Minister of Foreign Affairs Nikos Dendias’ intervention at the Plenary Session of Parliament during the debate and voting of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ draft law: “Ratification of the Agreement between the Government of the Hellenic Republic and the Government of the French Republic on establishing a strategic partnership for defence and security cooperation”, October 7, 2021.
Thank you so much, Mr. Speaker, I will try to be brief. I will not follow the logic of making a full speech, because Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis spoke previously and analyzed the issues concerning the Agreement.
I would simply like to comment on certain remarks made by the main opposition party, both at the Standing Committee and the Plenary. I believe that these remarks, as I always want to be frank with you, have a main underlying reasoning.
Their main reasoning is a phobia, because the government is entering the second half of its term and consequently SYRIZA considers that it no longer has the time to remain consistent with the concept of reason.
It believes, therefore, that it can invent reasons or excuses to vote against government initiatives, even if these government initiatives were objectives pursued by SYRIZA when it was the governing party.
I start with the first ostensible reason for SYRIZA not to vote for the Agreement. It is that Article 2 of the Greek-French Agreement does not cover the issues concerning the Exclusive Economic Zone.
Both the Prime Minister and I asked, challenged if you may, all those who object to the Agreement on the basis of this reasoning, to submit or indicate even one article of any Agreement that has ever been signed internationally, concerning similar or analogous contractual commitment between two states.
The answer, of course, was a resounding silence.
However, since a simple challenge may not be clear to the wider Greek audience and because the average person must be justifiably convinced about the need for the country to have this Agreement, allow us, the majority, to be more diligent and, unlike you, bring and submit for the minutes what we asked you to submit.
I will therefore submit for the minutes immediately afterwards – there is no point in making this move now because of the protective glass – Article 42.7 of the European Union; Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty; but also a series of articles of other Agreements of great importance to the parties, which also involve issues related to the Law of the Sea.
I am referring to the Treaty between Japan and the USA, Article 5. I am referring to the Treaty between the USA and the Philippines. I am referring – and I will submit it for the minutes – to the Treaty between Australia, New Zealand and the USA.
I am referring, and I will submit for the minutes, to the Treaty between the USA and the Republic of Korea.
I am referring, and I will submit for the minutes, to the information document, which has been published, regarding AUKUS, the well-known agreement between the USA, the UK and Australia.
I also submit for the minutes Article 51 of the United Nations Charter, as it is also referenced in the relevant Agreement.
I also submit, so that you do not think that we are talking only about the Western world, the Collective Security Treaty of 1992 between Russia and the countries of the former Soviet bloc.
And finally, from what was once called the Third World, I submit the African Union Non-Aggression and Common Defense Pact.
So you realize, ladies and gentlemen, that what you are saying is hollow words.
Also, the attempt by the Leader of the major Opposition to debate by asking, supposedly, trick questions of the kind “what will you do if a ship sails there and what will they do if a vessel sails here” does not befit the standards of parliamentary debate.
And I have asked, during the debate at the Standing Committee, in case there are any thoughts for discussions of this kind, that these should take place during private briefings, as is proper and befits the seriousness of all of us.
Because we are not here to score political points, especially from this debate. It is obvious that the Prime Minister of the country should not and is not going to enter such a debate, it would be unacceptable. It would harm us, it would harm our allies, and it would harm our planning and our prospects.
I also take note of the point made by many speakers that they do not claim to be more patriotic than others in this room.
In this sense, I think we all realize that the Exclusive Economic Zone is an element of interest for the government majority and allow me to say that that the government majority – if there is a measure for the affection for the Exclusive Economic Zone – should demonstrate more affection, take more interest in it.
It is our signature under the two agreements on Exclusive Economic Zones the Hellenic Republic has at this moment. They were both concluded in the days of the Mitsotakis Government. The agreement with Albania was also concluded during the term of this Government.
So what are you implying? That we are indifferent to Exclusive Economic Zones? Or obviously not, since we are not less patriotic, as at last – and this is important – has been agreed in this room?
The second element which was debated as being a flaw in the Agreement – also in a way that is not correct, allow me to say, because I want to be frank – is the attempt to put fear in the hearts of Greek mothers, in the sense of, in layman’s terms, “what is the Mitsotakis Government planning? It is planning to send your children to fight in the Sahel”.
There was even mention of coffins of Greek soldiers, soldiers sent by the Mitsotakis Government to the Sahel to fight and sacrifice their lives for some imperialistic French interests somewhere in the depths of Africa.
Ladies and gentlemen, we can understand, within the context of the political game, your need to invent reasons or excuses to vote against the agreement. But do you have to reach such depths of petty political populism? Why?
This was not how the Government handled these issues. I told you, we have signed 106 bilateral agreements and 37 multilateral ones and we did not attempt to draw any gains from them.
The Leader of the major Opposition, in order to substantiate the reasoning I described to you in a somewhat colorful manner, invoked an answer of mine and of the Minister of Defence, Nikos Panagiotopoulos, who is present, regarding operations in the Sahel.
Since I have knowledge of the discussions that have taken place with France and I obviously have knowledge of the discussions that have taken place in the European Council, I searched for and I have the documents that SYRIZA has submitted for the minutes.
These documents, ladies and gentlemen, are supposed to be the evidence, beyond any doubt, that the Prime Minister made the commitment to President Macron that Greece will participate with combat troops in the armed component and will also participate in the operations in the Sahel, right? Otherwise it would make no sense to submit these documents.
So, I see the document that bears my signature. This document, which bears my signature, in the relative paragraph, states the following: “It is noted that Greece’s assistance to the armed forces of Mali, through its contribution to the multi-national Takuba Task Force, has been bilaterally requested by Mali through an official request made by the President. The response to the request as well as any possible participation is under consideration”.
This is the document you have submitted for the minutes as proof of our participation which has been decided and is well under way, and which will end up with the consignment of coffins from Mali to Greece.
And to conclude, if my colleague the Minister of Defence, Nikos Panagiotopoulos, who is present here, allows, I will make use of the document that bears his signature.
The Leader of the major Opposition has indeed quoted from this document. It reads: “Advise, assist and accompany at fight”, and this is supposedly the evidence for the role of Greek troops. The difference is that this does not concern Greek troops and when read it does not imply battle, let us be honest now, it does not say this.
But if you look at the first page you will find that this is the description of the operation, and not of the role of the Greek forces. Do you understand?
For heaven’s sake, why are we trying to incite fear? Why are we trying to put fear in the hearts of Greek mothers? After all, is the fear of elections so great that it makes us say such things?
And if you allow me, ladies and gentlemen, how did this come up now suddenly, out of the blue?
Mr. Speaker, I have been both rapporteur and parliamentary representative and I understand the need of any parliamentary representative to defend his absent party leader. I fully understand it.
We will submit the document for the minutes. Anyone can read it; it is exactly as I say.
In any case, SYRIZA appears suddenly to be up in arms with indignation – as if the Sahel issue were a distant imperialistic operation by France, which is gripped by illusions of imperial grandeur – ignoring, or pretending to ignore, that the Sahel is a permanent issue in all Council meetings of the EU and that it is commonplace in Europe that the Sahel is a major problem for the European Union and also that instability in the Sahel incentivizes not only migratory flows, but also terrorist attacks and constitutes an immense security challenge.
Indicatively, I provide the European Council conclusions of 2019 – Mr. Tsipras attended it, June 2019, Mr. Tsipras was present – also EU Foreign Affairs Council, February 18, 2019, on Security and Defense Policy, I quote: “it approved joint civil military concept of operations”.
Why is SYRIZA suddenly objecting? I asked the Permanent Representation of Greece to the EU whether there have ever been any objections from the part of Greece on any of these issues. No objection has been recorded, ever. Quite the opposite is true.
Therefore, why this sudden scaremongering?
Allow me to say something more. Please read the text of the Agreement, ladies and gentlemen of the SYRIZA party. Do not seek false excuses.
Please read Article 18, which is supposed to be the one that creates the problem, according to you. What does it say? Is there an obligation on the part of Greece to send forces at the Sahel? Is this what it says? Does this make you vote against the Agreement?
If you look it up, you will find that Article 18, I quote, – and I imagine that we shall all agree that this is the proper reading: “This cooperation between Greece and France may take the following forms”. It may.
It may, but when? Two conditions must be fulfilled. The first condition to go to the Sahel is to decide it, as long as it supports a common interest. That is, as long as the Greek Government – the current, the next, any Government –deems that it serves the national interest.
Consequently, Article 18 is also in no way linked to Article 2, regarding the provision of assistance. In other words, France is not telling us: if you do not send troops to the Sahel, we are not going to provide you with defence assistance. It does not say such thing. These are two separate things.
So, how do these two articles lead, the first one with regard to which you are asking for something that is an international innovation, because in realty what you are asking us to formulate is a defence clause for international waters. And the second one, a possible Greek-French cooperation provided it serves common interests.
What is your reasoning for not voting in favour of an Agreement that is unique in the post- World War II era, the only agreement of this kind that the French Republic has ever signed – excepting the agreement it has signed with Germany, for obvious historical reasons? But Germany is not threatened by anyone.
What is the criterion for saying: no, we do not need this, we do not want it?
In conclusion, – as I am not going to doubt your patriotism, I believe it exists – allow me to tell you the following, which is extremely unwelcome and is upping the ante. I am saying this because I heard various suggestions about the way to come to an understanding with Turkey.
During the debate in the Standing Committee, I had the opportunity to present a list with the Turkish contradictions, contradictions between what Turkey claims regarding international law and what it does on the ground, or rather at sea and air, to be precise.
Ladies and gentlemen, please do not lose sight of the fact that over the recent period, not to say over the last weeks, even days, Turkey has formulated another thought, which goes beyond all its inconceivable claims so far.
It claims that the demilitarization of the islands of the Eastern Aegean is a condition for the Greek national sovereignty on these islands. Meaning, to put it clearly, that if the islands are not demilitarized, they are not Greek.
Turkey even protested because a Greek Minister was photographed in one of these islands a few days ago.
In the face of this Turkey, when for the first time we are presented with, because, as I told you, we have purchased weapons systems before, we have purchased the Mirage F1 aircrafts, we have purchased the Combattante fast attack crafts, the MX30 tanks, and we have purchased the Mirage 2000 jet fighters. Never before did France accept to make an agreement – because I cannot imagine that Greece did not want to come to an understanding with France in order to have a defence agreement on this basis.
So, when in the face of this Turkey demonstrating this attitude, these intentions, this conduct, do you think that Greece can afford the luxury not to have an agreement with a nuclear superpower, the largest military power in Europe? Can it afford not to sign this Agreement?
And if you disagree with the procurement of the frigates – not with the weapon itself, because I have clearly understood that you consider it an excellent weapon, but with other aspects – the Minister, Mr. Panagiotopoulos, is here to provide explanations.
In any case, we do not ask you to vote in favour of the procurement of the frigates, because the Leader of the main Opposition party spoke for 16-17 minutes about the frigates and armament programs, not about the Agreement.
Ladies and gentlemen, let’s be honest, so that everyone has a clear conscience. The Mitsotakis Government deems that national responsibility leaves no scope for not voting in favour of this Agreement.
I therefore call on you, in the name of national unity, but also in the name of national necessity – which is obvious, one need not argue about this – to vote for it, vote in favour of it and from then on there will be time to discuss all the other domestic issues.