Speech of the Alternate Minister of National Defence Dimitris Vitsas in the plenary session of the Hellenic Parliament (28/03/2017) during the discussion of the decision for the establishment of a Special Parliamentary Committee to conduct a preliminary investigation into contracts on armament programmes:
“Dear colleagues, first of all, I cannot overlook the challenge that was made today in this room during this discussion. And I am referring to what the Speaker of the Parliament, as well as I myself, heard with particular surprise and regarded yesterday’s report about Nikos Beloyannis. I will not discuss it further. Too many things have been said.
But, I reached a conclusion and I want to share it with you. Nikos Beloyannis, a member of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Greece, a combatant of National Liberation Front (EAM) and Greek People’s Liberation Army (ELAS), a man who was murdered in 1952 in an illegal execution, still lives. He lives, and not only does he live, he causes fear as well. This hero of every democrat, every left-wing man – who fought for freedom, from all democratic parties – frightens all those who have only procedures of pressure, labour, procedures of authoritarianism in their minds and their everyday practices and of course he frightens also fascists and nazis.
I think that this mention was necessary. Let’s get to the point. A special Parliamentary Committee has been established. Is this a distraction? I can get a second conclusion out of this. Most parties or most political forces still have the same opinion about whether Greek women and Greek men have a critical ability. They consider that they are silly, they lack critical ability and they cannot examine things separately.
It is the same about investigation committees too. During the last ten minutes, I heard twice that too many investigation committees have been established. Does anybody propose to abolish this institution rather than reinforce it? I hope that we all propose its reinforcement. So, we are all together – through changes – trying to help towards this direction.
And one more thing: I never expected to listen to a party leader reprimanding a man who is not present to answer him. And regarding the question “Will just Simitis or just Tsochantzopoulos be enough?”, don’t we ever consider answering “Neither Simitis, nor Tsochantzopoulos”? And this is the main issue. You know this type of people exist in here, as well as out of here too.
I would like to say the following: I have nothing to omit, I have rather many things to add to those mentioned by Mr. Theodorakis just earlier in relation to the progress of the armament programmes, their attitude and their method. I will also say a few things from his speech.
I would like to add some data too. And it is not me who adds this; it is paradoxically said by Mr. Christodoulakis in the discussion about the budget of 2004 in the Committee on Financial Affairs of the Parliament. What does he say then? That at least 25 units of public debt, that is one fourth of it, is due to “justified, yet particularly increased defence expenses of our country”. If we take this as an evidence and we add the bribe, overpricing etc. we find new evidence. This is what I wished to stress.
And I am saying this because I will tell you something which, at first, will seem probably odd and to some of you it will seem probably unreasonable, but in my opinion it is not. Today’s discussion and the similar ones and the decisions which are taken, are related in my opinion directly to the issue of growth and productive reconstruction of our country.
Combating corruption and conspiracy is not a legal issue or a moral issue, it is not only a penal issue and an issue of attributing responsibility to those who must assume it, yet it is a deeply political issue related to the manner of operation of the state. Namely, combating corruption and conspiracies is a political act and, after all, it is also a growth act.
We cannot go on in the same manner that this system had been established across all levels and this is one of the issues our people have decided on since 2015. And this is why we need political will and this political will must be transformed into a legal tool case. It seems simple, at first sight, but when you get into the field you see that there are also more aspects which you either had not seen previously or had underestimated.
The same system of corruption and conspiracy has formed, I might say that it has transformed, operations of the state so that they will serve conspiracy and corruption, and yet it has offered them protection and immunity as well. Underneath this system many other systems existed, as Kraounakis said, if I am not mistaken.
And I am saying this because yes, the law on Ministers’ liability must be amended in the Constitution, yet many more changes are also required so that this entire procedure becomes transparent, visible and beneficial in a broader sense.
Corruption and conspiracy managed to penetrate the hard core of the operation of state. It is necessary to decrypt its devices and operations. We are making good progress, more work is required, and we do not stop here; that is on the way of understanding this phenomenon. We are taking the first step, we are studying the legislative initiatives required, we are planning the respective structures which will serve this operation of rationalization of the public services and, in parallel, we are paying great attention also to people who will staff and serve this procedure.
In the position where I was sitting I have a book – among many other books, but this is an excellent book – whose title is “The plunder of the defence sector or defending one’s own interests”. I do not agree with everything the writer says, but I agree with most of them. I will remind you however that the General Director of GDDIA when Mr. Papantoniou was Minister was the former president of Athens Open Market. I am not implying anything negative about this man, but I am just explaining you how these “transfers” are made.
Approaching this issue, I would like to stress the following: As far as armament programmes are concerned, there have always been shadows, sometimes larger and sometimes smaller ones. Perhaps, the particularity of issues related to national defence plays a role in this, since some people use issues of national security as place where their guilty acts can be hidden.
We must, though, avoid making this huge mistake we usually do. This huge mistake is that when such issues are revealed we may consider that defence or armed forces are struck. On the contrary, Defence and Armed Forces may come out of this procedure of rationalisation with a profit.
Should I remind you again what Mr. Panos Beglitis who belonged to some other party said, as Alternate Minister of National Defence and later as Minister of National Defence, in 2010? “Fortunes, as well as political careers have been made out of defence armaments. Some people became rich and they are in and out of the Ministry of National Defence. Open any closet of the General Directorate of Armaments and you will find skeletons”.
We are however in a situation which differs qualitatively and quantitatively. We are talking about a specific eight year period, 1996-2004. What preceded this period? Let us be honest about this. Everything started after Imia incident and from a phrase which the then Prime Minister of this country Mr. Simitis said in this room.
This phrase was three words, if I am not mistaken: “A lack of force was asserted”. From there on the “party” began. From this period then, we have some evidence. What is this evidence? That Mr. Tsochantzopoulos, as well as the political leadership and various officers of that time, now submit applications of discharge from prison.
The second part however which was mentioned by many speakers in here about 2003 is well-known. I am not telling you this. The fact that you are saying that in 2003 orders worth 5.5 billion euro were made, proves nothing on its own. What has been done within this procedure matters and we have to facilitate justice in its work on this case.
The fact that six cases were submitted which contain evidence of felonies is an adequate argument and is related to the principle proposal. And let us not play with law terms, talking about “the primary and the secondary”. Those MPs would never say that if they were in a court room whether as an accuser or as an advocate.
This is exactly the issue for which we can establish the Special Parliamentary Committee and in these file cases we can find all the evidence. Regarding the proposal, just mentioning the file cases as legal grounds is considered sufficient for the proposal. Do you want us to cite the whole case file behind every proposal? This is what I wanted to make clear.
So, I am saying this and I said everything else to make you see the paths (of money) because Mr. Papantoniou in his note, a copy of which we were distributed, focuses on the legal and technical completeness of contracts and he tries to protect himself behind them. Our issue here is not the legal-technical adequacy which has been achieved by excellent legal advisors, Greeks and foreigners, but what is hidden behind it.
And what we are called to examine here is to find the potential ways of “black” political money and bribery.
We all know – if somebody doesn’t know it, I will be really surprised, especially regarding our age, those of us who are above eighteen years old must know this – that no payment receipts are given with bribes.
Let me add something else.
In one of these cases – I think Mr. Davakis knows this well, as Mr. Dendias knows this too –the same exactly quantity of armament system was bought by Finland one year before at a price equal to 50% of ours. So, how much did the price of this thing increase? So, when questions are asked, certain necessary conclusions must be reached. Excuse me; of course, there is no personal accusation in this Mr. Theodorakis, just that we must change certain things.
Firstly, as far as the operation of the Committee on Armaments of the Parliament is concerned, it is very important for it to change; its discussions and decision must have a degree of classification, as well as a level of knowledge. This is one of the main issues.
Secondly, now that we have the national defence industrial strategy – and it is nice that we all hear that we have to help our national defence industry – we must establish the Council of National Defence Industry and Technology with university professors, with staff officers and think of the way in which all political forces can participate. We must solve such issues.
Our purpose is to have a fifteen-year long programme and a very specific three-year long programme. It is provided for by the law. Our purpose is to change the law on procurements not in order to abolish it, but to improve it. So, this is the attitude we must adopt.
In parallel, we must insist on contracts when we intend to buy armaments and not buy armaments to receive bribery in intergovernmental cooperation that is in “G2G” which, as it has been proved, may be controlled better, so this procedure can be followed more easily.
Our aim should be the following: we must pay more attention to the lifecycle of what we purchase rather than its price. I will reiterate that a combat aircraft may have a certain price when you purchase it, but its lifecycle may be worth four times this price. If you have not all these data you can do nothing.
So, as a conclusion, I would like to stress that transparency which must exist in every procedure, requires these changes and the special parliamentary committee has not only the character and the role that it is given by the Regulation of the Parliament, that is to specify the liabilities, but it can also operate at a different level so as to rationalize the manner of operation of the Hellenic Republic through a process of institutional protection because what we ask for is not only to correct things but to prevent as well”.
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