The political and military leadership of the Ministry of National Defence attended the official declaration of 2018 as “Personnel Welfare Year”.
The Minister of National Defence Panos Kammenos stated the following, in his speech:
“It is a special pleasure for me to be here today, in the hall named after Ioannis Kapodistrias whose work set the first foundation for the welfare of the military personnel and their families, to declare 2018 as “Personnel Welfare Year”.
2017 was the “Reservists and National Guards’ Year” and it was completed very successfully. I would like to congratulate the Chiefs, all the Officers, NCOs, Conscripts and National Guards who started this effort and created what previously existed only at a higher level of planning, Civil Defence.
At this moment, all across the borderline areas, on our islands, all over Greece, the forces of the National Guard integrated within the career personnel have done a miraculous job. The organization of the National Guard will be continued over the next years.
Our decision to set 2018 as “Personnel Welfare Year” is a moral debt towards the personnel of the Armed Forces who, despite the everyday problems they face, they respond very successfully to the challenging work, serving their homeland in every unit of the Army, the Air Force and the Navy.
It is the smallest acknowledgement to those who guard this country today, to those who have undertaken to serve the community in order for our country to achieve prosperity, to those who sacrifice their personal interests for the common interest, to those whom citizens rightfully trust more than any other institution – and this is a huge success for the Armed Forces personnel – to all of you, whose families participate in your sacrifices throughout your military career while you serve the country, which Socrates considered as the supreme good.
By referring to “Personnel Welfare Year”, the family of the Armed Forces includes also the families of the military and civilian personnel who perform their own service too along with their mothers or fathers who are Armed Forces personnel.
Everybody should be aware of our care for the personnel of the Armed Forces and their welfare has been the main component of our policy, from the first moment we took office as political leadership of the Ministry of National Defence. Human is the principal factor that leads to the success or failure of any mission.
We should not forget this, and particularly when it regards those who, on a daily basis, apart from their operational mission, stand by the citizens and provide their social contribution and confirm Greek people’s sense that they are not in an isolated and restricted group, but rather an inseparable part of the broader social community.
As the Chief said earlier, Armed Forces’ personnel is this country’s most powerful weapon system.
The Armed Forces, in the context of their social work, contribute, among other things, to search and rescue, air evacuations – we saw our participation being extended to new structures, such as the presence of helicopters on islands –preventing and fighting forest fires, providing healthcare services to residents in remote areas, voluntary blood donation, disposal of ammunition and they provide any possible assistance to our fellow citizens who are affected by the consequences of natural disasters as recently happened in Mandra, Attica.
At this point, I would like to praise the work of MOMKA, of our Engineer who, with their interventions all over Greece, completed huge works for local communities which have been a distant dream until today.
The initiative we assume today is the common sense of all Greeks and, for our government, it is a sign of gratitude, appreciation and respect to the personnel of the Armed Forces who are the most important asset for the protection of our country’s territorial integrity, national independence and sovereignty against any external threat.
The mission of the Armed Forces is crucial for our country and its significance is reflected on Thucydides’ work who underlined that the countries which do not care to defend themselves are punished by the anarchic international system.
On a daily basis, Armed Forces’ personnel faces Turkey, a country which actively promotes methods and practices contrary to the fundamental principles of the Chart of United Nations, like war threats, violations of the national air space and territorial waters which it commits even with armed combat aircraft and vessels, above inhabited islands, as well as the dispute over the Greek sovereignty on these islands.
In this sense, we ought to take every possible action which will support the families of the personnel, will facilitate their everyday lives, will demonstrate their human dimension, will maintain the battle worthiness and the morale, for the personnel to be able to conduct their work.
The welfare of our personnel constitutes a top priority across our Armed Forces’ chain of command, since it is, as I said earlier, the most powerful weapon system of our country and, in this sense, the development of ideas on our part for this purpose is an top priority.
Besides, during our term, I, as Minister of National Defence, the Alternate Minister of National Defence and the Special Secretary, we have proved in action our decision to apply broad changes and reforms, such as building infrastructure and providing high level services, destined to assist our personnel, whether active or retired, and their families as well.
In the context of this multifaceted policy, we reconstruct and upgrade hospital infrastructure. In a short while, the 251st Air Force General Hospital, through a programme of offsets, will become one of the most modern military hospitals in Europe. The same will be the case for the military hospitals of the Army and the Hellenic Navy.
We are renovating the existent military residences for the personnel and their families to live in dignity. We also create new residences for professional soldiers, NCOs, officers and other activities, such as an upgrade of the provision of healthcare services, day nurseries etc. aiming to support military families.
Every week new residences are renovated for the personnel. Our aim is to cover 100% of the needs of the personnel at borderline areas, on islands and in major urban areas, over the next two years.
We managed to offer again, as part of the new pay scale, a benefit for the personnel of the Armed Forces who serve in Evros prefecture and on remote islands of the Aegean Sea. Within the next month, all the personnel of the Armed Forces will receive in their salaries the benefit for serving at the borderline, retroactively.
In parallel, we took legislative initiatives regarding the promotion of the personnel and we submitted proposals about the admission procedures in military academies.
At this point, I would like to clarify that during the first months the new payroll scheme was applied, indeed, there have been some cases of unfairness which will be corrected in April’s payroll at the latest. Only then, the military personnel will be able to evaluate the new salary scale which will be a basis for our Armed Forces’ personnel welfare policy and for the restoration of the pay cuts they have undergone over the last years.
We have developed a cooperation with private agents to improve the benefits offered to the personnel of the Armed Forces. An important step was the contract signed with Piraeus Bank for all the personnel of the Armed Forces, which provides them several possibilities to face the problems which arose as a result of the financial crisis.
Today, I take the chance to declare 2018 as “Personnel Welfare Year” and to say that we will continue the current actions and we will develop new ones to tackle, effectively, personnel’s problems related mostly to the support of military personnel’s families, retired officers, career and promotions, assignments – there are indeed unfairly treated cases which will be corrected through legislative regulations – housing, salaries, healthcare services and training.
In addition, we will make an effort to pay back to the active and retired Armed Forces’ personnel, a large part of the remaining 50% of their salary cuts, implementing a relevant judgment of the council of State, through benefits for the upgrade of their pay scale which have been voted by the Parliament.
On the occasion of this initiative we take in this year, it would be an omission if we did not take action to honour all those people who sacrificed themselves for our country and for the ideal of freedom. Only thus our heroes’ sacrifices will be vindicated and long-lasting struggles of our people will be acknowledged and our efforts, as well as the ones of the next generations will be inspired, aiming at the progress of our country. Besides, paying tribute to our dead heroes is a part of the ancient Greek tradition.
In this framework, heroes who either had not been acknowledged for many various reasons until now by the Armed Forces and the Ministry of National Defence or had not been given the due attention in historical records, returned from Cyprus and have been acknowledged.
Our objective is to correct all these cases of unfairness towards the personnel of the Armed Forces within 2018.
We have already completed the talks with the Albanian side. Field works are expected to begin, for the research, exhumation and identification of Greek soldiers killed during the operations of the Greek-Italian war in 1940-41. Thus, they will be buried in the existent military cemeteries.
These actions are the smallest tribute to our heroes, our history, their relatives and our proud people.
At this point, I would like to point out some clearly practical initiatives which have been taken, will be continued and will be completed in 2018. Our objective is to provide discounts in mass transportation means to career personnel, conscripts and Armed Forces’ personnel. We have a 25% discount offered by TRENOSE; we want it to be increased to 50%, and to achieve a 25% discount in buses. We are also contemplating to offer free transport tickets to destitute citizens who serve in remote areas, 40% discount for theatre performances and 20% discount for children summer camps.
We have asked the Ministry of Labour and the Manpower Employment Organisation for the possibility to provide the above services to children of military and political personnel. We are considering, in cooperation with a number of insurance companies the possibility of providing discounts to military and civilian personnel for products required for their duty, we build day nurseries within units with increased capacities and equipment, after having secures donations from citizens.
At this point, I would like to tell you that, by initiative of the Ministry and the HNDGS, we are considering the possibility of purchasing on favourable terms the total number of loans of military and civilian personnel from banks of systemic importance at the rate that they would sell these loans to debt collectors. Our objective is to purchase all the loans through the Autonomous Army officers Building Organisation (AOOA) and the funds of the Armed Forces, and to provide their personnel with the possibility of paying back this loan at the same rate it would be paid to debt collecting companies.
We have already sent the banks the required letters through General Prassakis and, in parallel, we have asked the Ministry of Finance to give us the possibility to take this action which will help all the personnel of the Ministry of National Defence, military and civilian personnel.
We have considered the capability of providing low rate housing loans to personnel through AOOA. We considered the capability of providing the personnel with loans of 1,500 to 2,000 euros to perform purchases at low prices in military shops and at a particularly favourable rate and 12 monthly installments.
We are also considering the possibility of cooperation with big supermarket supply companies to perform massive purchases of consumer goods which can be sold in our shops.
We are considering the possibility of using a part of the profits from military estate to support multi-member and single-parent families, as well as families with serious financial problems.
At this point, I would like to tell you that we are considering the possibility to sign contracts with big companies, such as airline companies in order to provide air travelling possibilities at very low prices for conscripts and military and civilian personnel through tickets which will be purchased in advance by the Ministry of National Defence to achieve a maximum discount.
The above initiatives, as well as other initiatives which will be announced during this year, and proposals of all the General Staffs will build the main pillar of “Personnel Welfare year”.
The Armed Forces do not accept to compromise anything regarding our national security, integrity and independence. They represent Greece which is devoted to its duty, obligations and honour. And the Greek state, through this initiative, will reciprocate its gratitude to the personnel of the Armed Forces.
Confirming that the Ministry of National Defence will support the challenging work of the Armed Forces, I officially declare 2018 as “Personnel Welfare Year”. Because you deserve it”.
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