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Hellenic Republic Ministry of National Defence

Speeches by Minister of National Defence Dimitris Avramopoulos and Defence Minister of the Republic of Cyprus Fotis Fotiou after the completion of the "Lefkos Aetos 2013" exercise in Crete

The exercise “Lefkos Aetos 2013” (White Eagle 2013), the scenario of which was the first trial shot of the Russian long range anti-aircraft missile defence system S-300 was performed successfully at the NATO Missile Firing Installation (NAMFI) in Crete.

The trial was observed by the Minister of National Defence Dimitris Avramopoulos, his Cypriot counterpart Fotis Fotiou, the Chief of the Hellenic National Defence General Staff, General Michail Kostarakos, the Chief of the Hellenic Army General Staff, Lieutenant General Athanassios Tselios, the Chief of the Hellenic Navy General Staff, Vice Admiral Evangelos Apostolakis and the Chief of the Hellenic Air Force General Staff, Lieutenant General (AF) Evangelos Tournas.

Moreover, seven MPs, as well as 22 Defence Attachés of foreign countries responded to the invitation to observe the shot.

The speeches made by the Minister of National Defence Dimitris Avramopoulos and his Cypriot counterpart Fotis Fotiou are the following:

D. AVRAMOPOULOS: First of all, I would like to say something that, in my belief, expresses the feeling of everyone who is here today. We feel very content, and I would like to publicly express my thanks to all those who, all this time, prepared this trial shot of a weapon system that hadn’t been tried in actual fact so far.

Today, while I was talking to the Chief of HNDGS, I remembered how this all started, what we lived here in Crete; the previous time I was here at the Ministry of National Defence, when the Chief of HNDGS Michail Kostarakos visited me and described to me, before anything else, this system, asking me if it was possible to proceed to this trial shot.

The green light was given, and today we saw the result.

Here, in this same place, the Minister of Defence of Cyprus is also present. This fact has its own semantics and value. I welcome him and I am certain that he shared with us these feelings of pride, but also personally felt the capability of our defence system, which ensures our country’s integrity and independence, but is also a protective shield of the Republic of Cyprus and its independence.

Today, watching along with you all this phase of the “Lefkos Aetos 2013” exercise, I feel confident that the safeguarding of our borders and our country’s dignity is in very capable hands.

Your excellent training and the capability for coordinated action clearly shows that, despite the hard and financially pressing times, the military personnel knows how to accomplish its task for the Defence of the country.

This phase of the exercise was really impressive. Each one individually, and all together, you have shown the attention, readiness, excellent preparation and responsibility demanded for an exercise and a shot from a weapon system of such dimensions.

The results fully justified the hard work you have done and the conclusions, which are at the same time lessons, will be proved valuable in the future, and you can be sure of that.  

Once more, you have attested to specialists, and non specialists, the deterrent capability of the army and your ability to defend our national space and our National and sovereign rights, from any foreign scheme.

But also the citizens, who had the luck to be here today among us and unsparingly offer their love and hospitality to the soldiers, realised that the money offered for defence by the Greek people from their savings with great sacrifices, really find good use.

Today’s excellent impressions from this exercise prompt me to assure you all, men and women in the Armed Forces, that us, as Government, we are fully aware of our mission and responsibility towards you.

Lastly, we make an enormous effort, as you know, to face as Government – always in cooperation with the military leadership – the problems within an environment of austerity and, unfortunately, budget cuts.

The fact that we keep our National defence system standing is a vast endeavour, of great value. However, it is of primary importance, especially during times like the ones we are currently living.

Now, more than ever, our country needs to feel safe and secure. Its independence and integrity are secure, because history has shown that when we go through difficult times, others may have plans to challenge these. Rest assured that we will not allow this to no one.

The complete success of the exercise sends exactly that message to all, particularly during this time, a time of great, sudden, dramatic changes, and in particular in our region, which is going through a period of volatility and uncertainty, and by this I am referring to the Eastern Mediterranean, as well as the broader region of our country.

Today, we had here with us the Defence Attachés of almost all Embassies in Athens. I am certain that they too understood how capable our deterrence system is and how powerful and reliable the Hellenic Armed Forces are.

Everything they have witnessed lately, today’s test firing of the S-300 missile, as well as the exercises across the country, everything is intended to serve our primary goal, to defend the independence and integrity of this country, as well as serve international rule of law.

These exercises are not a message of threat. They send a message to all that our National Defence System is there, always at the service of the highest and noblest ideals of human and global civilisation.

I do not wish to burden you with more right now, I just want this message to travel across Greece, I want to share with you these feelings of pride for this result because, I can not conceal the fact that, we too have been monitoring the preparations with anxiety for the result.

Let me congratulate all those who worked to get us here. Let me once again reaffirm that Greece, despite the hardships, is still standing, proud, always ready to respond to its international mission and its international stabilising and stable role, as well as that the Greek citizens can, during these difficult times, feel that their Country is safe.

It has been a great pleasure to have here once again on this mission fellow Members of Parliament from all parties of the Hellenic Parliament.

I am certain that, right now, their feelings are above and beyond any political differences, small or large, and that what unites us is our love for our Country, as well as our common duty to keep this country standing, proud, dignified and powerful during these difficult times.

This is the message of power that Greece has sent today. This is the message of the presence of Members of Parliament, i.e. the deeper meaning of national unity in action. Finally, I would like to congratulate the leadership of the Armed Forces for its excellent command during these difficult times.

I wish for more moments like this, which are necessary to strengthen our morale and send these messages of safety and security to the Greek public.

Thank you all and congratulations once again.

F. FOTIOU: I proudly witnessed today this magnificent test firing of a reliable weapon system.

You are well aware that this missile system was originally purchased by the Cypriot Republic and, upon agreement with Greece, ended up in Crete, where it was deployed. And, as you saw, it is a very reliable, highly accurate long range anti-aircraft system.

I would like to thank my friend, the Minister of National Defence of Greece for the invitation to attend this impressive firing of this weapon system, which will finally put an end to all the rumours that it has fallen into disuse. And it now constitutes, as we saw today, a mighty card in the surveillance and protection of the National Airspace of Greece and Cyprus.

I am convinced that, during this time of great challenges, the powerful Armed Forces are the guarantee of the sovereignty and independence of Hellenism. But certainly, as the Minister said, they are a guarantee of stability in the broader region.

Today’s message is clear, despite the economic crisis that Greece and Cyprus are going through, despite our difficulties, despite the difficult times of Hellenism, with proper strategy, using all available resources and assets, we can protect our interests, we can guarantee our sovereign rights, we can guarantee our national interests, which, I would like to stress, we must never and will never waive, because they are in the core of our dignity, as well as our very existence.

Congratulations to all contributors and congratulations to the Minister.