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Hellenic Republic Ministry of National Defence

Defence Minister Panos Kammenos' speech in the Parliament during the discussion of the bill regarding the Ministry of National Defence

“ Mr. Speaker, dear colleagues,

     I will try to be as brief as possible. I would like to thank all colleagues for the exceptional discussion that took place during the plenary session, as well as in the Committee. As you might have noticed, I did not speak earlier. Because I wanted to listen to all the speakers, to all colleagues.
    
     During the discussion at the plenary session, indeed, we heard the opinions of the Parliament and we corrected enough of the points, whenever the colleagues correctly expressed a comment. I would like to assure you that the Ministry of National Defence will continue to work in this manner because we believe that defence matters must be faced in a different manner.

    I would like to thank the opposition for the stance it kept in particular. We are honoured by the fact that several colleagues and parties of the opposition will vote in principle or some articles of the bill. I believe that this is a good start.

     I can assure you, on the part of the Ministry of National Defence, that we will do our best to observe the budget of the Ministry of National Defence and to go back to that time when during a discussion of the budget in the Parliament, although the parties disagreed, however they all voted together for the budget of the Ministry of National Defence. On our side we are doing our best.
 
      I would also like to give some explanations. Firstly, I will say that many of the changes that you highlighted – Mr. Loverdos said about the professional soldiers, about the Enlisted Men of Short Reenlistment, about the graduates of military academies, the engineers of the Air Force – we could not do them at this time. It is the same about training too. It is true that these matters, as well as the training in military academies are issues which we raise, we discuss about, we will find common solutions and we will very soon submit a broader plan for the reorganization of the Armed Forces.

I would like to remind you that the main legislative body in the Hellenic Republic is the Hellenic Parliament. In this bill we took into account also the proposals submitted by the General Staffs on matters of their responsibility, yet the leadership of the Ministry of National Defence will not follow the suggestion of the speaker of the Opposition to submit even the political planning for approval. Everyone has their responsibility. I am saying this with full respect.

     I believe that here, now, after today’s discussion a conclusion was also reached about the acknowledgement of military associations. It is true that this issue is a taboo. Some years ago we could not imagine that the words “syndicates” and “Armed Forces”    could be combined. It was the same, however, about Police and the Hellenic Coast Guard. I remember my old colleague Nikos Gkelestathis who said “from today on the Police will be destroyed, everything will be destroyed” pretty much as you said. Yet, later on, the President of the first association became an MP of the New Democracy Party, Mr. Kyriazidis.

     This is exactly the difference of an attitude which we must face, because, since you do not want to hear it clearly, there were supporters of political parties in the Armed Forces, weren’t there? Do you remember the association of retired officers under Nikos Gryllakis, General Gryllakis? We wrote a book together, we worked together.

     I will tell you about a man with whom I have had a political controversy in the same party, Giannis Varvitsiotis. When they gave him the list for the military promotions as they were proposed by the party, he kicked them out of his office. Do you remember the lists that PASOK had given about the promotions of colonels? Do you remember who said “captains are with us or with you”? This has to end. Acknowledging an association, deals exactly with these hidden practices.  

     This morning I said about the announcement of Epirus association of officers. Within 15 minutes the parliamentary representative of the Golden Dawn party had already a reply from them. He said “they contacted him and also the director of the hospital contacted him”. So you can understand what an institutional acknowledgement means and what happens if we let some people operate through underground practices.
    
      I can assure you, as Minister of Defence and as government of SYRIXA and INDEPENDENT HELLENES that, as long as both Mr. Vitsas and I are in government and as long as we have the responsibility of the Ministry of National Defence, there will be no suggestion to favour any candidate to be promoted in military promotions, as there has not been any so far.

     The political leadership selects the Chief of HNDGS and the Chiefs of General Staffs. From there on, any involvement of political parties or political choices must end. The Armed Forces must be self-governed. And it is this self-government that we will ensure in any possible manner.


     As far as the recognition of an association is concerned, indeed, all security measures have been taken because it was and it is a first step which breaks many taboos.

     I am sure that it will be faced with seriousness by everybody, that we will be able to open a democratic dialogue, that the discipline will not be compromised, the respect towards superiors among the personnel of the Armed Forces will not be affected, as well as the Command of the Armed Forces will not be influenced by the establishment of this association.

On the contrary, we will be able to discuss publicly, to listen to institutional proposals and to shut the hidden doors that existed until nowadays in the parties. This will be done and I assure you that it will be to the Armed Forces’ benefit.

     I would like to conclude my speech by answering some questions that were raised in relation to the Direction of Construction Works, oils and lubricants, as Mr. Davakis said. Aren’t oils and lubricants paid now for works of the Engineer? Aren’t oils paid for the units of the Engineer which undertake works and perform them successfully? Both oils and the personnel’s stay are also paid.

     Yesterday, we inaugurated the BELLEY type bridge near the Monastery of Saint Gregorios on Mount Athos, not to serve the monks of the Monastery, but mostly to ensure the issue of fires on Mount Athos which has been at the risk of fires four times so far. In parallel, it helps also the monks since it connects the monasteries.

     Did you see how the monks welcomed and hosted the officers of the Armed Forces? The same happened also on Ikaria, in Karkinagri, in Drama as well. The same will happen tomorrow on Lefkada. The same will also happen in other areas. We have set priorities and we will consider also the possibility of works on remote islands, in small towns where people are still waiting for a state agency to conduct works because big contractors are not interested in so small projects, yet of so great national importance.
    
    I will also remind you, Mr. Davakis, because you said it to many times that re-establishing this Direction was also in the priorities of the New Democracy in 2009. It is among the priorities of the New Democracy. What has changed? Now I see that the extreme right wings have started to change this old programme of the New Democracy. You know which ones I mean.

     Dear colleagues, I assure you that in cooperation with the Committee on National Defence and Foreign Affairs of the Parliament I accept that we can submit all the proposals and consider them together.

     Should I explain why we did not embed it in the legislation? For this reason: there are cases, particularly military needs which we cannot reveal in public. If I say then that tomorrow we will go to Lefkada for a work and then to Nisyros, we must also listen – and, of course, we will listen with great respect – to the opinion of the Parliament and of the colleagues of the regional governance. However, let us decide on this after all, because I think that it has a particular importance.

     Now, as far as the utilization of the property of the Armed Forces is concerned, I heard that there are fears of politicians being involved. The procedures are simple. They are so automatic that whoever wants to be involved will not be able to. The procedure is that there is an offer at least for the 5%, where there is no local governance, where there is no local interest, where we give priority etc.

     As far as private contractors are concerned, if one appears and offers a rent of 5% per year, since this area has no legal commitments and with the consent opinion of the local community – we take this into account too – it will be announced online. What I am saying is that I will not go now to Perdika which belongs to the Hellenic Navy and build apartment blocks. Perdika belongs to the Hellenic Navy. The local community lives there. I cannot go there and say “I will rent it to build apartments”. We all discussed together, we discussed also with the mayor and the MPs and we suggested “why don’t we go there to build a park?” which will bring incomes corresponding to the 5%.

    Of course, you can ask questions. I am not referring to these areas, but to properties and areas where big investments can be made and in which there is a private interest. These will be posted online, a bidding procedure will be followed. There are no objection rights or anything else. And after the end of the procedure this area will be rented. If the rent is not paid for a certain period of one or two rents renting is terminated and the property returns to the Fund of the Armed Forces.

     Since also the vertical property issue has been raised, I wish to clarify – and what I say has legal force – when renting is over for any reason – either rents are not paid or the contract duration is over – whatever is on a specific land property belongs to the Armed Forces. The premises, however, remain in the ownership of the Armed Forces. Only what cannot be used, belongs to the property or if it is a building, to the building.

     As for the other changes that have been proposed I can accept what you say about the article 50. I would like to make legislative improvements. In article 50, paragraph 6, the text from “if this is not feasible” up to “according to the aforementioned procedure” will be removed. Indeed, there is no reason for a postal ballot paper to be given, to avoid any grouping.

     To tell you the truth, the issue of the charges is something that we adopted following the proposals and discussions that had been made. I do not object to reconsidering it.

     What is more serious is the issue of the property of the Funds. The PSI was referred. It was a crime. No doubt. The commands have appealed to the court against the PSI, the haircut that was done without their consent. This was a decision by the Bank of Greece. It was a decision that destroyed the Funds, as it also destroyed the banks, universities and other funds as well.

     As for the education and training a bill is being prepared. I would like us to consider thoroughly the issue of the education, even of the admission to military academies. It is an issue that we must open and discuss.

     And as far as various news are concerned, which I read online, ladies and gentlemen, I would like to assure that the Ministry of National Defence has created a mechanism of information for the mass media, for internet too and when we have to provide some information we provide it responsibly.

    Yesterday, for example, during some operations opposite Symi island incredible things were heard. We heard that an F16 sank two Turkish vessels. It was written by foreign channels and it was reproduced. We allegedly saw two boats heading to Symi. No boat was detected.
    
     Please, because it is a difficult and dangerous time and there a tense in the region, especially in the neighbouring country, whoever among the colleagues wishes to be informed, will be informed directly by the leadership of the Ministry of National Defence and by the Chiefs of the General Staffs, and firstly by the Chief of the Hellenic National Defence General Staff. Contact us, read the releases and do not be informed by reading various posts, many of which are a result of obscure motives.

     Finally, since there was also a discussion about the alteration of statements of the Alternate Minister – his statement was totally different by what has been written – I will tell you that the Ministry of National Defence has no responsibility over the issue. Let the Ministry of Foreign Affairs do its job as it must do it.

     And I believe that the most important for the country at this moment is for all of us to have a common opinion about such issues. And I am saying this in view of the anniversary of the invasion and occupation of Cyprus, a period about which I will only say that we will pay the proper tribute to the heroes of ELDYK, to the people who fought and fell or returned and we did not ever acknowledged their participation. We will correct this.

     We already started to correct this also in the case of “NIKI” operation as well as in other operations, even older ones. And we would like everybody’s participation in this. Because if we want this invasion and occupation to be commemorated we must honour those who fought, regardless of whether there were also betrayers at that time. They will be punished, they will be marginalized in history, yet we cannot let those who fought leave this life with a grief, in order to punish the betrayers. The archives that contain all evidence will be given to the Parliament by all the General Staffs and they will also be published.

     Thank you.”