“I would like to thank Mr. Theocharopoulos for giving me the chance to answer this question before the Hellenic Parliament because a long discussion has been conducted about this issue.
I would like to stress, dear colleague, that over the last period, as you know very well, our country faces everyday challenges of Turkey, verbal provocations as well as military provocations. In every case, we apply the national planning. The Hellenic Armed Forces respond to every violation of the national air space, to every breach and every overflight and the last aircraft to land is Greek.
Therefore, I would like to thank the soldiers, NCOs, officers of the Armed Forces in land, sea and air, because they are present everyday on small islands, in our airports, in Evros prefecture and wherever they need to be, and they defend our sovereignty rights decisively.
I would also like to assure you Mr. Theocharopoulos, that this government does not believe that flags are carried away by the wind, as Mr. Simitis’ government and Mr. Pagkalos who was minister then believed. Flags are defended by the Hellenic Armed Forces, according to the oath that they have taken, up to the last drop of their blood. And as the commander of Kastellorizo Island said during my first visit: “As long as even one of us is alive, this flag will be struck only when it is worn out by the wind and must be replaced”.
I would also like to tell you that the Armed Forces are well aware of the current financial circumstances. More than 60% of the budget was cut by Samaras-Venizelos government, as well as by Papandreou government. So, we know that any initiatives we may take to reinforce the operational capabilities of the Armed Forces will be within the financial framework that has been set.
About the issue of the aircraft that you focus on, I would like you to ask Ms Gennimata because the proposal that I hold in my hands is hers, after a proposal submitted by the Hellenic Air Force regarding the request of the Hellenic Air Force for the upgrade of f-16 aircraft. It was submitted 8 years ago. It is a request which eight or nine political leaderships of the Ministry of National Defence set aside. The last significant enhancement of the Hellenic Air Force was conducted by minister Spilios Spiliotopoulos and by Kostas karamanlis government and regarded F-16 Block 52+.
For this reason, the Ministry of National Defence has decided to implement specific armament programmes and funds have been ensured to cover the needs, as provided for under articles 33 and 34 of L. 4407/2016.
Further initiatives have been taken for the reinforcement of the operational capabilities through the European Union and NATO as well. At this point, I would like to clarify that we have received significant military help from the United States of America as well, without spending a mere euro, with the 15 Chinook, 40 Kiowa and other assets which Greece has been offered gratis. Greece is the only country which, despite the financial circumstances, still preserves its 2% of GDP as provided for by NATO.
As for this particular request, on 7 February, 2017, GDDIA (General Directorate for Armaments) sent a Letter of Request to the American agencies regarding the upgrade of F-16 aircraft of the Hellenic Air Force. With this request, this LOR, we express our intention, as provided for and asked by the Hellenic Air Force, to proceed to an upgrade.
The American side will probably return with a proposal. In case that this proposal is accepted, then the respective subprogramme will be activated according to the provisions of L. 3883/2010 and L. 3978/2011. In this context, the Parliament will be informed and the Committee on Armaments will approve or reject it. It is then that a question to the Parliament may be submitted. At this moment we are asking them to tell us whether such a possibility exists, what the costs are and what can be done with the participation of the Greek defence industry, of course. After being approved by the Parliament and by the Committee on Armaments, then it must also be approved by the Government Council for Foreign Affairs and Defence.
So, regarding the potential procurement of F-35 aircraft, on 7 February of this year, GDDIA sent a request about the price and availability for a probable purchase of twenty aircraft. This request was submitted at the first stage of the consideration of this issue and the activation of any procurement procedure will depend on the answers to be sent by the American side and, of course, following the provided procedures, namely the procedures of the Committee on Armaments of the Hellenic Parliament and of the Government Council of Foreign Affairs and Defence.
As far as the support system of S-300 antiaircraft system is concerned – and I am wondering why you include this – it was PASOK that submitted it to the Parliament in 2013 and it was examined by the Committee on Armaments. There is an approval of the Committee on Armaments since 2013. Unless you are saying that Mr. Venizelos is no longer a member of PASOK. It was Mr. Venizelos who proposed it, we accepted it, it has been considered by the Committee of the Parliament. If you disagree with Mr. Venizelos’ opinion to resubmit it, we have no objection.
So, this has been approved through the procedures provided for and it was also examined by the Government Council of Foreign Affairs and Defence by decision dated from 28 December 2016 and the respective contract will be signed within the next days.
I would like to assure you, Mr. Theocharopoulos, that any decision taken by this government, is taken with the approval of the Committee on Armaments of the Parliament, with the approval of the Government Council of Foreign Affairs and Defence and given that funds will have been made available in the budget.
I would also like to assure you that the Ministry of National Defence has begun two procedures. One of them regards the sale of old material which is not operational. The Committee on Armaments of the Parliament approved 63 million for the sale of 105 ammunition and GDDIA managed to receive 66 million. Projects which will reinforce our budget have already been activated. This will be also achieved with the utilization of the property and I will answer a question of Mr. Davakis on that issue later.
I would also like to assure you that every procurement of the Armed Forces is not conducted based on who the representative is, as happened in the past, but based on the operational needs of the Arms.”
“National position means to realize what the position of the Armed Forces is and serve this position, as well as the procedures. The procedures provided for are specific. When time comes for the Parliament to be asked the contract is sent here and then it is considered by the Government Council on Foreign Affairs and Defence.
Because you are among the first ones whom I hear supporting Simitis government and Theodoros Pagkalos and their policy in the Parliament, I will tell you that I am proud to have served in Karamanlis government. Karamanlis government was the one that proceeded to the upgrade of F-16 Block 52+ in the Hellenic Air Force.”