Tuesday, 15 February 2011

“Global Challenges: NATO, the UN and the EU in the New Strategic Reference Framework”

left-red-arrowMessrs. General Consuls, General, Ambassador and Mr. Ambassador of the Republic of Cyprus I am glad to see all of you here. Ladies and Gentlemen, dear friends, it would be unoriginal to say that within such a fluid and insecure world it is very important to look for certain stable points of reference which allow for a basic and safe prognosis and a strategy that is a working hypothesis that must be put to test in the field, rather than a doctrine.

In Egypt, things were different last night and were different this afternoon. The Mediterranean is changing. North Africa and the strategic balance in the Middle East are being influenced. Crucially perhaps. In SE Europe, our own neighborhood, we now witness phenomena of political instability in countries that interest Greece, in countries for which we wish to see a Euro-Atlantic perspective –and Greece does work towards that goal. But we are obliged to monitor the internal, social and political developments and -with the necessary discretion under the rule of popular sovereignty- to monitor the fluctuations that exist in the internal political affairs of countries. It is therefore important to try and contribute towards the stability of regions that Greece is interested in and that constitute our country’s regional identity. We must do that without losing sight of certain fundamental options that, although they are well-known and shape our policy in major Foreign and Security and Defense policy matters, they should always be reminded.

Greece, as you know, as an old and trustworthy NATO member for 60 years and as an old member of the EU (and hence of the Common Security and Defense Policy) tries to monitor and jointly formulate the central flow of developments. Greece makes clear everywhere that the country’s own national strategy’s top priority is the protection of its national dignity, its territorial integrity, its national sovereignty and its sovereign rights and jurisdictions. It is very important to convey this simple and clear message, one that should have been self-evident but not always is, unfortunately, especially during the present circumstances. Especially during a period of fiscal crisis that often bears social consequences. A period of constraint of the country’s fiscal sovereignty.

Therefore, it is very important to stress and to feel that this constraint of our fiscal sovereignty does not affect the hard core of our sovereignty, does not touch upon our capacity to defend our integrity and independence and to play a role in the regional and international developments as is befitting to our size as a country. We are in full consciousness of the balance of power which is not, however, formulated arithmetically but geometrically and relies to a great extent on force multipliers.

Such a force multiplier is without doubt our faith that Greece can weather the crisis and can play a constructive role as a force for stability, peace and prosperity in our region.

This is the framework under which Greece is handling its bilateral relations with the U.S., with the major European countries, its relations with Turkey and its relations with all the other countries in the wider region. Such a country is Israel which we have lately jointly formed a very interesting and autonomous strategic relationship with.

There is no doubt that, for Greece as a NATO and EU member-state, the first half of 2011 will be characterized by the country’s effort and obligation to convincingly implement in a more organized way the vast array of decisions which were taken during the Lisbon Summit a few months ago.

So Greece is participating in all the processes and all the deliberations related to NATO’s new Command Structure: A structure more executive, more economical and smarter and, perhaps, more effective that will undoubtedly affect our region too.

At the same time, the discussion about member-states’ contributions in the new Force Structure is underway. Therefore, a very interesting discussion on the unified military structure of NATO is underway, and is crucial as far as the Aegean Sea and the Eastern Mediterranean regions are concerned.

We want to see the same perceptions, the same rules, the same principles and practices of all other Alliance areas implemented in NATO’s southern flank as well. Naturally, we want to see the relationship between NATO and the EU to be at the highest level possible, with respect to the character and the institutional autonomy of both organizations.

We want this relationship to be transparently organized, to be a relationship between the 28 member-states of NATO and the 27 member-states of the EU. We don’t want, therefore, in the process of carrying out this cooperation, the creation of problems regarding the full participation of the Republic of Cyprus as a member-state of the EU and hence of the Common Security and Defence Policy. On the other hand, we want to see the relationship between Turkey and the EU to evolve in the best possible way, always respecting the EU Acquis and the perceptions and the principles that are a prequisite for any state’s participation in European affairs.

Greece deeply believes that the western perspective of Turkey must be encouraged. This alone constitutes a grand strategy that provides after many decades of delays a long-awaited yet necessary final answer to the so-called “eastern issue”. Greece wants Turkey to confirm those choices, to put them to use in the best possible way for its own prosperity and that of its people and for a good and honest neighborly relationship with Greece within the framework of International Law and in respect of the Law of the Sea.

In this framework, Greece tries to manage as best it can a fundamental and obvious regional contradiction.

Greece is the most important and staunch supporter of Turkey’s European perspective. Greece believes in and works for this perspective. On the other hand, however, the perception or lack thereof of a threat, of the crisis that’s been going on for 36 years, is linked to its relationship with the east. It is linked to the fact that there are air and maritime incidents in the Aegean Sea and the Eastern Mediterranean region daily. Those incidents are related to the way in which Greece comprehends the implementation of principles, rules and practices of International Law, of arrangements that stem from international conventions and arrangements that stem from the Law of the Sea.

Greece believes in the Confidence Building Measures, it believes in dialogue aimed at the enrichment and best use of those Measures. But Greece does not believe in this process in an asymmetrical way that deviates, as I previously said, from what has been happening and taking form as an optimal practice both within NATO and within the EU. Or from what has been taking place between neighboring countries that participate in the Alliance, in the EU, or who wish to join the EU, therefore accepting the criteria of Copenhagen and Helsinki.

Certainly, it is vastly important that within a global environment that’s fluid there are certain aspects that are not just positive but offer some prospect as well. The fact that there has been significant progress in the ratification of START II is very important. The fact that the President of the Russian Federation was invited and participated in the Lisbon Summit, having very constructive talks with U.S. President Obama and other leaders of the NATO member-states, is equally important.

And the fact that within the Lisbon Acquis a new concept on anti-missile defense is included, relying on the principle of harmonization between the current NATO framework -the US guidelines- and Russian participation is very important too.

Lastly, the fact that Turkey -despite its reservations on the relevant texts given its own viewpoint- finally agreed and co-formulated the unanimous decisions vis a vis missile defense is also very important.

Those positive latest developments are, unfortunately, counterbalanced by the fluidity I spoke about early in my speech. This confirms NATO’s new Strategic Concept: The need for NATO to operate as a crisis prognosis and management mechanism, the need to equally sharpen both its political and military characteristics and of course the need to register as threats those that vastly exceed the traditional notion on what constitutes a “subject of International Law”, what constitutes war, what constitutes threat, what constitutes, after all, security both under an external as well as an internal notion.

As Minister of National Defence I am called upon, along with my colleagues, to manage issues that a few decades ago would not have been part of our portfolios: the internet, cyberspace, energy-related issues, climate change, threats on the environment, issues related to organized crime, to terrorism, issues linked to immigration flows.

All those things tend to get aggravated, rather too much because of recent or anticipated developments in regions that interest Greece greatly, such as the Mediterranean and, unfortunately once again –and I hope that that will be prevented- Southeastern Europe.

In this framework, the EU is fighting as we all know, to transcend its apparent awkwardness in the management of the eurozone’s and of many member-states’ fiscal crisis. The EU is facing the dilemmas of European integration. I am certain that, despite its deficiencies and contradictions, the EU –as history has shown since the 50’s- will take the big and necessary stems required of it. But those steps are slowly assimilated towards producing practical and political results.

That’s why I think it is very important, especially now that the very philosophy of European integration and the institutional balances that it must include are being reviewed, to take steps in the CSDP arena. And that’s in spite the fact that it is clear within the EU –and I think I mentioned that last year-, that this European security problem has been -since the First World War- and still is, not an entirely European problem but a Euro-Atlantic one.

This has been the reality of all the great phases of the First, the Second and the Cold War and the era that ensued following the end of Communism and the fall of the Soviet Union and the former Yugoslavia.

Apparently, all of us are aware of this fact. That’s why we think that it is absolutely crucial to have a coherent European voice that can be the strong pillar of this, after all Euro-Atlantic, grand bargain, aware of its identity and its power and working towards the goals the United Nations. The UN, on its part, must in turn find its own identity, its own reason for existence, its ability to make decisions swiftly and make decisions with the breadth and bravery required if today’s world is to overcome this diffused and self-fed sense of fluidity and insecurity that appears in all regions. But Greece focuses on the regions of special interest to her.

So, under conditions of fluidity, insecurity, fiscal crisis, strategic uncertainty and in conjunction to its own participation in NATO’s new Command Structure, Greece is implementing its own very important defense review. Over the next few weeks, the Government Council for Foreign Affairs and Defence will formulate Greece’s New Strategic Doctrine and will formalize the national defense and security policy which is the basic reference text.

So, in reality, the process of national defense planning is in motion. Over the past few months Greece has already been implementing the new vertical command structure of its Armed Forces. Greece takes, in all three Armed Forces Branches, the most radical force structure steps possible both in assets and in personnel. We don’t just want smarter, more flexible, more coherent armed forces, capable of deployment with respect to cost-benefit. We also want to draft a procurement program that, without hindering Greece’s armed forces defense capabilities and their operational abilities, will be in line with the country’s own fiscal capabilities. It will be a procurement program which will take into consideration growth and will be closely lined to our defense industry and the area of R&D. Above all, the program will convey a message to public opinion that the cloud of mystery that the area of defense procurement was enshrined in over the past few decades has finally dissolved.

Towards that end we seek vast consent and we want Parliament to play a central role because, whether we like it or not, to a large extent, the grand strategic options are options will financial implications. They’re options that are linked to the function of a very large, ambitious and demanding market with ties to businesses, to jobs, to what many countries’ national economies seek. Naturally, Greece is aware that for decades it was a passive recipient, a passive buyer, of arms without being able to integrate those arms in a national industrial and defense strategy that, at the same time, was a force multiplier as well.

Undoubtedly, financial might and fiscal stability are factors for a country’s defense protection.

We would be happier if we were under the impression that we participate in a European process -within the EU and CSDP- that anticipates situations, formulates positions and contributes towards crisis management. But unfortunately, and I’m being honest about it, until now this has not happened at all. Or maybe it has but not to the extent that we would have wanted it to. And that’s despite the fact that Greece would have been ready to contribute without hindering its national strategies and priorities. We would be confident that a controlled and autonomous European presence, within the frame of Euro-Atlantic cooperation and within NATO, would have been very beneficial for the European continent and especially our region, that of SE Europe and the Mediterranean.

Greece must remain, as I have repeatedly said, strategically calm. That is what we have been doing. Greece is in the business of dealing with facts, not mere events.

On the other hand, dealing with events and the bigger picture must not cancel one’s reflexes. One must not forget some basic facts. For example we will never forget that a military occupation is taking place in Cyprus. But on the other hand, this situational policy, as a global policy, is linked to strategic review.

This requires a public opinion, an academic community and a team of public opinion-makers that share the same concerns and the same viewpoint. From this viewpoint I think that such meetings and such seminars contribute towards the cultivation of mental tools that we -military personnel, civilian personnel, diplomats, the academic community-are in need of, in order to communicate faster and more effectively and to offer citizens real information.

On the European Union and the need for a stricter Stability Pact:

I hope that during the EU Summit that will take place in March, a final and effective decision will be made, one that markets will understand. Of course, if the EU wants to establish a totally integrated pact of financial governance the necessary mechanisms that will in turn integrate the economies of the member-states must be created as well.

If the question is whether a constitutional revision is necessary or not, it is a question that has been answered a long time ago. A single constitutional space exists in Europe already through mutual concessions, through mutual respect and through a mutual retreat between national constitutions and European Law.

That way, a mutually acceptable common space is being created both by member-states’ constitutional courts and by the European Court. This is how the EU moves forward towards integration: through difficulties and contradictions.

Hence, if the Lisbon Treaty is amended and the relevant ratification procedures are put in action, then national constitutions will either accept the Treaty’s rule or they too will have to be amended. It has happened several times.

In any case, it is not fair to discuss about one aspect of the problem and not to discuss about the level of financial resources for the EU’s budget. That’s why I said that there are may things that need to be put on the table amid this crisis. Until a clear and definitive answer has been given to markets, a complete and serious political and institutional discussion will hardly take place.

So, first we have to have an answer to the crisis, to tame it, and then to proceed to a more calm strategy.

On innovation:

I must say that before one has diplomacy for innovation, one must have an innovation economy.

Private sector participation in innovation is, sadly, much lower than that of the public sector.

How are the Greek armed forces involved in innovation? We presently integrate the European Parliament Directive 2009/81 into Greek law. This Directive calls for measures that bolster R&D. We will use those measures in cooperation with universities and research facilities. The Greek armed forces have important research facilities and we want those facilities to operate a little bit more focused. There are sectors such as cyber-defense and telecommunications where we monitor the relevant developments and try to keep up with them.

A very significant sector, that of “Green Development”, also exists: The Hellenic MoD has signed a memorandum with the Ministry for the Environment and we try to be innovative in this area too. I will not get into more details right now however.

On Egypt and the Middle East:

First of all, the developments in Egypt indicate how difficult it is for the US and the EU to manage such phenomena.

Egypt is not Tunisia. Egypt is a country closely linked to everything, changing Middle Eastern geopolitics. I am certain that the global community monitors anxiously the energy-related issues that are linked to the situation in Egypt.

Given Greece’s sentimental and historical ties to the country, we wish for stability, democracy and prosperity for the Egyptian people.

If I may speak more cautiously and diplomatically: Greece is ready to offer its goodwill services and contribute for the EU’s actions and initiatives to become clear, understood and practical. Greece hopes that all political and social forces in Egypt will do everything they can to maintain the situation peaceful and controlled. Greece also hopes that all parties involved will reach closure soon, molding a frame of stability in the region.

Egypt’s position is crucial towards Israel’s sense of security –or lack thereof. It is crucial for the developments in the Palestinian issue and the progress of talks. It is crucial for Gaza.

Greece would not want to see the price of oil surge –despite the short term benefits for the Greek shipping industry- by a crisis in the Suez canal and would also not want to see global trade being affected. This is all I have to say on Egypt.

On Greece’s defense industry:

When I talk about the need to have an autonomous defense industrial base I am referring to common defense projects that address the vicious policy of offsets and the vague and problematic notions of internal defense industrial participation and Greek added value.

Greece wants to work on the basis of both the new ideas that the EU shares -which are those of supply security- and of information security. For Greece, they are adequate to establish a national defense industrial base as the country’s contribution to the European industrial base.

On the relation between the memorandum and defense policy:

The memorandum does not affect in any way Greece’s defense policy.

What the memorandum stipulates for defense is similar to what Greece has been saying: That defense expenditures must be rationalized; That a better and more transparent long-term planning must take place That the practices of NATO and the EU must be implemented; That operating costs must be limited. Those are obvious steps.

On Israel and the Palestinian issue:

Israel wants to have an autonomous strategic relationship with Greece because it is aware of our country’s traditional ties with the Arab world. Israel also seeks an ally who’s a credible partner of the Palestinians and the Arab world. Greece’s position on the Palestinian issue has not changed. After all, Greece shares the EU’s common position regarding the Palestinian issue. Our country doesn’t want this relationship between Greece and Israel to be an outcome of a negative turn in the Turkish-Israeli relations. We want this relationship to be an autonomous, strategic relationship, which will serve the interests of the two countries and the interests of the greater Eastern Mediterranean region.

Greece perceives this cooperation in the areas of military training and defense industry the same way. Israel, too, totally respects the fact that Greece is a NATO and EU member-state and they realize very well that Greece’s priority is to improve Greek-Turkish relations.

I spoke earlier about the frame within which Greek-Turkish relations move because Greece does not want any negative influence upon this relationship.

We must talk, in goodwill, about all issues within the context of International Law if we want to build good neighborly relations. We have the historical and geographical obligation to live together with Turkey and we want to do that in the best and more beneficial way for the two countries.

On NATO-Russia:

Greece has declared a strategy called “Agenda 2014”. In reality, this strategy is nothing more than Greece’s desire to see all the countries in its region fully integrate into the Euro-Atlantic institutions. This has already taken place, to some extent, with Albania and Croatia and it is a reality for Bulgaria and Romania.

That is what we used to say for Bulgaria and Romania a few years ago. Now they are full members of NATO and the EU. We want this to happen for Serbia and Montenegro as well.

Greece sees mechanisms such as the SE Europe Defence Ministers Cooperation as very important in playing a role towards that goal.

Greece, as you know, also wants to see FYROM join NATO and the EU. If the other side realized that the name issue must be resolved in a mutually agreed way and that FYROM must take the necessary steps to catch up with Greece on that matter, our country could have been the most ardent supporter of FYROM.

Anti-missile defense does not conclude the prospects of the NATO-Russian relationship of course. The statements by the Heads of States and Governments in Lisbon and the statements of Presidents Medvedev and Obama vastly transcend this issue.

But it is indeed a very important step, which I linked to the ratification START II. The NATO-Russia council is a very important forum for us.

Russia’s contribution in Afghanistan can be important for NATO and the US. For Greece it is equally important to have such a good relationship because it is beneficial for the region, for SE Europe, for the Eastern Mediterranean and for Cyprus.

Therefore I am truly optimistic because both sides have realized that –as I said earlier- Europe’s security problem is a Euro-Atlantic issue. Europe’s security problem is Euro-Russo-Atlantic of course, and everyone has accepted that.redsq

Tags: Speeches