The Minister of National Defense characterized the demographic decline as a major national threat Nikos Dendias, speaking on Wednesday at the East Macedonia & Thrace Forum II in Alexandroupoli. Nikos Dendias also stated that he considers the changes that will happen in the next few years in the wider region, such as the departure of Recep Tayyip Erdogan from the leadership of Turkey in 2028, to be a matter of national importance.

“Thrace, Alexandroupoli, need every support and every effort is required. And I think Alexandroupoli has proven the pivotal role it can play. An important commercial hub, economic hub, energy hub, defense hub,” the Defense Minister stressed.

“I always remember when, on behalf of the Mitsotakis Government, I signed the first defense agreement with the United States that mentioned Alexandroupoli, in 2019. It is worth reading the text. Greece has a policy, which when I was Minister of Foreign Affairs I called the policy of six intersecting circles. Europe, mainly the European Union that is, the Balkans, the Black Sea, the second, the United States the third, relations with the Mediterranean, North Africa, the Middle East the fourth. From there on the African Continent, Sub-Saharan Africa and the countries beyond the horizon and the presence of Greece as a 6th circle in International Organizations. Of these six circles, four intersect where we are today, in Alexandroupoli, because the Mediterranean, the Balkans, the Black Sea have always been a space of communication, a space of interdependence, a space of rapprochement, but also a space of conflict. And bridge and conflict area. And of course, the eastern Balkans communicate with the Aegean and the Mediterranean Sea through Thrace, and Alexandroupolis is less far from Odessa than the route through the Bosphorus Straits,” he noted.

“And we, Greece, have the possibility within and from this region to implement our most successful effort to create an area of ​​stability and economic development but always keeping in mind the value framework in which both our European family and we, Greece, we serve a value area of ​​democracy, protection of human rights, freedom, International Law, International Law of the Sea, a value concept which is directly opposed to any revisionism” said Nikos Dendias.

“In the Western Balkans we have much more work to do, of course always within the framework of the European acquis, i.e. the protection of the rule of law. Because the agenda of Thessaloniki ultimately also serves the Greek interest. We have always wanted and want to act as a bridge of communication and cooperation between the north and the south, with countries under the Mediterranean, Egypt, Israel and even beyond, with the states in the Gulf, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and other countries”.

And also, of course, we Greeks have a full sense of the instability of sub-Saharan Africa as a problem for the European continent as well. And we are trying to awaken our European family to these dangers, the defense minister added.

“And I always say that our own relationships and alliances are open relationships, not closed relationships. We do not form coalitions against anyone. We are creating frameworks in which anyone who co-signs International Law, International Law of the Sea and the value framework of the European acquis is welcome to participate” remarked Mr. Dendias.

“Economic development, however, is the necessary tool to move forward. And for there to be economic growth, there must be connectivity, synergies cannot be created without it. Precisely for this reason, we welcome the European Union’s initiative for the map of the new Baltic Sea – Black Sea and Aegean Sea rail freight corridor. The initiative of the three seas Baltic, Adriatic, Black Sea, with Greece acquires a fourth sea, acquires the Aegean and thus we can, after joining as a full 13th member in this family, develop the new communication routes”.

“Also, I would like to say that we are in a space where the importance as an energy hub is obvious. In my new capacity, as Minister of Defense, a few months ago I signed, together with the Minister of Defense of Bulgaria and the Deputy Minister of Defense of Romania, the “Letter of Intent” for the extension of the NATO fuel supply pipeline to Bulgaria and Romania. You understand the enormous importance of this in the geopolitical reality we live in today, and of course one understands that we need to strengthen European initiatives for the diversification of energy sources and energy corridors, after the Russian invasion of Ukraine. And how central a role we want our country to play in this, first of all in terms of intermediate fuel, natural gas, but also electricity” he pointed out.

“Regarding natural gas, East Med, Transatlantic, Interconnector, Greece-Bulgaria, I think is common terminology to all of us and it concerns the region we are in today. But also when it comes to electricity, our country must play a leading role. The Euro-Africa, Euro-Asia submarine electric interconnection projects are, I think, necessary conditions for our country to be able to serve this long-term plan.”

“Of course, all these infrastructures, ladies and gentlemen, all these pipelines, all the axes, all the interconnectivity, have a basic condition in the 21st century that we live in and that is the ability to defend them, to protect them from all forms of threats , either conventional, but either – as you understand very well by now – hybrid. And this results in the absolute necessity now to have strong and modern Armed Forces. Armed Forces that can respond to the complexity of the role that the 21st century imposes on them. And this is what we have called in the Ministry of Defense “Agenda 2030”. An Agenda that we believe will respond to the existing challenges, but also to the challenges beyond the horizon, with a different structure and a different perception. With a modern service model, with a modern reserve model, with a development of the domestic defense industry, I hope here in Thrace as well, so that the perception that I use to say “we shop off the shelf” will stop.
“And to create a defense ecosystem that our human capital, the Greek human capital, can very well serve. The draft law has already been passed by the Council of Ministers, it will come to Parliament in the next few days for discussion. I hope it will have universal support. It is our window into a new era. It creates a Hellenic Center for Development and Innovation which will be linked to the already recently created Directorate of Innovation in the Armed Forces, with our reformed military schools which will be able to do research and grant PhDs. It will interface with the newly created joint IT Corps. But also, precisely because of the disasters, which you remember very well last summer, here in Thrace we are also adapting for this”.
“We are creating a special Directorate for dealing with natural disasters, with specially equipped dual-purpose units. In other words, units that can help Greek society face the challenges arising from climate change. And I’m not hiding from you, let’s also help Greek foreign policy by emitting soft power, that is, by helping, with our know-how and the possibilities of emitting power for this case, for environmental disasters, to highlight the specific potential of our country” said Nikos Dendias.

“From there, ladies and gentlemen, I want to end with an issue that I consider to be of national importance. I want to say that we are at a time when we have to take into account – as I told you before – not only the current conditions of challenging the fragile geopolitical balance, but also a series of changes that will take place in the coming years. Already, a few days ago, President Erdogan announced that in 2028 he will leave the leadership of Turkey, he will not seek re-election. The question we are asked to discuss is what Turkey will be after President Erdogan. What will be the geopolitical choices of his successors and what will be the direction of this great and important country located to our east” he said characteristically.

“I don’t need to tell you that when President Erdogan took over as the then Prime Minister of Turkey, Turkey had less than 500 religious schools. Turkey currently has more than 5,500 religious schools. And apart from the future of our neighboring country, which I do not want to hide from you that for Greece the best thing is to have a democratic and prosperous Turkey, we cannot fail to take into account the future in the Western Balkans. And this will determine stability in our region.”

“What will happen in North Macedonia especially after the elections? How will the situation in Kosovo develop? What will be the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina in the coming decades? And of course we cannot ignore what is happening south of us, in the Gaza Strip. We cannot ignore what is happening on the African continent. I remind you that the coasts of the African continent are less than a 20-minute flight from Crete. It is much closer than the Alexandroupolis in Crete where we are today”.
“In order to face all these potential changes and challenges, noted the Minister of Defense, basic parameters are required. I call them: National consultation, everyone’s cooperation, consents, national planning to deal with the demographic decline that constitutes a great national threat, strengthening social cohesion through the implementation of a developmental economic policy that also fairly distributes the dividend of development”.
“And also, I said it before, the rapid reform of the Armed Forces, the biggest reform we are doing in the Armed Forces of our country since the establishment of the Greek state, as Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis characteristically said when I presented the innovation legislation to the Council of Ministers ».

“I belong to the chorus of optimists. I believe that Greece can move confidently into the 21st century, with adherence, of course, to its principles, to International Law, to democracy, to freedom, to the International Law of the Sea. Always be active in initiatives for peace and stability, always present in these initiatives. Far, of course, from ideologies, far from threats, with an absolute sense of the end of the age of doctrines and ossified concepts that lead humanity, states and peoples to dead ends. But also with absolute, calm and firm readiness to defend its sovereignty, its sovereign rights, its independence and its dignity” concluded Mr. Dendias.

The Minister of National Defense, after participating in today’s work of the Forum, also stated to the media:

“It is my great pleasure to be here today, in Alexandroupoli, in the Region of Eastern Macedonia and Thrace, for this very important Forum, which examines the development prospects of a very important region for Greece. An area that is basically the border of Greece to the east, but also the border of Greece to the north.

“I am very proud because despite the very great difficulties faced – life is always like this – and despite the natural disasters, despite the challenges, Eastern Macedonia and Thrace are moving forward. And I am absolutely sure that this Region has a bright future ahead of it.”