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Hellenic Republic Ministry of National Defence

Defence Minister Panos Kammenos' speech at the Economist's Roundtable

Defence Minister Panos Kammenos' speech at the Economist's Roundtable
Defence Minister Panos Kammenos' speech at the Economist's Roundtable
Defence Minister Panos Kammenos' speech at the Economist's Roundtable
Defence Minister Panos Kammenos' speech at the Economist's Roundtable
Defence Minister Panos Kammenos' speech at the Economist's Roundtable
Defence Minister Panos Kammenos' speech at the Economist's Roundtable
Defence Minister Panos Kammenos' speech at the Economist's Roundtable
Defence Minister Panos Kammenos' speech at the Economist's Roundtable

“Ladies and Gentlemen,

I would like too, in my turn, to welcome you to Greece, to thank the organisers for their invitation and for this chance that we have to communicate. It is true that across a historical period of decades, the Economist proves, through this conference, that events which produce thinking, give the opportunity for structured cooperation among political institutions, state agencies, private initiatives and scientific communities.

At first, I would kindly ask Mr. Kekic, when he uses the term “Macedonia” – referring to Skopje – to say “Formen Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”. For Greece and for the United Nations this is the official name and I believe that we will understand each other better when we accept the international terms approved by the Organisation of the United Nations and we do not adopt the irredentist intentions of some of Greece’s neighbours.

I am particularly pleased to be given the chance to attend one of the most important fora worldwide, among members of national governments, representatives of international organizations and many expert scientists who have devoted their lives to highlighting and dealing with the multifaceted challenges of the modern geopolitical environment.     

What we all wish is to form an environment which will favour productive dialogue and to consolidate relations of cooperation, confidence and security. This is exactly the environment that we seek for, in order to cooperate closely, especially on matters of security and citizens’ protection, to re-evaluate our strategies and to further adapt our structures if necessary.

Besides, there lies the success of this conference, in establishing the necessary environment for the promotion of an international and productive dialogue and consolidating a spirit of cooperation, confidence and security.    
You are well aware that these matters do not concern only the experts or a very restricted audience. On the contrary, they concern and affect us all, even our everyday lives. Let us reflect on the recent terrorist attacks in our cities.    

Our challenge and objective is for the EU to be able to maintain and enhance its prosperity level in this changing world and, at the same time, to promote and protect its values and interests.

The messages are not hopeful either for the Union or for its citizens. The global financial crisis, the ageing of the population, the migration flows and the refugees’ crisis threaten the competitiveness of our economies and the sustainability of our social standards. The pressure to cut costs and wages, the challenges related to the climate change and the increase of energy dependence; and the redirection of the global distribution of productivity and savings to the East.

And as if this were not enough, the threats of terrorism, organized crime, cyber attacks and proliferation of mass destruction weapons, asymmetric and hybrid threats sharpen this volatile environment even more.    
So, the question is: Will we be able to respond to the challenges of our time, at this critical moment in our history? Our answer will be positive only if we all, politicians, citizens, employers and employees, are able to remain united around a new common objective which will be defined by our needs at this time.    

And this common objective is nothing else than cooperation and solidarity. Because the challenges that await us are very big to be dealt with by any European country alone. Only through cooperation will the EU be able to act as a factor of global change, as a regulator of tendencies and not just as a passive observer that just watches the developments in the area.

The Globalisation has also strengthened this sense that we are vulnerable, since it abolished the limits between internal and external forms of security. The high-speed communications, the large mobility and the direct financial transmissions provide crime and terrorism organizations with upgraded capabilities both in their operation and in achieving their objectives. Armed conflicts in a distant continent may threat Europe’s internal stability by causing large flows of refugees.

We are all the more becoming witnesses of blind terrorist attacks which cause a shock to the Westphalian society of sovereign states. It is proved every time that non-state organisations are capable of striking crucial targets all over the world, in order to promote the overthrow of the system and its replacement by a religious split of the world based on medieval theocratic attitudes.

The new generation of jihadists who were born and raised in the USA, in Europe and Eurasia, not only broadens the operational capabilities of the Islamic fundamentalism, of the Islamic terrorist network, but it likely triggers a wave of scattered small-scale attacks against unprotected targets as well. Such attacks have already taken place in European countries and in the USA, in Russia as well, and they reinforce the estimation of the threat of potential new acts taking place in the future.

It becomes clear, now, that we all must understand each other and cooperate. For example, the attack in Boston during the marathon race was committed by Chechen terrorists. It is not possible for a minimum cooperation among NATO, European Union and Russia not to exist against this common enemy of terrorism. This is the case also in stability countries around the wider area of the Mediterranean Sea, such Israel, Egypt, Jordan, Arab Emirates. Cyprus has an important role too. This is exactly what we are building in Greece today. We are building a large shield of stability stretching from Greece northwards and extending to Bulgaria and Romania, and southwards to Cyprus, Israel, Jordan, Egypt, Arab Emirates.

It is obvious that if they are generalized they will form a nightmarish environment of massive insecurity which will definitely disturb the everyday life and will serve as a catalyst for shrinking democratic freedoms.

It is not at all unlikely that a wave of racist attacks will be caused against simple Muslims, and, of course, that the influence of xenophobic parties will increase. Everything, however, shows that the model of multicultural societies is being tested.

Europe itself faces an equally important issue at the same time. The migration issue which, apart from its profound humanitarian dimension, has also political implications since, essentially, it puts the Union – its structure and its cohesion – into another test. This issue also disunites the Old Continent. After the financial crisis, which divided it into North and South, now this splits it into East and West, as far as its positions and attitude are concerned. It incites nationalisms, populism and unjustifiable fears undermining the very quintessence of Europe, the solidarity as its base and the open society as its choice.    

Unfortunately, nowadays illegal migration is connected to issues of terrorism, organized crime and defence, since there are factors which try to exploit the political and social responsiveness of the western countries to sow terror and extreme violence in an effort to serve ethnic, religious and financial interests.        

Many times we see that the refugees themselves, who are victims of Deash terrorism, are being used by terrorists who want to travel in the West and exploit for this purpose the refugee identity itself, which is also born by the refugees and they must be protected according to international agreements which all EU countries have signed.

Europe needs to consolidate a common culture, a common policy on the migration issue which has multiple dimensions for Europe. Thus, European citizens of Greece and Italy will not feel helpless and alone against this crisis.    

At this point, it is very important that we managed, in cooperation with NATO, to conclude in an agreement – which started from the initiative of Germany’s Defence Minister with the participation of Greece and Turkey – and provided for SNMG2 forces to deploy in Eastern Aegean Sea, with Greece being the first – and only one – to grant diplomatic permission in the entire area of its territorial waters and with the opposition of Turkey, which, I hope, will not be continued although you may see that there will be an effort to stop this operation in Warsaw, as a result, this agreement and this NATO operation managed to stop the migration flows. From 5,000-8,000 migrants and refugees per day in the Eastern Aegean, we have now 0-25 persons with certain exceptions. Some days we see some flows which demonstrate that there is a particular need to continue this operation in Eastern Aegean.

The hybrid war is not a modernity of our times, over the last years it becomes all the more obvious that it will be a key choice as the manner in which most efforts of the countries that attempt to review the existent status quo, are manifested and evolve. And this happens because hybrid threats develop in areas of “hybrid peace”; that is in societies with low cohesion, non human-centred and with inadequate influence of rule of law.

I would say that the international community, the United Nations, the United States of America, the European Union, the whole western world and not only, Russia too, are dealing with new situations. You can see how this crisis develops, how it changes form, it transforms constantly. You can see the confusion of the great powers of the world, G8, G20, European Union which seems politically and institutionally weak to face these challenges with the quickness and effectiveness that they require.        

A very important factor of this crisis is the strategic gap which became obvious in the western side of the world. The weakness of the European union – and finally of NATO – and, of course, the weakness of the United Nations to draft a complete strategic plan timely, which can persuade us that it has a beginning, a middle and an end, and that it includes a strategy of entry and a strategy of exit from the crisis. I will never forget the Director of the Population of the United Nations in OSCE Summit, Lisbon 1999, warning the Parliamentary Assembly that the waves of migrants from the East to the West will reach 50 million persons annually, as the UN estimated.

 If we continue – and this is what I would like to contribute to our conversation today – facing the new threats, the new instability problems at a global scale, from the aspect of the areas where they emerge, we ignore or underestimate the aspect which puts the West in the role of observer. In other words, we must see what our responsibility is too. Is the West another factor of instability?    

Because the problem is not the management of the crisis in Libya or the confrontation of the situation in Syria. The problem is the total approach of this issue which as you realize is the only to be able to allow us form a solid and legible strategy, understood by our peoples too.    I hope that the Warsaw Summit will help particularly in this policy.

Ladies and gentlemen,

We realize that Europe finds it difficult to undertake a strong role to provide stability and growth in this area.    And this is the paradox. Because although it has been developing important mechanisms since more than a decade in the context of the Common Defence and Security Policy (CDSP), such as the Military Committee, the Military Staff and the European Defence Agency. It is not capable of developing a rapid reaction force of 60,000 persons and has difficulty in manning a mission of 5,000 persons for the Common Security and Defence Policy.

And the reason is obvious. The EU suffers from a general structural deficiency, from its institutional and its political weakness: the fundamentally national character of the European defence systems. Lacking its own military resources, the EU depends on the voluntary contribution of its member-states which are often proved insufficient. The national military organisation of member-states often continues to support the territorial defence against a land invasion, even in member-states where such an invasion seems unlikely.    

So, a financial giant, an energy and technology giant, a colossal market with consumers with enormous purchasing power has not the necessary political and institutional characteristics. It has not the necessary reflexes. What we all realize is that Europe is entitled to a more important role; to this exactly cooperation in Europe, to this new policy which must with a new political realism find out 21st century solutions and not 20th century doctrines, aiming to upgrade its position and influence in the world, as well as to avoid being divided into a progress zone and a debt zone. These are critical challenges for global stability.

This requires, among others, that the European states ought to give a new impetus to the concept of common foreign policy, as also to their priorities regarding issues of defence and security. And European citizens must realize that these issues, as it is proved, are not confined within national borders, but they concern us all.

I would like to assure you that in this context, Greece is present, as EU member, as NATO member, as well as a country which will continue having relations with Russia , will continue cooperating with moderate countries of the Mediterranean, will continue having a close defence cooperation with Israel, Egypt, Jordan, Arab Emirates, with the “big players” in the Middle East and Northern Africa and will contribute to this stability.

The main purpose is to prevent terrorism from being financed. If the area between Crete, Suez, Cyprus and Libya is not controlled, the Daesh will continue being financed from illegal oil trafficking, illegal human and drugs trafficking.

Thank you very much.”