Today, at the Ministry of National Defence took place the handover ceremony between the outgoing Alternate Minister of National Defence Dimitris Vitsas and the new Alternate Minister of National Defence Fotis Kouvelis.
After the handover ceremony, the Minister of National Defence Panos Kammenos stated the following, among other things:
“Following the Prime Minister’s decision, Mr. Fotis Kouvelis was sworn in as Alternate Minister of National Defence. He is a personality of Greece’s political life who has always served the principles of Democracy in difficult circumstances, teaching us all the Greek people’s unity, the nation’s unity, irrespective of political choices.
we welcome you at the Ministry of National Defence. I would like to assure you that the General Staffs, the Officers, the NCOs, the conscripts, the National Guards and the civilian personnel are at the optimum condition, their morale is high, they are professional and responsible and they can face any threat against our national sovereignty and defend our territorial integrity; at the same time, they take action so that the Armed Forces can contribute in peacetime wherever needed, namely to assist the Greek people. We have very specific examples of this action, in helping resolve the refugee issue, countering great disasters and challenges, providing social contribution to sensitive areas – such as Thrace.
Today, after three years I have been working with Dimitris Vitsas, the Chiefs of the General Staffs and their entire personnel, our Special Secretary who is responsible for the civilian personnel, and our associates, I can assure you that, owing to the indefatigable efforts made under the leadership of the Alternate Minister Mr. Vitsas, our country has reassumed the prospect of domestic Defence Industry. After two and a half years of hard work, amidst the financial crisis, the Greek Defence Industries’ plants have started working. The Hellenic Defence Systems work 24/7, responding to our Armed Forces’ needs, as well as to the new challenges faced by national economy.
We faced the difficult refugee crisis together with the Alternate Minister. Within five days, with the Armed Forces’ assistance, we responded to our Allies’ demands. We welcomed the refugees who needed protection and comfort, we constructed installations on the islands and on the mainland, and we managed to respond to this vital issue which will be countered henceforth by Dimitris Vitsas as Minister of Migration policy.
I would like to say to you, Mr. Alternate Minister, that after my experience in two governments, I believe that it is the first time at the Ministry of National Defence that we did not have disagreements with the Alternate Minister. We had an impeccable cooperation and I want to thank you for that.
We found ourselves in hard situations, before challenges, before crises, at times during which decisions had to be made - others became known, others remain unknown - and I would like to thank him with all my heart for our excellent cooperation and wish him to have Theotokos, our invincible defender and patron saint of the Armed Forces, to accompany him in his new mission. I assure him that all of us, the political leadership, my colleagues, his colleagues and the military personnel, will remember him as a Minister who was loved more than many others during his tenure.
I am certain that he will be successful in his new task and I would like to assure you, mister Minister, that as far as I am concerned, along with the entire personnel, our cooperation will be excellent.
Your deep knowledge of our national issues, as well as your experience in our country’s political life, is the guarantee of the excellent cooperation we will have; I believe that in the year and a half left until the elections, we will be able to complete the work we have begun with this government, under Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras.
This year is dedicated to the personnel of the Armed Forces. We have already satisfactorily progressed to the construction of infrastructure which will cover the needs of officers and NCOs, particularly those at the borderline and the islands.
We have effectively counterbalanced the financial attack suffered by the military and civilian personnel in the Armed Forces and, within the current year, I hope that we will be able to cover the gap created due to the huge financial crisis we experienced.
We welcome you, assuring you that there are no different camps in this Ministry and in the Armed Forces. Everybody is working for the good of the country, led by national interest, with team spirit, high responsibility and true professionalism”.
The outgoing Alternate Minister of National Defence, Dimitris Vitsas, stated the following:
“I am double content; firstly, on account of what I have experienced during these almost three years. Secondly, because the post of Alternate Minister at the Ministry of National Defence will be assumed by a person whom I love and respect but, besides that, who has written his own, important pages in the history of the Left and of the Greek political life, inspiring confidence for the future and for the help he will provide to the Ministry of National Defence.
We have made a significant effort. I would like to call your attention to some highlights: when the Minister, Panos Kammenos, came to tell me that we have assumed the refugee issue and in 15 days we must construct 5 hotspots etc. It was the time when it was brought out that the Hellenic Armed Forces, other than being organized – which is their key characteristic – are also capable of carrying out keenly every task they assume and concerns the country.
It was truly amazing to see the way the whole system was organized within hours, from one Operations Centre to the other and, afterwards, how all this theoretical organisation was actually materialised. Besides knowledge and calculation on what to do, this task also needed to put your heart and soul in it. This was proved after the borders closed and Idomeni had to be evacuated, when we managed to find accommodation for thousands of people in one day.
A second highlight was the major issue faced by our neighbour country. It was a night when we all gathered here in an hour. The Hellenic Armed Forces were at their places in exactly one hour and 32 minutes.
Dear Panos, we have won one more thing. The biggest breakthrough was that we managed to work as a team. Our main characteristic, as a ministerial twin, Minister and Alternate Minister, was that we listen -we do not make decisions just because we feel like it- we listen and we contemplate.
When we started discussing the new special payroll, things were not as they are today. This whole effort reached a result and the will of the Prime Minister and the Hellenic Government contributed to that. We have currently set a basis from which we can progress, as far as the country progresses.
It is a very important point.
Critical decisions should be taken regarding our defence industry. We have taken key steps and we complete an issue which was discussed for almost twenty years, yet nothing was being done, and I mean the reorganization of the Armed Forces. We have made important progress and it is close to being completed. The Armed Forces will be more powerful with less money.
I am relaxed because I know. I know our potential and I know the people who are leading our potential. We deal with people who have knowledge, self-command and decisiveness. The power of our Armed Forces, displayed to our allies, is significant. After three years, we have taken forward steps at international and domestic level.
At this phase, until things calm down, the Ministry of Migration Policy needs the cooperation of the Ministry of National Defence and of the Armed Forces.
As Kazantzakis had said, it is important to know what we want to do, it is important to try to do it and, in the end, we will do what we had the time to do. Some others will follow and do the rest and this is how life goes by”.
The new Alternate Minister of National Defence, Fotis Kouvelis, underlined in his address the following:
“I feel much moved and I feel very responsible for the task I was assigned by the Prime Minister; moved, because I am very aware of your mission, men and women in the Armed Forces; moved because I know I address people who put national and public interest before everything else.
I closely observe the progress made concerning the operation of the Ministry and of our Armed Forces in general and I need to avow my appraisal and acknowledgment.
The work that has been done and is still being done under extremely difficult and adverse conditions, first among which are our country’s financial issues, is very important.
The Armed Forces are close to the society and the people, and I am very well aware of the fact that this Ministry and you all have united your work and your efforts towards this goal.
I would like to assure you that my wish is to be a worthy successor of a worthy task, which has been performed by outgoing Mr. Vitsas who will assume his post at another very important and difficult Ministry.
Mister Minister of National Defence, I would also like to assure you that it is also my goal to achieve the level of cooperation you have achieved. I am certain that cooperation is what will highlight my work and, principally, your work.
Please allow me a statement: I feel, I face, I see the Armed Forces as a national whole, without particularisations, without further fragmentations, and I believe that this is what essentially makes up the concept of unity.
Ladies and gentlemen, I ask for your cooperation. I would like to assure you that all my powers will be used so that the Armed Forces, along with your own critical, leading initiative and action, will meet their goal, which is to serve national interest; and it will be served, just like it has been done so far by the Armed Forces.
Mister Minister, thank you very much for your welcome.
Dear Dimitris, I wish that in your new task you will be as successful as you were here. I am aware that this succession to performing the specific duties may be difficult for me, meaning that I should be at least as successful as you were.
Ladies and gentlemen, thank you very much. I would like you to think of me as present. I am absolutely certain that when we may disagree, it will be so as to serve national and public interest”.
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