The Alternate Minister of National Defence Dimitris Vitsas, on Tuesday 10 October 2017, visited the Department of Defence of the USA (Pentagon) in Washington DC, where he met the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for International Security Affairs Katie Wheelbarger and the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Europe and NATO Thomas Goffus.
In the evening, he addressed the Hellenic Industry Networking Event, in the framework of the international defence systems exposition AUSA 2017, where it was announced that a department of the AUSA (Association of US Army) will be created in Greece. The event was attended by the Ambassador of the USA to Greece Geoffrey Pyatt, representatives of American and Greek companies, the Director of the GDDIA, the Vice President of AUSA and others.
The Alternate Minister of National Defence stated the following:
“Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a special honour and pleasure for me to be here today among you.
I would like to welcome you and say that today’s meeting has a particular importance for us.
Maybe I will distress those who produce and reproduce news based on the maxim that “news is only the bad news”. My country is no longer a source of “bad news” in relation to financial matters.
After seven years of crisis which created a very dire situation for Greece and for the Greek people and, in particular, for the younger generations, we can say today, with certainty, that Greece and the Greek economy turn a new page. The country can stand on its feet.
This new era which is however full of challenges calls us on to plan a more creative future which will not have the defects and the disadvantages of the past; a new era of sustainable growth.
From this podium, I am addressing you an invitation and this is an invitation and a challenge at the same time.
Greece is an open field for the development of the entrepreneurial activity in every sector of the economy. It is a fertile soil for new investments from the defence industry to tourism and the agricultural and alimentary sectors.
Whoever invests in Greece or opens a financial cooperation with bodies which are already operating within the Greek economy can expect immediate benefits.
The Greek market is the gate to a big mainland; this is the developing markets of the countries in the Balkans, the Black Sea, the Middle East and Northern Africa.
Every investment in Greece has a multiplier of power which offers it particular potential. It is the geostrategic position of the country and the security environment it offers.
Greece has many comparative advantages and some of them are unique. It is its position on the global map. One should just take a look.
Allow me, this is not a geography lesson, but it is necessary to remind some things because they give us an aspect.
It is located on the southernmost part of the Balkan Peninsula, on the borders between Europe and the Middle East. It is a member of the European Union since the first years of its creation, and one of the first members of NATO, the United Nations and other international organisations. Its geostrategic position is incontestable as it is at the centre of the geopolitical developments.
A relatively small in territory country, but with long history and acknowledged for the values it has developed across centuries. It is not only a beautiful country but also a country with high entrepreneurial capabilities and with highly skilled manpower, with particular capabilities and educational level. It is a country that forms a bridge and an outpost of security and stability in the wider area of the Southeastern Mediterranean.
There is a Greek phrase “we will not discover America” or “we will not invent the wheel” which is often used when we want to say that we utilise the existent data to progress further.
I do not want to tell you things that you know but to remind you the environment in which we operate which by itself is a spring-board for this cooperation.
Everybody is aware of the traditionally good relations between Greece and the United States.
The cooperation of Greece with the USA is very old and arguably these countries can be called strategic partners.
The beginning of this strong relation dates back to the struggle for the Greek independence in 1821, for which the struggle for the independence of the USA and the American Revolution were sources of inspiration.
These relations, between USA and Greece were strengthened across time through the mutual understanding and the mutual respect.
The American citizens of Greek descent, who live, create and become distinguished in the USA, are a firm bridge between our two countries.
Over the last years, the Greek-American relations have become more substantial. Particularly in the framework of Defence Industry Cooperation, initiatives have been undertaken for a closer cooperation in the field of armaments. The existence of prospects and expectations for a substantial and constant cooperation between the defence industries of the two countries, is of great importance.
The ultimate goal is for Greece to become – as far as industry is concerned – a regional centre of support of US weapon systems in Southeastern Europe and the wider area of the Middle East and Northern Africa.
Besides, we have a long lasting cooperation with the USA. Indicatively, I will mention some of the most recent characteristics of our cooperation:
The intergovernmental agreement with the Government of the USA for the upgrade of 5 P3B ORION maritime patrol aircraft, which is underway and is implemented and which will bring a sharp upgrade of the operational capabilities of the Hellenic Navy.
The talks which are held at present with the US government about the upgrade of the fleet of F-16 war aircraft, as well as the prospect of expanding the cooperation towards the renewal of the fleet.
The multileveled cooperation of the Hellenic Armed Forces with the Defence Industry of the USA which is implemented across time through the FMS Cases.
The defence cooperation, which is on the basis of a mutual benefit, can offer all the contracted parties, in a process of common training, an exchange of expertise and of cooperation in the field of defence industry.
This fact is, for both sides, a goal and a field on which we need to expand our cooperation. To this end, I am convinced that today’s meeting as well as the meetings held as part of the AUSA Exposition among representatives of Greek and American companies, will contribute decisively to the beginning of a new strong investment prospect in Greece.
The Hellenic Defence Industries maintain close relations for many years with the American companies. Indicatively, I would like to mention some things about these cooperative efforts:
Coproduction of weapon systems and ammunitions, such as warheads of Stinger missiles, of Patriot missile system, 30mm ammunitions for the guns of Apache helicopters, 40mm ammunitions L/60 for the guns of AC130 aircraft, rifles M16A1 and M16M4.
Coproduction of high technologies such as the construction of parts of F-16 combat aircraft, C-130 aircraft and UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters.
Cooperation on advanced and innovative military armament related with tactical telecommunication systems, UAVs, electronic systems and wiring, nanotechnology and surveillance systems.
Furthermore these cooperative efforts are of a strategic nature and have great perspectives for the coverage of the wider region with Greece at the epicentre.
As a Government moving to this direction, we have created an investment environment. We modernise and improve the justice system. We unburden businesses from pointless bureaucratic procedures. We promote transparency and the fight against corruption.
At the same time Greece is a country with modern infrastructures (road networks, transportations, communication etc) and a highly trained and specialised human workforce. Thousands of young Greek scientists and technical cadres staff businesses and organisations out of the Greek frontiers.
Greece is an important stability pillar and can constitute a basis for the diffusion of development in the region. Let us benefit from this, socially and financially.
At this point I would like to stress an important initiative we took as the Hellenic Ministry of National Defence in July 2016, concerning the utilisation of the Armed Forces’ estate which is not used for military purposes, having a double aim. Firstly to attract investment interest for the utilisation of the estate but also to help the Armed Forces benefit from these investments.
At the same time Greece constitutes a unique tourist destination for safe vacations which the cadres of the US Armed Forces can enjoy along with their families and to that end particular programmes can be established giving pertinent motives.
Greece is a unique place for the development of historical tourism. Decisive events and historic battles have taken place in the Greek territory, changing world history. Beginning from classic antiquity, like the Battles of Marathon and Salamis, to modern history in WWII, with the battle of the fortresses in Roupel. The locations where these events took place can constitute destinations of historical tourism, giving at the same time a cultural and educational dimension.
We, the Hellenic Government, support investment initiatives and contribute to the enhancement of every developmental effort, in this critical moment during which Greece is exiting the crisis and entering a phase of development.
Greece decisively moves forward, setting a new course to development. It is a fact that the Greek economy is once more trustworthy. The plan for the materialisation of Greece’s developmental vision includes numerous activities and interventions such as:
1. Authorisation by the Parliament of the new Law on Development and completion of new investment plans.
2. Promotion of the partnership between the Public and Private Sectors (PPP contracts).
3. Simplification of the procedure for the granting of licenses for businesses and reform of the mechanism for control and supervision of the market.
4. Maximisation of utilisation of the European and foreign development funds (NSRF, European Investment Bank).
5. Establishment of a Development Bank in order to create cash flow in small and medium businesses.
The aim of all of the above is to achieve the new vision of Greece for development, extroversion and improvement of entrepreneurial ventures and the financial climate.
The official meeting of the US President with the Greek Prime Minister does not only confirm our good cooperation and our commitments to the democratic values but is also a good opportunity, now that Greece overcomes the crisis, to discuss issues of financial investments particularly in the sector of energy, tourism but also Defence Industry.
We in the Hellenic Ministry of National Defence particularly enhance and support, actively and in various ways and motives the crucial effort of the domestic Defence Industry. We aim to promote not only the powerful productive capabilities and existing infrastructure, but at the same time the fresh and pioneering ideas of our people, ideas which make us optimistic for the existing perspectives.
We would like everybody to know that the Hellenic Defence Industry constitutes an existing productive force with development perspectives in the basis of comparative advantages of our country. It is a dynamic branch of the Greek economy, not only viable but also reliable, antagonistic and with great perspectives of infiltrating international markets and mainly those of the countries in the wider region of the Eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East. At the same time it constitutes a pillar of support of the efforts we make in Greece so that the country will enter a developmental trajectory in a wider geopolitical environment characterised by volatility and instability.
The following activity sectors are indicatively included in the productive capabilities of the domestic defence industry:
1. Manufacture, maintenance and modernisation of portable weapon systems (light and heavy weapons and crew-served weapons),
2. Production of systems of active and passive protection,
3. Manufacture of ammunitions and explosives as well as provision of neutralisation services,
4. Manufacture, maintenance, repair, modernisation and upgrade of military and armoured vehicles,
5. Boat-building and modernisation of war vessels and other floating assets,
6. Manufacture of structural parts of aircrafts, miscellaneous spare parts, repair and maintenance of aircraft engines and maintenance and repair of aircrafts at the factory level as well as Helicopters and their subsystems,
7. Manufacture of communication systems, development of military applications software, electronic material and wires, Command, Control and Information Systems,
8. Manufacture of optic, electro-optic, optoelectronic systems of light enhancement and thermal imaging and surveillance, as well as systems of biometric identification,
9. Works of special procedures like welding, painting and maintenance of simulators,
10. Personnel training and so much more which lead us to the conclusion that this is the right moment for cooperative efforts and investments in existing or new lines of production of the reliable and technologically evolved Hellenic Defence Industry.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
There is no doubt that the AUSA Annual Meeting and Exposition is one of the most important events in the context of the world defence community and poses a great opportunity for our country to meet with the basic bodies of this community and claim its role in the world market as a valuable partner.
With the opportunity of my presence here today I would like to stress the particular importance which we attribute to further development and strengthening of Greek – American relations in the sector of defence industry.
Activities like industrial days, the seminars in Athens and Thessaloniki for the facilitation of activation and collaboration between Greek and US Companies, the technical know-how already acquired from current cooperative efforts of Greek businesses with the US government, demonstrate that ahead of us we have an open field with great perspectives throughout the levels of defence industries’ activity.
I invite all partners to consider the partnership with the Hellenic Defence Industries as a starting point for a long, strategic and mutually beneficial cooperation.
The Hellenic Ministry of National Defence continuously strives to establish an extroverted and competitive domestic industry which will enhance the whole Greek economy and the effort for development and improvement of financial indicators.
This effort includes the search for opportunities and professional cooperative efforts abroad at an investment and entrepreneurial level. Greece constitutes a core of stability in the wider region of the Mediterranean and the Middle East and can constitute an international developmental centre in the basis of development of the true economy’s productive forces.
So it may not be necessary for us to “discover America” because that would constitute an anachronism.
However I invite you to “discover” Greece.
Greece after the crisis. Greece with the open horizons for cooperative efforts and investments.
Greece of opportunity.
I hope and wish that our meeting and all the initiatives, contacts and meetings taking place in AUSA will establish the starting point but also provide the data necessary for the strengthening and further expansion of our already existing cooperation in the sector of defence industry.
Greece is a country with many comparative advantages which give opportunities for investments and cooperative efforts. One need only know the country better along with all the range of its productive force.
I wish that the talks taking place and initiatives taken in the context of this exposition will have considerable and fruitful results aiming to that direction and at the same time I support them. It is not just a wish but also a political action aiming to open the horizons of cooperation with the Hellenic Defence Industry even further.
As the capstone of the diachronically close relations between Greece and the USA, the Hellenic Government decided that the honoured country at the Thessaloniki International Trade Fair of 2018 will be the United States of America, a fact of particular importance giving a new dynamic to investments but also entrepreneurial relations between Greece and the USA, since the Thessaloniki International Trade Fair constitutes the top entrepreneurial event of Southeastern Europe. We would like the Greek and US companies to be present, demonstrating technological and productive accomplishments.
So I invite you to invest in Greece and cooperate with the Hellenic Defence Industries. I assure you that the benefits will exceed your expectations because Greece is not just a country of legend and dreams but also the country of creation where dreams come true”.