Armed Forces Activities

06/01/2018 16:04:45

Interview of the Alternate Minister of National Defence Dimitris Vitsas to the AVGI Newspaper


    The Alternate Minister of National Defense Dimitris Vitsas in an interview given to the AVGI newspaper on Sunday 07 January 2018 to the journalist Spyros Rapanakis, stated the following:

    Question: There are many domestically and abroad who think that there is a great opportunity for Greece to solve the issue of the name of FYROM within 2018. Do you believe that after 25 years we can finally find a way out of this dead end?

    Answer: It is an issue concerning first and foremost FYROM and Greece, but also the international community of the past 25 years. We have an international problem, concerning not just Greek or FYROM and that is how we should deal with it. It will be beneficial to solve it towards the direction of boundaries’ stabilisation and full normalisation of the situation in the region. It was well-said that to the degree we are capable to do so, we have to solve problems in a region which is already particularly problematic.
    For many reasons many EU states whish for a final resolution of the matter towards a solidification of the boundaries through a peace treaty in the region. They want a name used for any occasion so that there won’t be any difficulties in the international fora, concerning mainly Greece or the Balkans. Furthermore concerning the two countries they want to resolve any issues of irredentism. These issues are complex and far from easy, but the work we have fulfilled in the Balkans during the last three years can be fruitful and offer a new perspective. I especially remark the last three years because Greece’s relations with the rest of the Balkan states have been extended.

    Question: Is Greece coming to these negotiations with the same national views it had back in 2007?

    Answer: The views of 2007 but adjusted to the present conditions. We talk about a negotiation involving various issues. I hope that most of them will be resolved through compromise. That is the point.

    Question: Do you believe that the government will be able to secure the wide consent which it seeks, taking into account the public statements of the major opposition?

    Answer: Consent will facilitate the country very much, not the government. The government is responsible for the negotiation and it is very important to find a mutually acceptable solution. This will be beneficial for Greece’s position in the international community.

    It is a national and at the same time international issue, pertaining to policy, which is or looks like a confrontation and in the end proves the following thing: The New Democracy Party, driven by a blind passion for governance, on one hand overlooks the country’s interests and on the other causes polarisation on issues where polarisation is not needed.

    Of course I understand these actions. By repeating the view that the government is about to fall it keeps its members on alert. However, as long as issues are resolved, this rhetoric is losing ground, becoming an empty shell. The New Democracy Party cannot confront us at the level of economy and the end of Memoranda, so it looks for other issues entering dangerous paths and at the same time believing that the people have forgotten its past.

    I cannot forget the stance of the New Democracy Party during Erdogan’s visit. I cannot forget that the total policy of the New Democracy Party – also in issues of foreign policy – while constantly defeated, it does not restore its views but feigns loss of memory and resorts to other matters. There is no “absolute chaos” concerning financial issues. In 2016 they were talking about a decrease in salaries and pensions, something which never happened. In ‘16 and ‘17 we went through a period when the New Democracy Party kept repeating that there will be no end to the Memoranda and that new Memoranda will be enforced. Currently they are wondering if the exit will be “clean” or “dirty”.
    Question: New Democracy was the governing party when the acceptance of a composite name with a geographical qualifier was adopted as the national position. However today it claims that it will not vote the government’s proposal, even if it agrees with it, if Mr. Tsipras and Mr. Kammenos are not in agreement...

    Answer: In 1992 New Democracy was the governing party. It entered the negotiations at a time when the conditions were ripe for a resolution, with two different positions. Today they accuse the government that it has not presented a uniform position in advance. What would be the point of the negotiation in that case? That was the reason for the downfall of the Mitsotakis’ government.

    In 2007 a position was presented which took things one step further. Today what are the views of New Democracy and Mr. Mitsotakis? Are they the same or have they changed for reasons of political gain, without them even being defined? Currently there is no contribution to this dialogue or to this patriotic and international case.

    Question: Does the stance of Mr. Kammenos cause problems. The leadership of the New Democracy Party has even brought into question the issue of parliamentary majority.

    Answer: Our party along with the Independent Greeks have a certain plan in order to end the country’s supervision. Of course through time various positions of convergence have been established along with various disagreements.

    Let us not forget that the Independent Greeks are a patriotic Right Wing party, while SYRIZA is a radical Left Wing party. In public dialogue all of the above are allowed. However, I believe that those who think that such an issue would create a crisis to the government are gravely mistaken. We are focused on our main target – along with Mr. Kammenos and the Independent Greeks – and it is clear that solutions will be found. However, in these issues the most basic thing is where the majority stands.

    The procedure of parliamentary majority is well-known and it really amazes me that the constitutionalists call it into question. Not as scientists but as crafty politicians. I think that these tricks should be condemned and disdained through democratic means for our country’s political life. It is easy for us to answer to the issue they raise and it also affirms our positions in other matters. It is like claiming that the New Democracy Party and PASOK which formed a governmental alliance remain an integrated party, which has two separate sides. Do the New Democracy Party and DISY accept that claim? I think not...

    Question: Will 2018 be the year of the End of the Memoranda. Finally, will the exit from the programme be “clean”?

    Answer: Our intention is for Greece to end the programme and after that to function according to the commitments each country has towards the EU. The developments show us that this will be the reality. The central issue regarding the “clean” exit is the capability for refunding of our debt through market procedures or internal procedures. This is the rationale we are working on.

    Anything else would probably mean new obligations. That is why we reject the rationale of the Governor of the Bank of Greece. This is not something new. It is the same case with that of the Samaras government, which in financial terms was a failed government. No matter how hard they tried to prove us that 2014 was the year of the great promises and that the Greek people were fools. One can claim that only for self justification and justification of his failed financial policy. We are successful and do not need such justifications.

    Question: So the government has made a four-year plan?

    Answer: That is evident. I would say that in reality it is an eight-year plan. Leaving the Memoranda behind us we will have to be able to function within the EU, alone or through our partnerships. Some people interpret the end of the Memoranda as the beginning of the dispensation of benefits. That is not the case. We will have to move with the following rationale: Financial growth of the country and redistribution, meaning a fair growth.

    We need a plan with a central element and a system of motives and obligations which will be effective for the whole society. As we have stated in the past the government will benefit the weak. The workers, the unemployed, the new generation, the women. Those who have suffered the most in this procedure and who must benefit the most from the coming growth.

    The questions rising are the following: which fields of economy will be given possibilities, as far as production and location are concerned? What are the revolving expectations from the ones that will be given motives? We limit ourselves to a discussion on taxes only, and how a new combination must be found. This is wrong, it simply reflects the neo-liberal view that, when social state is reduced, economy flourishes.

    For example, in the American crisis, had Obama not intervened with an investment over 700 bil. Dollars in the domestic market of a big country like the United States, would it have overcome the crisis quickly? The discussions held by progressive economists concluded that more investments were needed, not less.

    Naturally, all this planning, if we want to proceed faster, should be based on the country’s relative benefits and its export capabilities. We need to invest at three levels: private, state, social.

    We must also discuss seriously on what free education and health system mean. We cannot discuss of reestablishment of social state, but of its new establishment, in view of our approach. We should not return to policies of the years 2008 or 2000, as they include a major setback - overborrowing. Our goal is to support the most fragile groups, within the fiscal frames set by our own production and our possibilities, thus helping domestic consumption.

    QUESTION: As far as the Turkish Officers are concerned, the Government has made the difference between granting asylum and not extraditing clear, yet the Opposition’s disagreement has been, once more, intense. At the same time, a certain group of the neighbouring country has escalated.

    ANSWER: I believe that having Justice deal with this issue was correct. It is clear that they will not be extradited. As far as the issue of political asylum is concerned, sometimes when reading the newspapers I feel as if this is the first time this has happened worldwide. I remind you the cases of Fischer, Snowden, Assange, for whom several decisions for non extradition existed, yet none on political asylum. It is not something new in legal theory or practice.

    At the same time, the country fully conforms with domestic and international law. As far as threats are concerned, we hear them, we do not accept them, nor do we tolerate them. I have said it before, the use of a very serious humanitarian issue, such as immigration, as a weapon for negotiation or for practical presence, cannot be allowed.

    QUESTION: Do you fear a new increase of immigration flows from Turkey?  

    ANSWER: We will use all diplomatic means and proceed the way we proceed with refugees and migrants. We will not back away from our principles in this issue and from the obligations all states have by international treaties; especially at a time when we ask that these obligations, as well as European law, will be applicable in all European countries.

    I am concerned by this issue, however at the time we do not see increase, also due to bad weather conditions. Nonetheless, we focus on resolving wintering – most actions have been completed – and we proceed to further solutions for the islands of Lesvos, Chios, Samos, Leros and Kos. We will intensify discussions with Turkey, as EU representative and as Greece, in order to deal with refugees in a humanitarian way and also resolve our own issues on the islands.

    QUESTION: You previously referred to enhancing cooperation on the Balkans. What is Greece’s role in a broader area of instability and tension?  

    ANSWER: First of all, our financial endeavor has stabilized the country, which is very important; we have also upgraded our international presence. We work intensely on the issue of the Eastern Mediterranean, so as to shape triangular coalitions which grant stability. We have upgraded our relations with Egypt, Israel, Jordan and, of course, Cyprus.

    We have assumed initiatives, such as the meeting of East Mediterranean countries in Rhodes, the conference on global culture in our country, and other. We recently had the meeting of the leaders of Serbia, Bulgaria, Romania and Greece in Belgrade. Besides developing our relations with these countries, we set the bases for joint plans for the region’s growth. Besides holding discussions, we need practical results. In the Eastern Mediterranean and the Balkans, we are interested in the issue of gas and oil pipelines, in upgrading the role of Alexandroupolis and railway-transport relations with other countries. A new concept of the Balkans is formed. In the past, the Balkans were considered Europe’s powder keg. Currently, the area can be the source of peace and new power for Europe.
    QUESTION: Does the escalation of tension with Iraq and the Middle East concern you?  

    ANSWER: We focus on the situation in Middle East and East Mediterranean. Even though we all hoped, and still hope, that pacification would prevail, particularly after ISIS lost many territories, we see new hotbeds arise, eliminating the international frame about not interfering in another country’s domestic problems, which should be the rule. New tensions emerge; as country we need to observe them, contribute to peace and prepare for what might happen.

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