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Hellenic Republic Ministry of National Defence

Defence Minister Panos Kammenos' speech at EXPOSEC 2016

“The matters of defence and security have always been considered – reasonably – as matters of policy and high strategy. Nowadays, they cannot remain in discussions behind closed doors, detached from the society and considered under the spectre of an exclusively military strategy or other geopolitical priorities.

On the contrary, these issues, nowadays, are fully integrated in an average citizen’s everyday life and in close connection with it. This is the reality that residents of coast areas of Southern Europe experience every day, while they bear the burden of an increasing wave of illegal migration, as well as residents of Paris and Brussels who realized, unfortunately in the worst possible manner, that the cells of extreme fundamentalism, no matter how far they may be in place, at the same time they can come so close.

What happened over the last years in Northern Africa, Middle East and Black Sea demonstrate a broader shift in the power and the role that state entities, sub-ethnic and inter-ethnic groups, international organizations and persons can play, in order to form the security environment at a national and international level. The lack of common international ethics along with the nature of an interstate, interethnic and religious competitiveness which develops as a result of a complicated coexistence of realism and idealism in the international relations create challenges against the status qui, tensions, crises and conflicts, forming thus a new extremely volatile security environment.

Under these circumstances, the opinion that the meaning of national security includes not only the territorial integrity, but people’s economic and social prosperity as well, and that the risks and external threats against a state’s national security are multifaceted, has become widely accepted.

It becomes, therefore, absolutely clear that the issue of forming a modern, effective and reliable decision making system at a highest level concerning the matters of defence and security, both in the case of our country, as well as of international organizations, such as the European Union and NATO, is not a technical or organizational issue, yet a profoundly political one.

Hereupon, as priority issues for the West on the wider region of the Middle East and Northern Africa could be defined the following: First, ensuring communications, transports and mostly energy security; Second, dealing with Islamic fundamentalism; Third, controlling the migration flows; fourth, confronting illegal trafficking of armaments and organized crime – the financing of terrorism through trafficking of oil, weapons and humen – and, fifth, consolidating political stability in the region and promoting solutions with high internal legitimacy for locals.

Today, we are all witnesses of a humanitarian crisis with many consequences. The refugees-migrants’ issue has put Europe – its structure and cohesion – into a new trial.

I would dare to say that the refugees’ crisis develops gradually into an existential crisis for European Union. If the borders of the member-states are closed, Schengen agreement will collapse and, along with it, a fundamental principle and freedom of the European Union, the free circulation of people, which, along with the free movement of goods, services and capitals is one of the pillars of the European unification procedure, will collapse too.

Furthermore, the Old Continent is split once more after the financial crisis which divided it into North and South. Currently as far as positions and attitudes are concerned, it splits into West and East. Nationalisms and unjustifiable fears are triggered, thus undermining the very quintessence of the Union, the solidarity as a base and the open society as a choice.

Because of this situation, the countries of South-Eastern Europe undertake the heavy and disproportional burden of managing big migrants and refugees’ flows.

At this point, I wish to stress that, after the agreement signed by NATO, as well as the agreement of the European Union with Turkey, the truth is much different from the one that the television networks present on a daily basis. From six thousand refugees and migrants who entered every day, over the last week they were reduced to only 50-80 persons who crossed the Aegean sea daily.

This means that, although NATO agreement did not work, as we estimated or as the political decision provided for, the result is real, that is we have no continuation of migration flows.

Seven thousand beds are empty today all over Greece. They can host all those who are in Eidomeni and Piraeus providing accommodation, food and safety.

Some do not want these refugees and migrants to be integrated in the system which we created with great efforts, but they want them to remain there, in order to produce an image of this country much different from the reality, which unfortunately affects also tourism.

Although our country is amid a financial crisis – which, I hope, will end within the next days with the signing of the agreement and the beginning of the debate about the debt-maturity extension – it tries to deal with the current situation, as imposed by our dignity, history and humanitarian values. We give a strong and multifaceted battle which we ought to manage with strategic sufficiency, organized plan and perspective.

I take advantage of this opportunity also as political head of the Armed Forces to say that the struggle and the effort of personnel is really monumental. The Armed Forces undertook the construction of hosting and reception infrastructure and its temporary operation. This work would not have achieved the desired results without the unreserved contribution of cadres and conscripts of the Armed Forces who accomplished their mission with a sense of responsibility, professionalism and high level training, supporting our country’s effort to remain consistent to its international commitments.

Five hotspots, two relocation centres were created within 14 days. We constructed the infrastructure for 25,000 hosts all over Greece and, of course, without any financial support which would have allowed us to accomplish this work faster. We proceeded with conducting competitions and, as far as food supply is concerned, we applied the directive of the European Union, by offering specific food which was provided for by the UN High Commission for Refugees and the European Union, by conducting fully transparent competitions which gave the possibility for the food supply provided to refugees to pass from the Armed Forces to a catering company. At the same time, all security prerequisites were created for the very important problem of missing unaccompanied children who are the 40% of the migration and refugees’ flows.

I would like, at this point, to clarify that the Ministry of National Defence insists on using biometric data, especially about of children who do not have the possibility to be recorded by the Eurodac system, with the use of eye iris in order to ensure the identification of children and prevent them from missing.

I would like to congratulate the Armed Forces in public, because they are an example for every competent service of the State, when it handles matters of defence and foreign policy at its own level, as well as other matters.

And I wish to stress that our view that the budget of the Ministry of National Defence should not be reduced must be common and national. We do everything to increase our income.

I would like to inform you, Mr. Chairman of the American-Hellenic Chamber, because you referred to reforms earlier, that this is the first time in the history of the Hellenic Armed Forces that a real estate of 37 billion euros is about to be utilized in a very simple manner. We have set as limit the 5% of the objective value as the annual rent of all properties of the four funds of the Armed Forces. So, with 5% on the objective value per year, we may lease for 50 or 100 years an area which is not currently used for military purposes. This will be announced online on a public bid for seven or fifteen days, following a regulation which will be forwarded over the next days.

I would like to say that during a first discussion we have had with the Greek community in the United States, as well as with countries with which we have a very close cooperation at this time, with Israel, with countries of the Middle East – especially Abu Dhabi – and Egypt, we have offers which will bring huge investments to the country.

Regarding Fleves Island there are already two proposals, one submitted by Abu Dhabi for a rent of 100 million euros which will be added to the budget of the Hellenic Navy and the creation of a resort of 22 thousand positions with an investment of 3.6 billion euros.

The second proposal is from Israel for the creation of the Silicon Island, that is of an exemplary research and development centre which does not exist anywhere else in the world in order that this property can be utilized.

The size of the humanitarian crises which according to UN sources is the worst refugees’ crisis after World War II mobilized the public opinion. The engagement of the UN, of NATO and other international agents was necessary.

I would like, however, to underline that terrorism remains the most important threat for the international community since over the last years it keeps evolving as far as both purposes and means are concerned.

Unfortunately, illegal migration is related to the issues of terrorism, organized crime and defence, since there are agents that try to exploit the cultural and social sensibilities of the western states and spread terror and extreme violence in order to support ethnic, religious, financial and personal interests.

At this point, I would like to stress that refugees are victims of terrorism. Those who left Syria left because ISIS, Deash, invaded their homes. So, we are obliged to protect the refugees from the cause that made them abandon their homes and by no means should they be connected to illegal migrants and those who try to use them in order to find their way to the West.

I would like to remind that terrorists who hit Europe until now are not refugees or migrants. They are second or third generation residents of the countries in which the terrorist acts took place. I also consider the international cooperation necessary even out of the alliances of NATO and the European Union. I mention the act in Boston, during the Marathon as an example. Those terrorists were Chechens. So, beyond any differences between NATO and Russia – an exchange of information with non NATO and EU member-states is necessary.   

Greece, as a significant position and a s a factor of stability in the wider region, it can and it will cooperate with all these countries to reinforce NATO decision to create an intelligence service in the context of NATO. Greece will be the first NATO state-member that creates this military intelligence service intended to handle this military intelligence.

Greece is one of the crossroads in the international geopolitical space. Among others, it predominates in the critical geo-system of the Eastern Mediterranean which united the West with the global energy centre, the Middle East. Contrary to most people’s opinion, the latest developments in this area have reinforced Greece’s role.

Greece, towards this direction, is a key country of the regional security system, recognizing the problems and particularities of the region, it manages to take a stabilizing role, whereas it also operates as Europe’s border and outpost against areas of instability and extreme religious and cultural polarization.

In order to achieve this, we have chosen a firm policy of principles and positions based on the respect of human rights, the inviolacy of borderlines and regional cooperation within international organizations, as well as on the equivalent bilateral relations.

Having invested in a long-term friendship with Israel, as well as with the moderate countries of the Arab world, we can create the conditions for convergence between the countries of the region.

In this manner, the country contributes actively as a commonly accepted dialogue partner in the gradual approach of countries of this region and in the deepening of their relations with the European Union and NATO and in the development of regional action of financial and defence cooperation.

And we must maintain this role; we must reinforce it, despite the side effects of the financial crisis, and continue our defence planning and our national priorities.

These cooperations also give the possibility to reinforce our defence industry. I want to make this absolutely clear. Since the day when the Prime Minister assigned me the responsibility of the Ministry of National Defence, Greek defence industries, whether public or private, are parts of the Ministry’s policy making. There is not even one visit that the Alternate Minister Mr. Vitsas or I have done, in which we were not accompanied by businessmen of the Greek defence industries, private and public.

And at this point I wish to say that the capability of Greece to connect the Middle East to NATO and NATO to the Middle East and Northern Africa is very important; Cooperations that have already been initiated with India and I am glad that Greek enterprises have a very large participation in producing work in third countries. Equally important is also the role of cooperation which emanates from offsets. Offsets which in the past were the means for bribes to be paid for armaments, turn now into a tool of reinforcement of the Armed Forces.

It is important to let the military leaders do their job. The political intervention into the Armed Forces is over. The political leadership chooses the Chiefs and then the Chiefs conduct the evaluation of officers. This, I believe, is one of the biggest achievements of this Government.
This is the reason for which we should consider seriously the prospect of creating a National Security Council in which the Chiefs of Hellenic National Defence General Staff and of the three General Staffs, of the Army, of the Navy and the Air Force, the Chief of the Hellenic Police, the Chief of the National Intelligence Service, the Chief of the new Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces, the Chief of the Fire Brigade, the General Secretary of Civil Security will participate. And Prime Minister will preside it, assisted by a security advisor, as it is currently organized in the United States of America, where he will be the central coordinator, and by an alternate security advisor who will not change according to every government.   

The public opinion asks for security and protection more than ever before and shows largely that it supports the common and solidary policies of dealing with current threats at a national level. Maybe all the above seem just theories, yet their sincere recording as a part of dialogue procedure, like your conference, helps us answer fundamental questions caused by the current socio-political developments.

In parallel, we will have to examine thoroughly, without any prejudices and dogmatisms, the effectiveness and sufficiency of the existent structures of our national defence and security system. I do not refer only to the military structures and the relative structure of power, but to every component of the national security.”