PROPOSAL BY THE MINISTER OF NATIONAL DEFENCE Mr. DIMITRIS AVRAMOPOULOS AT THE MEETING OF THE STANDING COMMITTEE OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND DEFENCE OF THE HELLENIC PARLIAMENT AT THE MINISTRY OF DEFENCE
It is a great pleasure for us, and I speak on behalf of both the political and military leadership of the Ministry of National Defence, to welcome here today in the Pentagon, the MPs-members of the Committee of Foreign Affairs and Defence.
I trust and consider that today’s meeting, today’s briefing on defence matters is of particular importance. Not only semantically, since it takes place in this Ministry, but also essentially, amidst a difficult financial crisis our country, but also the entire Europe, experiences.
I would like you to know that in the past one month that I, too, am in this Ministry, I have discovered the level of readiness but also the morale governing the personnel staffing this sensitive sector.
The officers, the NCOs, the Soldiers, they are all devoted to their duty and committed to their mission, along with the entire civilian personnel of the Ministry.
Ladies and Gentlemen, Members of the Parliament,
The most important task of the Ministry is, as you all know, to safeguard the national integrity and independence of this country.
Our doctrine, as it has repeatedly been said in the past, is defensive and deterrent at the same time.
We do not threat, nor are we threatened.
The goal is one; to always have the necessary strategy, self-control, flexibility, readiness, swift reflexes and ready, well-structured crisis management protocols, in order to be able to react to any possible small, middle or large scale threat and above all to appreciate if this crisis has political or strategic depth or if it puts through our reactions, our tolerance and our reflexes, as we have seen many times when it concerns a desultory action that simply puts the system under test.
Consequently, it is very important to proceed to the proper and insightful assessment of a situation, since this is the only way for us to define our country’s operational needs, providing the biggest possible effectiveness and the lesser, and this is very important, possible financial cost.
It is also very important to agree that the defensive policy is defined in direct connection with the foreign policy and our stable national goals.
It is well known that national power, that is the volume and the impression of every nation’s national substance and action, is a resultant of numerous parameters.
Such parameters are military power, social stability and cohesion, financial robustness, fiscal firmness and the practice of integral, active and reliable defensive diplomacy.
The Ministry of National Defence, being the organ that implements effective policy on national defence and security, should preserve modern, flexible and “smart structured” powers, properly commanded and without organisational compliance or stagnancy.
As far as the new structure of the Armed Forces is concerned, as it has been planned by the General Staffs and which – and I would like you to bear that in mind– is being studied at the level of political leadership in this phase, it shall play a key role to the effort of resource saving, and also efficient operation of the Ministry and the system of the Armed Forces in general.
With regard to Greek-Turkish relations, as we all know very well and experience at a daily basis, in the Aegean Sea we observe matters of infringements and violations of the Greek FIR and the Greek national airspace, which are though intercepted successfully by our Air Force and followed by diplomatic demarches to the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
It is a daily procedure that, at some extent, tests as I said earlier our reflexes and I must say that for the time I am here, I imagine that my predecessors had discovered the same thing, that our national system works imminently and efficiently.
Obviously, since I mentioned the demarches earlier, they almost never have essential response.
However, they are registered and they signal plain, definite, inviolable lines, thus creating a persistent and reliable comportment of a country which founds and establishes a stance that is taken into account by international Organisations and by international Justice.
As far as Cyprus is concerned, Greece has always been present and it still is, present in the island with the Hellenic Force of Cyprus (ELDYK), as well as with Greek officers, NCOs and soldiers who staff the units of the Cypriot National Guard.
Greece has been, and it remains, by the side of the Cypriots and it supports all the decisions made by the legitimate Government of the Republic of Cyprus.
For our country, the European Security and Defence Policy has increased specific gravity.
We believe that the Solidarity and Mutual Assistance Clause, which is explicitly contained in the Lisbon Treaty is of vital importance for military, but also for political reasons, that is to say when there is a natural or man-made disaster and when there is a terrorist threat or an act of terrorism.
This clause is not an empty letter. And this is something that must be guaranteed in any possible way.
As far as NATO is concerned, we believe that during the negotiations on NATO’s new structure, our country could actually have had ensured more.
Turkey, after the Lisbon Summit in November 2010, ensured an important role in the Alliance’s new structure, with the establishment of the Land Forces HQ at Izmir, replacing the CC-Air HQ at Izmir.
We do not argue that the elimination of the CC-Air HQ Izmir from the NATO new structure limits Ankara’s capability of creating problems and causing tension, as far as the control of the airspace over the Aegean is concerned.
However, the Land Forces HQ at Izmir upgrades the geostrategic role of Ankara in the region of South-Eastern Europe, in a very critical circumstance.
Besides, being active members of the South-eastern Europe Defence Ministerial (SEDM), we are active members of a Brigade which has been generated in the framework of this cooperation, based at Tyrnavos and, of course, we have a number of Bilateral Defence Relations, most important among which is the multileveled U.S-Greek Defence Cooperation.
We deepen and we broaden even more our strategic alliances, as the one we have with Israel, in the framework of a new defence policy in South-eastern Mediterranean, which shapes new facts.
A visit by the Israeli Defence Minister in Athens is afoot in the beginning of next month, crowning this spirit of cooperation, understanding and friendship between the two countries, in the very sensitive field of defence.
Of course, we have bilateral strategic cooperation with other countries as well, such as France, Germany, Great Britain and Russia.
Cooperation of particular importance in a fluid and uncertain global financial environment with new challenges, as well as threats which are brewing.
My official visits to Paris, London, Moscow and Ankara are already pending.
In the framework of NATO, Greece participates in ISAF-Afghanistan, and in KFOR-Kosovo, which I have planned to visit as soon as possible.
Moreover, we participate in the Horn of Africa and the Mediterranean maritime surveillance.
Within 2011, we have effectively supported the Alliance’s missions in Libya, a successful example of operational work and cooperation, always in the context of the UN Security Council Resolutions.
Under the auspices of the European , our country participates in missions in Bosnia, the coastline of Somalia and elsewhere; and, of course, in missions of the United Nations. The presence of the flag is of particular importance for the standing of a country; besides the fact that it essentially contributes to the completion of the missions.
In any event, under the new circumstances formed, we have to reassess our participation in international exercises and obligations, so as to economise crucial resources.
As far as the field of armament programmes is concerned, the needs of this country, contrary to the needs of other European countries, mainly have a defensive-deterrent character and mission, as you already know.
They correspond to this uncertain, fluid and unstable environment in our region, which is made even more uncertain due to the current events in the Mediterranean, North Africa and the Middle East.
Consequently, ensuring security and peace in this area is a prerequisite for armaments’ downbeat.
In this framework, a total reassessment is required, which will begin from the fundamental, the reassessment of threats and the enunciation of operational needs without prejudice and stereotypes, so as to respond to the crisis scenarios that are most likely to occur in actual fact.
I, personally, am not sure that this government, a coalition government of specific purpose, will have the time to complete this effort, to complete such a programme given the cut-off in the budget of armament programmes to 1 billion Euros, as you all already know.
However, it has the possibility to set the foundations for a feasible and efficient planning for the future. And it is necessary to be successful in that endeavour, since armament expenditures come from the sacrifices and the labour of the Greek people.
The same thing applies to the EMPAE 2011-2015 (Integrated Mid-term development and armaments programme) of a total cost of 14,5 billion Euros, which have been abolished by the law 3978/2011, as well as the offset benefits, which must though be completed as fast as possible.
The development of domestic defence industry, its exploitation in the procurements of the Hellenic Armed Forces, but also in cooperation with defence industries from other countries at bilateral intergovernmental level, can become an important parameter to our national economy and offer new job posts.
The law instituting the Privatization Fund includes the Hellenic Defence Systems and the Hellenic Vehicle Industry to the Public Utility Organizations which come under the Ministry of National Defence and the Ministry of Finance.
By the same law, the Real Estate belonging to the Ministry of National Defence will be exploited. Already, a meeting has been planned for next Tuesday for these issues.
A very important parameter, in the same direction, is the exploitation of the Armed Forces’ assets for the benefit of society, ensuring at the same time the viability of Share Funds.
Ladies and Gentlemen, Members of the Parliament,
Be sure that, and we are all sure that, the financial crisis has not reduced in the least the credibility, the morale and the power of the Army.
The Hellenic Armed Forces are fully aware of their mission.
We should feel really proud of their quality.
A quality which has been conquered with the sacrifices made by the Greek people, which belongs to all Greeks and which must remain at the highest possible level, a responsibility we all have.
Before concluding and after thanking you for your attention, I would like to say to you all that during the conversation that will follow, for many of the issues our colleagues would like to set and touch upon, we are all ready to answer, along with – of course – the military leadership present in this session.
Thank you very much.