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Hellenic Republic Ministry of National Defence

Speech by the Minister of National Defence Mr. Dimitris Avramopoulos in the Parliament during the discussion on National Budget for the Fiscal Year 2012

Ladies and Gentlemen Members of the Parliament,

While being here, I have heard the fine colleagues and underlined some of the issues they suggested.

Before I begin, I need to say something. We are part of this Government because we want it and because it was asked of us, and also because we have a very specific task to deliver, and we do so feeling very intensely our responsibility. The times are difficult, and so are the circumstances, thus mutual responsibility is expected. As a political party we have assumed the responsibility and fulfil our task completely, based on the order given to us by the Hellenic Parliament, with 255 votes, as well as on the directives given to us by our President, Antonis Samaras.

The budget of the Ministry of National Defence is traditionally viewed by the Parliament under an inter-party spectrum, recognizing the national role played by the Hellenic Armed Forces, safeguarding our national territory’s integrity.

This spirit is currently more essential than ever before, in a period when our country experiences an unprecedented financial crisis, a social crisis having negative implications to all sectors of the country’s financial and social life and affecting the majority of the population.

A period during which extraordinary conditions have led to the forming of a ‘special purpose’ and specific ‘special task’ government, the coalition government under Loukas Papademos, we all serve with a spirit of coherence and cooperation, for our country’s benefit.

This does not retract each one’s ideological and political positions, as we remain loyal to the orders of the parties and the citizens who have elected us and, beyond and above our governmental mission, we should all individually struggle for the political party we belong to, at the upcoming election.

Ladies and Gentlemen Members of the Parliament,

The budget of the Ministry of Defence for 2012 fully corresponds to the current circumstances and has been shaped in proportion to the budgets of other crucial sectors of the country. It is a budget characterised by budget cuts, but also by reforms.

I am not hiding that, viewed from another point of view, this role is particularly awkward. May I add, and this is not some kind of witticism, that I answered many colleagues’ congratulatory letters saying: “At a time like this, we should rather be wished strength, tolerance and courage”. It is a very awkward role.

Ladies and Gentlemen Members of the Parliament,

We have been Ministers during past governments. When we were coming here, we would make our effort having pretended to do our job, and having also ensured the best for our sector. The situation has radically changed.

In 2011, the budget had gone through a total reduction of 19.40%, compared to the year 2010, shaping at approximately €4.9 billions.

For the next year, 2012, the budget of the Ministry of National Defence will mount up to €4.1 billions, reduced by 16.22% compared to 2011.

Specifically:

  • The wages are reduced by 6.15%, shaping at €2.14 billions or a rough 52% percentage of the entire budget.
  • The operational cost is reduced by 5.46%, shrinking for the first time after several years to a sum below one billion Euros, corresponding to a 23.7% of the Ministry’s total budget.
  • As to the foreseen armament programmes payments, they are reduced by 37.5%, summing up to one billion Euros, corresponding to a percentage of 24.3% of the Ministry’s budget. This sum is the ceiling.

Consequently, you can realize that a great effort is made to reduce expenses but also money loss, wherever it may be detected.

Moreover, we will seek for actions aiming at further reducing flexible expenses, giving priority to the sectors of Operation, Training and Military Expenditures.

Ladies and Gentlemen Members of the Parliament,

The new structure of the Armed Forces, as it has been planned by the General Staffs, and which, in the current phase, is discussed at the level of political leadership, will play a primary role in the effort for resource saving and more efficient operation of the Ministry and the Armed Forces.

The relevant statements shall be released from our Ministry in early 2012.

We shall re-evaluate our participation in international exercises-obligations, in order to further save resources.

I would like to insist on the field of military expenditures.

It is true that this field has always been, and still is, challenging or even disordered in some cases and its policies should definitely be re-defined; effort has already been made towards this goal by former ministers by all governments. We are in the right direction.

I am not certain that this government, a coalition government of special purpose, will have the time to complete such an effort.

However, it could set the foundations for a feasible and efficient planning for future reference.

Particularly since the Integrated Mid Term Development And Armaments Programme (EMPAE) for 2011-2015, the total cost of which was €14,547,808,000 billions, has been repealed by the Law 3978/2011, along with the Offset Benefits which should, though, be completed as fast as possible for the reinforcement of domestic defence industry which – rather unnecessarily in my estimation – lie pending for years, issuing from older armament programmes, before the new law was put into effect.

The goal of the leadership in the Ministry of National Defence should be the reconstruction and productive modernization of defence industry.  Offset benefits are those that can immediately contribute towards this goal.

The development of domestic defence industry to procurements of the Hellenic Armed Forces, as well as to procurements from other countries, can become an important parameter to our national economy.

At the same time, we need to proceed to:

  • the fastest possible absorption of the National Strategic Reference Framework (NSRF),
  • the utilization of the Ministry’s and the supervised bodies’ assets,
  • the particularization and upgrading of the Armed Forces social contribution to the general public.

In this context, we will pursue the registration of knowledge and experience accumulated in the Armed Forces and their connection to specific needs in the Greek district, by organizing special programmes for the accomplishment of these goals.

We refer to an opening towards society, a “Social Doctrine” at the service of the people and society.

Ladies and Gentlemen Members of the Parliament,

The financial crisis causes questioning in the field of the Armed Forces, concerning the increase of the length of military service. It is an issue widely discussed and written lately.

I believe that the young people, the first to be severely struck by unemployment, should not stand the damage for all what was proved an unsuccessful policy that concerns us all.

On the other hand, we should ensure above all combat capability and efficiency of the Army, Navy and Air Force branches, at all times.

I am talking about combat capability of branches, availability of means and adequacy of human resources.

I shall invite the Chief of Defence and the Chiefs of the three General Staffs to submit the relevant researches and estimations, in order to be capable of taking timely, responsible, operational and efficient decisions.

Defending our country’s security and national sovereignty, a sovereignty that expands over national integrity to fiscal adequacy, is the intention of the Ministry of National Defence and also the objective for Greek society and the Greek nation.

Austerity measures cannot keep on affecting the lower middle class and disrupt the country’s social cohesion.

The time is right now to take decisions concerning development and establishment of the proper conditions to exit the crisis.

Ladies and Gentlemen Members of the Parliament,

At this point I would like to make reference to a sensitive issue that has gained publicity the past days.

Greece is a democratic country, after the change of regime, led by Konstantinos Karamanlis.

It has consolidated Democracy and its constituted bodies, first among which are the Armed Forces, committed to serve constitutional order and national interest.

This applied and still applies to all governments since that period.

As political responsible of the country’s Armed Forces, I am certain, and I declare so before you all, that there is no concern on that matter.

Consequently, there is no reason for ostensible concern.

Ladies and Gentlemen Members of the Parliament,

Regardless of the evolutions in the Eurozone, Greece has its own responsibility, the political world’s -as a whole- and the society’s responsibility, to remain cohesive.

Greece will remain upright and overcome the difficulties and major problems accumulated at the moment.

I should remind you that the current challenge is not the greater we have ever confronted. Earlier generations have been through a more difficult time and they managed to overcome it.

Historically, we have overcome greater challenges and we managed to establish a course of development, prosperity, national pride and perspective.

The formation of the current government, despite any possible criticism, is a token of how the political world and society itself can set first in order of precedence the sense of responsibility, the strength to overcome any differences and this is the spirit that remains dominant and rise to prominence whenever the circumstances demand so.

I believe that the current path, undoubtedly leading towards elections, will establish an environment of political stability, which is necessary for further development. A road of progress and true hope will open before us.

For this reason we are working.

For this reason, Ladies and Gentlemen Members of the Parliament, we are here.

For this reason we participate in this government, where the leaderships of the political parties have appointed us, as a result of the requirement emerged and the spirit of national understanding.

Perhaps this is one more important heritage of the present government, that is to say the foundation of a culture of national understanding.

Its success will be the justification not only of all those who participate in it, but of the entire political system, of the citizens who have accepted it with hope and expectations.

Let us not disappoint them.

Ladies and Gentlemen Members of the Parliament,

This country’s necessities in armament, contrary to other European countries, mainly have defensive and deterrent character and orientation. They respond to an unstable environment in our region, which becomes even more fluid due to the course of events in the Mediterranean, North Africa and the Middle East.

In this sense, ensuring security and peace in our area is a prerequisite for the reduction of armaments.

On this occasion I would like to address our neighbours and allies, given the intensification of their military activity by air and sea in the Aegean, especially after the research in the Cyprus Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) began.

Greece does not threaten, nor is it threatened. Our national rights, conforming to international law, are indisputable. Consequently, nothing can change this reality.

No violations or infringements in the Aegean. What can change is a sincere discussion on matters already negotiable, summarized – in terms of international law – to the delimitation of the continental shelf, which requires the delimitation of the territorial waters.

The delimitation of the EEZ constitutes a unilateral right of the nations.

And since, as Minister of National Defence, my primary duty is readiness due to the Casus belli issued by the Turkish Parliament, I believe that it should be immediately withdrawn. Our neighbouring and allied country’s initiatives should look to this end.

Nations cannot negotiate under threat of war.

I may well add one last thing, relevant to all I have said to you today concerning the Ministry of National Defence and the budget. The financial crisis has not reduced in the least the reliability, morale and strength of the Army, and I can assure you on that. The Hellenic Armed Forces are fully aware of their mission. We should all feel proud of their standards. Standards that have been gained through the sacrifices made by the Greek people and belong to all Greeks.

Ladies and Gentlemen Members of the Parliament,

As I have already said, we will never allow this financial crisis transform into a national one. And to succeed in this endeavour, we should trust the Armed Forces and support them during these hard times. I must say that the initial message comes from them. I put out to the Parliament today the assurance of all the grades and levels of the country’s Armed Forces that the last thing troubling them is the cut-outs I just referred to. It may sound a little sentimental but I am living it every day and, being Greek, I am very proud of it.

Thank you.