in establishing co-operations, synergies, even under terms of joint manufacturing in Greece, in cooperation with Greek defence industry companies. Here is the prospect, in a multitude of Defence Material!
If there were no restrictions relating to the CoVid pandemic, Israeli officers – members of companies would have already started visiting Greece. I presume that as of next month, there will be greater mobility and specific proposals on the table. And that marks the critical difference that the Agreement that we are called upon to ratify it today, comes to confirming it at institutional framework level. When there were just announcements in the past or any joint military exercises and declarations of intent, now there are specific plans on the table; plans for greater intensification of cooperation in the field of Defence and Security and particular in the field of defence industry.
This Agreement thus determines in essence the procedures and the general terms governing the supply or Greek or Israeli Defence equipment and services in the course of preparation of separate procurement agreements, that is to say “G to G” interstate agreements. The parties are the Ministries of Defence of both countries and practically, the framework is being set that is about to be particularized by way of agreements that possibly will start to progress as of next month. It is in line with the applicable legislation on Procurement; it is deemed beneficial for our country for the reason that, as we told you, it sets the general framework for the establishment of future “G to G” relations and provides the possibility of business cooperation and joint manufacturing of Defence material through the participation of one party to the manufacturing procedure that take place in the Territory of the other party. As I already told you, Israelis have already expressed their interest in coming here and cooperating with Greek companies, with apparent benefits for both countries, but also the domestic economy.
I always used to say that the development of Defence Industry is a very important driver of growth for domestic economy. A country, like Greece, possessing such Armed Forces of such level, readiness and breadth should be supported by a very active defence industry. In my opinion, the possibility of developing and intensifying co-operations similar to the one with Israel may give a great boost to the domestic defence industry and subsequently, to the domestic economy in difficult times like these.
It is also beneficial because it explicitly prohibits the conclusion of Offset Agreements.
It is beneficial, because it provides for the assurance of state quality through the observance of the same control procedures for all parameters relating to the supply of defence equipment on the part of the seller, as if (the said supply) relates to their own Armed Forces. Given that the seller guarantees the assurance of quality and the procedure, then the buyer benefits.
It is beneficial, because it provides for the opportunity of a new agreement on the determination of new timetables, in case of delayed fulfillment of obligations, finally releasing the parties from any penalty clauses. Those who have been engaged in Armaments know how much “undermining”, if you allow me that expression, the imposition of penalty clauses is in case of any delay in the timetable for the performance of the agreement within this entire cooperation framework. We have been through this in the past and the Armed Forces have paid for this as a result of agreements that were concluded and defence systems that were supposed to be delivered. In this case, there is an explicit agreement that this timetable may actually change without any delay of bureaucratic nature and particularly, the “poisoning” of this relationship by imposing penalty clauses.
Moreover, the continuous support provided by the seller to the buyer with regard to the entire Defence Equipment is ensured, particularly in times of tension or crisis, following a mutual agreement between the parties and in addition, the producers of Defence Material or services are being protected with respect to the intellectual property rights that they enjoy and as a result any unlawful use by third parties is being prevented. Consequently, it constitutes a quite refined Agreement that establishes a general framework, to be implemented at the following stage of intensification of the strategic relationship, when we would have specific contacts and we would develop synergies, but also co-operations between Israeli and Greek companies.
By means of this Agreement, which I should remind you that it had already been concluded as of November 2016 and rightly, we establish a framework to be implemented in practice, not at announcements level, but at a level of specific actions that are fast approaching, the Defence Cooperation. And I believe that Greece will only benefit from this whole development.
As I told you, the recent visit by the Prime Minister and the Government Mission to Israel made it clear that a series of contacts and an express of interest in elements of the Greek defence industry under terms of synergy lies ahead. I think we all understand that the Greek Defence Industry, in that state, needs such kind of proposals for cooperation, synergies and under terms of joint manufacturing of Defence Material in Greece, with anything that this entails for the domestic economy.
So, let us stick to that narrow enough – as described by the Agreement itself – framework. Let us not descend into great international political debates that are undoubtedly somewhat interesting. I do not deny that there is the Palestinian problem; but that is not the topic of the debate today.
Greece’s positions, which are also the European Union’s positions, have been expressed very clearly and we are not here today to discuss about them or to suggest that, through this case, we are exiting from them. On the contrary! This is a totally different question!
Therefore, I hereby urge the House, as we talked about at the debate of the Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence a week ago, on ratifying this Agreement for the simple reason that it is beneficial for the nation. We will be in a position to establish that by way of a specific activity, which will start to take place at an intensive pace very soon.
As I told you, we no longer talk about the times of announcements and rhetoric upsurge with nice words and promises for eternal cooperation, not to say love, but about a specific, mutually beneficial case which is at hand.
I urge the colleagues on supporting the ratification of the Agreement, in order to institutionally validate the framework within which the activity will take place, which is ready to start at an intensive pace.