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Minister of Defence at DEFEA Conference 2024 Discussion Points – Defea
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May 15
2024

Minister of Defence at DEFEA Conference 2024 Discussion Points

On Wednesday, 15 May 2024, the Minister of National Defence Nikos Dendias attended the opening of the DEFEA Conference 2024 at Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Centre.

On behalf of the leadership of the Ministry of National Defence, the General Secretary Antonis Ikonomou also attended.

Within the framework of the Conference, Mr. Dendias participated in a discussion with journalist Vasilis Nedos.

Below are some points from this discussion:

• The fact that our defence industry participates in our GDP with a percentage just exceeding 0.7% while our country spends over 3.5% for its defence is a fundamental economic inconsistency. I hope that we will be able to have a much greater contribution to GDP in the visible future. I am referring primarily to the role that the Defence Industry must play in the growth of Greek economy.

• The country is called to face the challenges of the 21st century and a complete reversal of the geopolitical environment. I am talking about the significant mistakes made by the global community early in the century, assuming that we had entered a period of peace, calm, growth, with mankind’s main concerns resolved: Democracy, free – open economy. These were taken for granted.

• Mankind seemed to enter a new era. Unfortunately, this did not materialise. On the contrary, we see a regression. We have war in our north-east, war in our south-east.

• We have also entered a period of détente with Turkey, but there has been no change of positions. As a matter of fact, we rather observe an expansion of the Turkish agenda.

• Consequently, the country must deal with the new reality. This can’t be done in the same way it did so during the past two centuries. This can’t be done. The world has changed.

• Innovation and the domestic human capital and the domestic production capacity – not limited strictly to the Hellenism of Greece, because there is tremendous human capital outside our country – must participate in the national effort to create a strong, modern, and affordable to Greek society deterrent force.

• The Ministry of National Defence’s bill on the establishment of the Hellenic Defence Innovation Centre, the Modernisation of the institutional framework of Military Academies, and the Formation of a Joint Information Technology Corps in the Armed Forces is of great national importance. This bill ushers in a new era. It is a bill that brings together the innovation capacity of our society and our country’s human capital. And it can do that in cooperation with the human capital of many friendly nations. Many of them are represented here today, in this Conference, by their Ambassadors. To match this capacity with the needs of the Armed Forces. And also utilise the human capital we already have in the Armed Forces. I am referring to the brilliant minds already serving in the Military Academies. The possibility of conducting research in the Military Academies themselves. The question why a Military Academy – the Hellenic Military Academy, the Hellenic Naval Academy, the Hellenic Air Force Academy – can’t support PhD level studies, i.e. allow research, is a question that can’t be answered otherwise.

• Furthermore, I would like to stress that we are creating a different kind of service for those wishing to pursue university-level studies, with the help of the Hellenic Armed Forces, as is the case in other countries like the US. When I say “pursue university-level studies”, I mean either at the bachelor, postgraduate, or PhD level, and then stay for some time in the Armed Forces to give back knowledge and assistance in cutting edge new technology areas.

• The door for women to join is wide open and I invite them to do so. We are proud that 17% of the Hellenic Armed Forces are women. It would be good to slowly extend this percentage to the general population. And of course to attract women.

• Little by little, this will create a new reality.

• Tomorrow morning, I will have the opportunity to explain to the Hellenic Parliament why this bill is extremely important and of national importance.

• There is one disadvantage though, it coincides with the European Parliament election period, and this is not good. We do not want anyone to consider that this is a bill that has anything to do with the political debate among the parties. It is a bill aiming at covering national existential gaps.

• We have inherited decades-long problems. There is no reason to name those responsible or seek to attach blame. This is about moving forward. The National Defence Industry was found in a tragic condition. And I say this very generously. This doesn’t mean that there are no useful elements in the HAI, but the HAI as a whole, if one takes a look at the remarks made by chartered auditors, he will see, for example, hundreds of millions of unverified claims, hundreds of millions of unverified stocks for more than 10 years and various other figures. In fact, there is not one single balance sheet not questioned by the chartered auditors. And interestingly enough, this unbelievable balance sheet showed profits!

• There can be no Hellenic Air Force without the Hellenic Aerospace Industry. It needs its support. So, it is a national challenge to reorganise it. There is great potential in it, know-how, there are programmes, like the F-16 Viper configuration upgrade programme, there is cooperation with our friends, our strategic friends in the United Arab Emirates, there are elements we can depend on to move to the future. But it will take a deep reorganisation. And I hope that the administration, which was selected using purely meritocratic criteria and will full information of the other political parties, will complete this daunting task, with the help of the Ministry of National Defence.

• On the other hand, the Hellenic Defence Systems is a nightmare. There is an ongoing effort, it does not have the same importance for the country, but it is very important. There is an ongoing effort, but since it is still in progress, I can’t say much. In that case the Ministry of Finance has a greater role than us, as a shareholder. In the case of the HAI, precisely due to its importance, we fully undertook it, and by we I mean the Ministry of National Defence. But we also help and I hope that in the following days or month we will have a result that will allow us to say in good faith that a first step was also taken in that case.

• The “Agenda 2030” is mainly about the country’s defence. It is the stated ambition, I would dare say of the entire Greek society, to reach by 2030 the level we consider absolutely achievable in order to respond to the challenges of the new geopolitical environment. This is the “Agenda 2030”, which includes numerous deep reforms.

• Regarding our ability to produce, I would not compare it to Turkey at this point, I believe it is completely achievable in the visible future, even before 2030, for the country to produce smart systems, force multipliers which will allow the Armed Forces to rise to a whole new level.

• I have declared the ambition to create an anti-drone “dome” and an anti-air “dome” and advanced marine and underwater capabilities. I am referring to autonomous vehicles. Furthermore, to a new generation of communications and networking of our systems. This is all fully within the capabilities of the domestic human capital and the domestic defence industry.

• Furthermore, because it is not fully related, I am also looking forward to our shipbuilding industry. Our shipbuilding units have entered a stage of reorganisation. There is a lot of work to be done. Unfortunately, the Hellenic Navy is lagging behind due to the crisis. But great effort has been made in this area too with the Belharra frigates. But there is also the potential and intention to develop systems and ships by our own shipbuilding industry.

• Concerning the reinforcement of air defence, I said how much money we have “set aside” within the framework of the twelve year programme. I didn’t say that we will spend it at once.

• It is the money of the Greek people. We spend money when it’s absolutely necessary and when there is a multiplicative effect. So, to clarify, €2 bn are earmarked for that purpose. This doesn’t mean that we will spend €2 bn.

• Hypothetically speaking, if there is a proposal which is beneficial for the Hellenic Armed Forces and Greek society, it will be discussed by the Governmental National Security Council. It will be discussed by the competent Parliamentary Committee, the parties will be informed, and it will be discussed and a nationally rational decision will be made. But the question I keep receiving (Note: concerning Ukraine) is about concessions. About unilateral actions, i.e. the concession of a Patriot or S-300 system. I believe the Prime Minister has addressed this, many, many times. It will not happen.

• It’s not just the Belharra frigates, we have also acquired the Island patrol boats. Great efforts have been made by the Hellenic Navy personnel and the Hellenic Navy technical personnel and the leadership, both the current and the previous leaderships of the Hellenic Navy – there’s a new leadership now – to deal with the gaps. Of course, if the country doesn’t procure the LCS – which it wants, because the LCS are offered as we want them, certain LCS which have overcome their teething problems – and if they are not offered as EDA grant – I repeat, as a grant – the LCS which have overcome their teething problems, we have a second best and third best solution.

• I would also like to clarify, we have not shelved the option for the procurement of a fourth Belharra frigate, nor the corvettes. It is also within our possibilities.

• Moreover, concerning the Hellenic Navy, our country will not have a single source of procurement. Of course we want the Constellation Programme, we will certainly join the Constellation Programme, we have already addressed this. It is an ambitious programme, we are very interested because it is not only about domestic production in Greece, it is about designing based on the needs of the Hellenic Navy. But there will always be a source diversification.

• First of all, this is a common perception of the General Staffs and a perception I believe also existed in the mind of the previous Minister, my friend Nikos Panagiotopoulos, and the previous leadership of the Armed Forces. It’s just that the time has now arrived to materialise and mature. It is obvious that there should be an Information Technology Corps in the Armed Forces. We have entered an era that demands it. It must serve jointness. The Hellenic Armed Forces have entered the jointness phase. This is a choice of the Chief of Hellenic National Defence General Staff with the specific existing responsibilities, something that other Armed Forces still seek. We live in a joint environment, anyone who ignores this will suffer great damage. Had we seen this in previous challenges, I believe the results would have been much better. Therefore, jointness is one of the factors necessitating the formation of an Information Technology Corps, together with the change of conditions and technology.

• However, we must also develop in this broader framework defensive and offensive cyberwarfare capabilities. This is the mission of Unit 1864. I know everyone believes that this number is interpreted to be the year when the Ionian Islands united with Greece. It is one of many interpretations. When it comes to Parliament, I might provide another interpretation. Each of these four figures means something to Greeks, it means something for our past and it means something for our future. I believe that this Unit, with the personnel we have and the personnel we can attract through the special provisions on conscription, can become famous like Unit 8200 of the Israel Defence Forces. I.e., whoever has served in this Unit will then be in great demand in the job market and this Unit will provide us with the broad capabilities we need to protect our country from attacks other than those we have been used to until now.

• The “Agenda 2030” is not just important, it is existential. If the country doesn’t make it, it will face an existential problem. Not an economic problem. We must forget the geopolitical environment we existed in.

• For our Country, the success of the “Agenda 2030” and, hence, the development of the innovation ecosystem and the Hellenic Defence Industry, are existential conditions. And we must view them as conditions to rally society, human capital, political personnel, each and every one of us, in order to succeed. These are not the proclamations of a single Prime Minister, a single Government, or a single party. We view it as an existential need and we will deal with it with the military discipline this existential need requires.

Source: https://www.mod.mil.gr