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05/11/2017 11:19:46

Interview by the Alternate Minister of National Defence, Dimitris Vitsas, on the newspaper “ELEFTHERIA TOU TYPOU” and the journalist Christos Tsigouris

    In an interview he gave to the newspaper “ELEFTHERIA TOU TYPOU” (5/11/17) and the journalist Christos Tsigouris, the Alternate Minister of National Defence, Dimitris Vitsas, stated the following:

    QUESTION: Mister Minister, how much money will Greece finally pay to upgrade how many combat aircraft?

    ANSWER: It is important that almost everyone – despite their initial reaction – agrees that it is necessary to upgrade our fleet of combat aircraft. At the same time, this is the most imminent, feasible and inexpensive solution to increase our force in the Aegean Sea. Our combat aircraft are mostly F-16 and Mirage. Our goal is to upgrade 123 (out of 154) F-16, 2/3 of which will be upgraded to Viper level, a type of fighter no other country in our neighbourhood possesses; and that is what we will do.

    Since negotiations on the cost and time of payment are ongoing, I believe that it is not wise to be more specific. Besides, the Minister of National Defence P. Kammenos and HNDGS have referred to the issue. The Governmental Council on Foreign Policy and National Defence will reach a decision and the Parliament will know the details and pronounce on the issue.

    It is important that all estimations have been made within the fiscal framework. This means that the money will be given within a decade, by the budget for armaments programmes, which – by the way – reach 0.5 bil € per year and not the extravagant numbers you might have heard. The Ministry of National Defence has not asked for more money.

    QUESTION: What was your role in the talks, as you visited the installations of the constructing company in  the United States?

    ANSWER: The decisions and the work done in general were collective, and this goes for all issues. The General Staffs prioritise their needs, each General Staff and Joint Chiefs of the General Staff Council set these priorities to the services, the Ministry’s political leadership places these priorities within the Ministry’s and the country’s fiscal framework and the Government, through its bodies and the Prime Minister, takes the final decision.

    We have spent hundreds of hours examining, discussing and negotiating, so as to send to the Government of the United States a Letter of Request (LOR) in February 2017 and this procedure should not be related to the Prime Minister’s visit to the United States. The date that the US Government made the announcement was their choice and they had their own reasons.

    Ever since we took this decision, we all coordinated so as to reach a successful outcome. This implies the optimum result in the best possible price, with the best terms. The Minister, myself, the Chief of HNDGS and the Chief of HAFGS have put a great effort towards this direction and we have already achieved many things. A big part of the upgrade will take place in Greece by Greek companies, first among which is the Hellenic Aerospace Industry. This brings added value for our country’s economy, as well as a transfer of know-how.

    QUESTION: When Minister Panos Kammenos, as well as the spokesperson, referred to offsets, did they not know the reasons why Alexis Tsipras finally ruled them out bluntly?

    ANSWER: The news reports often run around themselves and miss the point. The point here is that the programme carries on, based on the necessary knowledge and presenting the necessary transparency. Whatever is related to the correct execution of the programme, will be done. Whatever is not related, even if it is considered necessary for another service or programme, will be eliminated.

    In the past, the so called offsets, instead of being used so as to enhance the Armed Forces’ defence industry, were used as a gateway for corruption, as a means for enrichment and excess enrichment of politicians, intermediaries, businessmen and disloyal officers. This gateway has been definitely closed and no one among us feels like having to prove his obvious innocence.

    However, you are giving me an opportunity to set straight a couple of things:

    We are working on the basis of the following prioritisation.

    1st, the needs of the Armed Forces and the country’s reinforcement.  

    2nd, the enhancement of defence industry.

    In this order, and not the other way round. That is to say, we shall not subsume the Armed Forces’ needs to business interests. I stress this out since I have noticed some kind of “mobility” -as a matter of fact of the competitive kind- in the business world, which reaches the limits of “wishing harm upon the neighbour”.

    I have also noticed immoral articles in this sense, as well as an increase of public appearances by “experts on everything”. We listen to everybody, yet we primarily trust our officers on active duty. At the same time, we operate all controlling mechanisms and we have decided to sleep with a clear conscience. In other words, “trust is one thing, yet we remain vigilant”. That is the end of it.  

    QUESTION: As far as the military service is concerned, do you think it can be reduced, and how much?

    ANSWER: Military service, its substance and its duration, is a relative dimension. It is related to the country, the needs it has to cover and the philosophy governing the issue of mandatory conscription. Currently, the basic military service in the Army is 9 months, as well as on the Hellenic Navy vessels, while in the other Services of the Hellenic Navy and Air Force, it is 12 months. There is also a reduced service for certain categories, but also a longer service for alternative social service; always on the basis of the principle that the military service is not a punishment and its duration is related to its difficulty.

    Given the current circumstances, we do not discuss reducing the military service, yet we do not discuss increasing it either. I can say that we have reached a balance. Our efforts are towards making this service meaningful for the Armed Forces but also for the young man who spends a part of his life in service of his country. This is as far as this discussion goes.


         

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