Intervention by the Minister of National Defence, Mr P. Beglitis, during parliamentary session of 26.07.2011 carried out on the articles and complete text of the bill:
- a) “Ratification of Memorandum of Understanding between the Ministry of National Defence of the Hellenic Republic and the Ministry of Defence of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, on the Conduct of Military Exercises and Training and Host Nation Support”
- b) “Ratification of Memorandum of Understanding between the Government of Romania and the Government of the Hellenic Republic on Host Nation Support for the conduct of NATO Operations and Exercises”
- c) Ratification of Technical Arrangement between Allied Joint Force Command – Naples and the Ministry of National Defence of the Hellenic Republic on the Establishment of the Advanced Logistics Base in the Port of Souda”
- d) Legislative ratification of the Fifth Additional Protocol to the Agreement for Multinational Peace Force South-Eastern Europe”
“The Standing Committee on National Defence and Foreign Affairs discussed in a comprehensive, sufficient and extensive way all four of the aforementioned agreements. I am fully aware of the position of the opposition parties, mainly of the two traditional left-wing ones.
In addition, before the said Committee, I was given the chance to answer to all issues raised by my colleagues MPs. These same issues emerged again today, so if I may, I will have to make some brief remarks.
It is well-known that both the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) and the Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) repeat positions and arguments which do not keep pace with the modern, international developments; nor are they related to the national interests in general.
We disagree with the strategy and we do believe that if such positions prevailed in our country, Greece would be condemned to isolation and turned against its own national interests.
In a period of great changes, when all countries strive to join regional, European and international institutions of security and defence, KKE and SYRIZA ask that we withdraw from these organizations to seek peace, security and protection of our national interests in a lonely place. This is an ineffective strategy, reviving old perceptions of a world that can only be approached historically.
Mr President, in the past, we shared a Manichaean concept of the world; the good “Warsaw Pact”, the “bad imperialists of the Atlantic Alliance”. Nowadays, lack of rival, the only enemy that remains in a historically deterministic way is, according to KKE, the Atlantic Alliance”.
I think of their arguments as a political and ideological chapter which, however, cannot be fulfilled in terms of realism and reality. Today, these arguments are totally unfounded. All countries, just like I mentioned earlier, are after alliances; they try to participate in the shaping of relations favorable to their own interests. Even the Russian Federation closely cooperates with NATO at an institutional level, through the partnership for peace, through the NATO – Russia Cooperation Council.
Which country of the area remains isolated? What is their vision of Greece in this world, in this international system? They cannot answer, but most importantly, they do not answer what will substitute for the country’s participation in the EU and NATO.
For our Government, just like for the vast majority of the country’s political forces, it is more than certain that we defend our national interests through our active participation in the international, European and regional organizations.
Could anyone realize what it would mean for our country to stay away from the decision-making centers, where decisions are made, where relations are forged, where critical strategic decisions are made regarding the future of our area?
Could anyone tell us to what extent our national interests would be harmed, if we did not participate? Even more today that we are aware of the serious national security concerns, due to the revisionist policy of Turkey?
We vote for these agreements, because the country belongs with these regional and international organizations; because through these agreements, we take advantage of the comparative strategic advantages of our country and its strategic added value.
Why should great forces or international organizations respect us if we cannot offer strategic value through our bases, our policy, or the co-shaping of NATO and EU strategy? Why should they defend our national interests which are still open and pending?
I strongly believe – allow me to say – that it is naïve to consider that to better defend our national interests we should confine to ourselves. On the contrary! That is a dangerous route we are not willing to take. We believe that in this changing world we can reinforce our positions, exploit our strategic position, and this is what we do.
Souda bay constitutes a strategic area, the exploitation of which could enable us to defend our national interests and – like I stated in the Standing Committee of National Defence and Foreign Affairs – the developments due to this exploitation are several and important. I am referring to those related to Turkey as well; related to well-known and well-established practices, with regard to the Turkish air force activity in the wider Aegean Sea area.
Aren’t we going to take advantage of Souda bay, because KKE and SYRIZA ask that we don’t? We are aware of our responsibility towards people, towards the future of this country that has a lot of foreign policy issues still pending.
I stated before the Standing Committee of National Defence and Foreign Affairs that all of these agreements are governed by this fundamental principle of International Law which is the principle of reciprocity. We do realize in practice what this principle stands for in the frame of International Law and international relations.
Therefore, the colleagues of Popular Orthodox Alert Party (LAOS) should not be afraid or worried as regards defence of the country’s interests or its national and sovereign rights, thanks to the principle of reciprocity.
The issue of the participation of the Balkan Brigade in Afghanistan was raised in a phobic way on behalf of KKE. I can assure you that no, Mr Pafilis. We participate in Afghanistan as a country, in the international peacekeeping operation and under the legalizing umbrella of the UN and the decisions of the Security Council, with technical advisors and trainers, in the frame of the Afghan Army reorganization.
At the same time, we follow closely the developments and we take them into consideration; especially, those having to do with the recent decision taken by the Obama Administration in the USA, regarding the gradual withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan, which constitutes a very important and positive development, making way for equally important developments in the area.
Like I said, these developments are taken into consideration, and we will define our own position, always according to our national interests, when the situation allows us to. A respective position must be maintained as regards our participation in the peacekeeping operation in Kosovo.
The issue of funding and spending with regard to the technical arrangement of Souda bay was also raised. I am aware of the difficult financial circumstances, but I am afraid that although we try to defend our national interests, we are however concerned about a cost which in my opinion is the least we can spend on the promotion of our country’s strategic importance. According to this agreement, we will be participating with 1,5 million euro per year for the next five years.
However, I explained before the Standing Committee that the participation cost is deducted from the participation percentage in NATO budget. As we all know, we do participate in this budget with a certain percentage. This is equally important, because this money is used to build infrastructure that stays within the country; that is to the benefit of our country’s national defence. Aren’t we going to take this into account? Of course we will and this is what we do.
Finally, I would like to assure this Plenary Session that the Government of the Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) deals with the issues related to defence, national security and foreign policy in general, having as its guide our national interests, the fundamental principles of International Law, the respect of international treaties and our national sovereign rights. Defending the aforementioned will be achieved through international and regional organizations, through an active, extrovert, dynamic and multi-dimensional, foreign and defence policy.
We cannot deprive Greece or the Greek people of this capability, in the name of any policy, ideological or – allow me to say – obsessive approach and concept. Mr President, we do not have the luxury to deprive the country of the multiple capabilities found in the wider area of the Balkans and the south-eastern Mediterranean, in the name of some ideological perceptions that now make up a study subject for history and historians.
We will not allow this, we will not do this. We will maintain our foreign and defence policy, always shaping our general strategic orientations, with the interests of the country being our guide.
Thank you very much.