Saturday , September 19 2020

HIGHLIGHTS OF THE MONTH - APRIL-MAY 2020

Greek-Italian cooperation is a model of good neighbourly relations

    Agreement on Maritime Boundaries Signed   Greece and Italy signed an Agreement on Maritime Boundaries on June 9th, delimiting an exclusive economic zone (EEZ) between the two neighbouring countries, ending a 43-year pending issue. The deal, which was signed by Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias and his Italian ...

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Interview of the General Director of Defence Investments and Armaments

    “It is time to identify the new challenges of technological excellence and industrial viability that render cross-border collaboration a mandatory process.”   General Director, GDDIA, Lt. Gen. Theodoros Lagios   GDL: What kind of collaboration is needed so that the technological gap between European, American and other defence ...

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Focused on serving the needs of international markets – Metka

GDL: Giorgos Economou, Deputy General Manager of the EPC Projects Department and Factory Manager of Mytilineos tells us about the course of Metka over the past few years? GE: Mytilineos’ factory in Volos is part of the Greek industrial history. From 1964 it is working continuously, despite difficulties. It hasn’t ...

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Outstanding experience in the electronics sector – Miltech

  GDL: We asked the Business Development Manager and BoD Member of Miltech Hellas, Stephen Kiosseoglou, how does Miltech compare with other defence companies in terms of range and technology? SK: Miltech Hellas SA is one of the leading Hellenic companies in the defence sector specialising in design and manufacture ...

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Strengthening the competitiveness of Greek shipping

    Greek seafaring is, over time, one of the healthiest and most extroverted sectors of the Greek economy and at the same time a key pillar for the country’s future economic development and employment. At European level, the European shipping industry contributes around €60 billion/year to European GDP while ...

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HIGHLIGHTS OF THE MONTH - MARCH 2020

Hagia Sophia: The violation of a symbol by the Sec-Gen for Public Diplomacy, Religious & Consular Affairs

 

 

Hagia Sophia:
The violation of a symbol

 

By Constantinos Alexandris

 

“It is quite clear that no logical or plausible excuse could justify the violation of a symbol – because this is exactly what the decision for the conversion of Hagia Sophia amounts to. This is not just contempt for history or UNESCO or an international treaty: it is a violation.

Hagia Sophia is not just any church, it is a symbol. It is an emblem of a long historical period, of an entire civilization… and turning it into a mosque is an attack on this civilization. But more importantly, it is also an attack against what the modern world now considers its achievements, such as respect for diversity.”

 

Flipping through an album of travel photos the other day; I recalled lighting a candle at the Taj Mahal a few years after the first Christian Indian Prime Minister decided to grant the temple to the local Church. I admired once again the handmade rugs adorning the floor of the Notre Dame de Paris Mosque, which the French Government had handed over to the Muslim community in order to save it from decay, as the declining number of Christians attending the service could not cover its maintenance costs. And there was that photo with the stunning minarets of St. Peter’s Mosque at the Vatican that the Muslim local Governor of the former city-state decided to add to the building to structurally reinforce it as it was in danger of collapsing! Oh, and that one there, with the Buddhist monks who in recent years have settled at the Buddhist Monastery of Masjid Al-Haram, the former Grand Mosque in Mecca, which following that terrible pandemic no longer accepted Muslim pilgrims…

And if all this sounds unrealistic or taken straight out from a science fiction script, then think again, because something along those lines happened a few days ago when the Erdogan Government decided to turn Hagia Sophia into a mosque, claiming that as such it will not only be preserved, but will also be better protected. After all, as some Turkish officials have pointed out, this was precisely what their Ottoman ancestors had also done, “saving” the magnificent Church from “withering away” (according to the same officials). When, you may ask, did this happen? Well, a mere 6 centuries ago – quite recently in other words! As if the Renaissance, the Enlightenment, the industrial revolution and an unprecedented scientific and technological revolution have not taken place in between. But what am I saying? Aren’t they all fraudulent Judeo-Christian conspiracies from which modern Muslim Turkey must “cleanse” itself? The questions are purely rhetorical…

It is quite clear that no logical or plausible excuse could justify the violation of a symbol – because this is exactly what the decision for the conversion of Hagia Sophia amounts to. This is not just contempt for history or UNESCO or an international treaty: it is a violation. Hagia Sophia is not just any church, it is a symbol. It is an emblem of a long historical period, of an entire civilization, just like the Taj Mahal, St. Peter’s, the Parthenon, the Masjid Al-Haram, the Rumi Mausoleum; and turning it into a mosque is an attack on this civilization. But more importantly, it is also an attack against what the modern world now considers its achievements, such as respect for diversity.

 

In a nutshell, it is obviously a sovereign decision by the Turkish leadership to decide which direction it wants the country to take. But it is also a basic obligation of all others to protect ourselves from policies and actions that threaten to take us back to the distant past.

 

What is the purpose of all this? That the Erdogan Government confirms, after 6 long centuries, the fall of Constantinople? Does it really feel it needs to? Or to demonstrate perhaps the Islamic domination of the 1,000-year-old Christian Eastern Roman Empire? Both incentives lead to a dangerous slippery slope. They add fuel to the fire of nationalism and religious fundamentalism. Is this what the Turkish Government needs right now? Does it need to play to the gallery of those who fantasise about new conquests and throwing enemies into the sea? Or of those who envision the flag of Islam flying in Rome, Cordoba, Vienna and elsewhere? Is this the Turkey it visualises, or the Islam it aspires to lead?

In any case, to every man according to his deeds. Let us bear in mind, however, that symbols, even if damaged, always find ways to retain their shine and magic. If a Greek Government in the future decided to turn the Parthenon into a Christian Church, one can be sure that it would not be the Parthenon that would be ridiculed…

In a nutshell, it is obviously a sovereign decision by the Turkish leadership to decide which direction it wants the country to take. But it is also a basic obligation of all others to protect ourselves from policies and actions that threaten to take us back to the distant past.

 

Constantinos Alexandris is the Secretary-General for Public Diplomacy,
Religious and Consular Affairs of the Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Also published in Euractiv.com

***************

AGIA SOPHIA INTERESTING FACTS

 

 

Once the largest cathedral in the world, the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, Turkey, has stood for more than 1,500 years along the banks of the Bosporus Strait and has housed three religious groups. It is one of the most important Byzantine structures ever built. Of great architectural beauty and an important monument both for the Byzantine and Ottoman Empires, it was once a church, later a mosque and then a museum until the recent directive by the Turkish authorities. It holds historical significance as a culminating feature of the Christian era Roman Empire and stands as a monument to artistic and architectural achievement.

Over the centuries, the mystical city of Istanbul (Constantinople) has hosted many civilizations, of which the Byzantium and Ottoman Empires were the most famous. The city today carries the characteristics of these two different cultures and surely Hagia Sophia is a perfect synthesis where one can observe both Ottoman and Byzantium effects under one great dome.

The Hagia Sophia, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, had been a museum since 1934. It was a Christian Church, the Byzantine Empire’s most important one, from the 6th to the 15th Centuries, and a Mosque from 1453. It is one of the most visited museums in Turkey, attracting almost 3.3 million visitors annually. According to data released by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, Hagia Sophia was Turkey’s most visited tourist attraction in 2015 and 2019.

  1. THE CHURCH WAS TWICE DESTROYED BY RIOTS.

First built in Constantinople in 360 CE and dedicated by the Roman Emperor Constantius II (son of Constantine, the founder of Constantinople), the initial, wood-constructed Hagia Sophia burned during a series of riots in 404 CE. In 415 CE, Emperor Theodosius II ordered the church rebuilt, but the Nika Revolt in 532 CE caused widespread death and destruction in the city and the church was wiped out a second time.

 

  1. THE FIRST GREAT BYZANTINE RULER ORDERED ITS RECONSTRUCTION.

Located in the Eastern Roman Empire region known as Byzantium, Constantinople was ruled for 38 years by the Emperor Justinian, starting in 527 CE. Five years after the Nika Revolt and the church’s destruction, Justinian inaugurated the newly rebuilt Hagia Sophia, the most important religious structure in his empire, on December 27, 537 CE.

 

  1. THE CHURCH HAS GONE BY SEVERAL NAMES.

Initially called the Great Church (Megale Ekklesia in Greek, Magna Ecclesia in Latin) because of its immense size, the second incarnation of the church came to be known by the name Hagia Sophia around 430 CE. Its Greek meaning, “Holy Wisdom,” remained after the church was rebuilt a century later. After conquest by the Ottomans it was called Ayasofya, and today it is the Ayasofya Müzesi.

 

  1. THE ORIGINAL DOME WAS REPLACED AFTER AN EARTHQUAKE IN 558 CE.

Soaring 160 feet high, with a diameter of 131 feet, the grand feature of the Hagia Sophia was its large central dome. The dome and the church were designed by architects Anthemios of Tralles and Isidoros of Miletos, but unlike the dome of the Pantheon, which has never faltered, an earthquake in 558 CE caused the Hagia Sophia’s dome to collapse. It was rebuilt to a height of 182 feet, and the walls were reinforced in 562 CE. The dome’s weight is supported by a series of smaller domes, arcades and four large arches.

 

  1. ONE OF THE SEVEN ANCIENT WONDERS WAS USED IN THE CHURCH’S CONSTRUCTION.

To fortify (and beautify) the interior of the church, columns from the long-abandoned and destroyed Temple of Artemis in Ephesus were used for the Hagia Sophia. Additional building materials may also have come from ancient sites in Baalbeck and Pergamom.

 

  1. IT’S A GREAT EXAMPLE OF BYZANTINE ART AND ARCHITECTURE.

Byzantium nurtured a centuries-long tradition of art, architecture, knowledge, theology, and literature in a style that fused Greek, Roman, and other Eastern traditions. Long after the decline of the Roman Empire from which it sprang, the Byzantine ruler Justinian spearheaded a series of urban reconstruction projects following the Nika Revolt and started with the Hagia Sophia. The new cathedral included the massive dome atop a rectangular basilica, abundant mosaics that covered nearly every surface, stone inlays, columns and pillars of marble, bronze doors, a marble door, a large cross at the dome’s apex, and a square area on the floor of the nave, paved in marble, called the omphalion, a place where emperors were crowned.

 

  1. ICONOCLASM LED TO THE REMOVAL OF MANY PIECES OF ART

Meaning “image breaking” or “the smashing of images,” the period of iconoclasm (from about 726-787 CE and 815-843 CE) raged when the state banned the production or use of religious images, leaving the cross as the only acceptable icon. Many mosaics and paintings from the Hagia Sophia were destroyed, taken away, or plastered over.

 

  1. A 90-YEAR-OLD, BLIND VENETIAN ONCE CAPTURED HAGIA SOPHIA.

During the Fourth Crusade in 1203 CE, Alexius IV managed to convince the Crusaders to help him take the throne of the Byzantine Empire in exchange for a series of promises and rewards. But just months later, he was murdered in a palace coup. The powerful Doge Enrico Dandolo, the chief magistrate of the Republic of Venice who was over 90 years old and blind, led the Latin Christians on a siege of Constantinople. The city and the church were sacked and desecrated, many golden mosaics were taken back to Italy and Dandolo was buried at Hagia Sophia after his death in 1205 CE.

 

  1. THE CHURCH BECAME A MOSQUE FOR 500 YEARS.

Centuries of sackings, conquests, sieges, raids, and crusades came to an end in 1453 CE with the fall of Constantinople at the hands of the Ottoman Empire, led first by Sultan Murad II and then his successor, Mehmed II. The city was renamed Istanbul, the church was looted for treasures and Mehmed called for a restoration of the 900-year-old building and its conversion into a mosque.

 

  1. A MULTITUDE OF ISLAMIC FEATURES WERE ADDED TO THE BUILDING.

To use the space as a mosque, the rulers ordered that a mihrab (prayer niche), minbar (pulpit), and a fountain for ablutions be added to the Hagia Sophia. A succession of minarets was added to the exterior, and a school, kitchen, library, mausoleums, and sultan’s lodge joined the site over the centuries.

 

  1. THE SULTAN PROTECTED CHRISTIAN MOSAICS.

Instead of destroying the numerous frescoes and mosaics on the Hagia Sophia walls, Mehmed II ordered they be whitewashed in plaster and covered in Islamic designs and calligraphy. Many were later uncovered, documented, or restored by the Swiss-Italian architects Gaspare and Giuseppe Fossati.

 

  1. BELIEVERS SAY THE ‘WEEPING COLUMN’ HAS HEALING POWERS.

Also called the “sweating column,” the “wishing column,” and the “perspiring column,” the weeping column stands in the northwest portion of the church and is one of 107 columns in the building. The pillar is partly covered in bronze, with a hole in the middle, and it is damp to the touch. The alleged blessing of St. Gregory has led many to rub the column in search of divine healing.

 

  1. THE FOUNDER OF MODERN TURKEY TURNED IT INTO A MUSEUM.

Former army officer Mustafa Kemal Atatürk founded modern Turkey and served as its first president from 1923 to 1938. In 1934, after banning many Islamic customs and Westernising the country, Atatürk and the Turkish government secularised the former cathedral and mosque and converted it into a museum.

 

  • Sophia means Wisdom in the Greek Language. When we translate the full name of Hagia Sophia to English it is Shrine of The Holy of God.
  • Hagia Sophia was dedicated to Logos who was the second person in the Holy Trinity, in December 25th.
  • There were two more Churches accepted as Churches of Holy Wisdom, but only Hagia Sophia was not destroyed.
  • The altar, bells, sacrificial vessels and iconostasis were all removed when the church was converted into a mosque.
  • When Hagia Sophia was a church, a 50 foot silver iconostasis decorated the inside, now it is on display in the museum.
  • Only the Patheon in Rome has a slightly bigger dome than the dome of Hagia Sophia.
  • The Eastern Orthodox Church has declared Hagia Sophia for over 1,000 years as an important place.
  • The Blue Mosque and the Sultan Ahmed Mosque in Istanbul were designed using the Hagia Sophia as inspiration.
  • Hagia Sophia, as a museum, has both Christian and Islamic influences and features today.
  • Hagia Sophia has 40 windows in the area where worshipers sit and it is famous for the reflecting mystical light.
  • When the dome of Hagia Sophia was placed, walls began to lean outward because of the weight. Then walls to support to dome were built.
  • A mathematician, a scientist and a physicist designed the Hagia Sophia.
  • Hagia Sophia is visible from great distances because of its grandness.
  • The stone cannonballs, which were used by Mehmet the Conqueror, are on display near the entrance of Hagia Sophia.
  • Hagia Sophia is one of the most important buildings in Istanbul and is in need of some restoration and repairs.
  • Hagia Sophia was constructed over a fault line and earthquake can tear the structure down. It must be strengthened with some works.
  • Some repairs in Hagia Sophia are on-going today, but definitely needs more financing.

 

Greek-Italian cooperation is a model of good neighbourly relations

 

 

Agreement on Maritime Boundaries Signed

 

Greece and Italy signed an Agreement on Maritime Boundaries on June 9th, delimiting an exclusive economic zone (EEZ) between the two neighbouring countries, ending a 43-year pending issue. The deal, which was signed by Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias and his Italian counterpart Luigi Di Maio during the latter’s visit to Athens, follows a long period of tension in the Eastern Mediterranean region, where Turkey has signed an invalid maritime delimitation agreement with interim Libyan Government Premier Sarraj and has commenced offshore drilling, provoking Cyprus Greece and Israel.

The agreement describes the extent of the maritime zones that can be exploited. Furthermore, the agreement recognises sovereign rights in all land areas, both in the mainland and the islands. It is a model of cooperation and good neighbourly relations and anticipates that similar agreements will be reached in the region, among other countries as well.

In joint statements with Italian Foreign Minister Di Maio after the signature of the agreement between Greece and Italy for the delimitation of the two countries’ maritime zones, Foreign Minister Dendias said it was a “historic moment” and an agreement that established the rights of islands to maritime zones, as well as securing their respective fishing rights.

“Our country’s steadfast goal is still to delimitate the maritime zones with all our neighbours within the framework of International Law,” the Greek Foreign Minister said, stressing that the boundaries of maritime zones cannot be delineated selectively and arbitrarily as “some attempt to use the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS)”. “Relations with Italy are at a very good level, a fact that is sealed with the signature today of the agreement to delimitate the maritime zones between the two sides. An agreement that confirms the right of islands to maritime zones and the mid-line of the 1977 agreement for delimitating the Greece-Italy continental shelf,” Miniser Dendias said. He also pointed to the protection of fishing rights under the deal, thanking Rural Development Minister Makis Voridis for his cooperation in the relevant negotiations.

During a meeting with Minister Di Maio at the Greek Foreign Ministry, Minister Dendias also spoke about the escalation of illegal actions on Turkey’s part, such as the recent publication of a Turkish oil company’s applications to drill for oil and gas within the Greek continental shelf and the region generally. “These actions, combined with an aggressive rhetoric, amply demonstrate Turkey’s destabilising role,” he said. “International Law determines the red lines and these must be respected,” he added.

Regarding Libya, the two sides called for a political solution via the UN and the Berlin Process, while Greece hailed the new Egyptian initiative. They also discussed the European prospects of the Western Balkans, which both countries support on provision that conditionalities are met.

Both Ministers spoke about the pandemic and the return to normality, with the Italian Minister briefing his Greek counterpart on the epidemiological situation in Italy. “Greece is lifting the restrictions starting from next Monday and up to the end of the month. Greece expects our Italian friends to spend their holidays in our country this year, as in the previous years,” Minister Dendias said.

A Greece-Italy Statement on Resources in the Mediterranean, in which the two countries pledge their dedication to a balanced and sustainable management of these resources and agree to consultations to determine any repercussion of various factors to existing fishing practices of the two States, was also signed.

Lastly, they signed a joint notification to the European Commission with which the two countries ask for the future modification of the directives on common fisheries policy so that, when Greece decides to extend its territorial waters to 12 nautical miles, existing fishing activities by Italian fishers in the region between 6-12 nautical miles, which are currently classed as international waters, can continue. Minister Di Maio referring to the migration issue, he recalled the collaboration with Greece and said the new EU agreement under discussion has to distribute migrants equally among Member States. He also expressed Italy’s concern about Libya and said that his country believed in political, not military, solutions and fully supported political talks at the Berlin Conference. In addition, he reconfirmed his country’s support for the European naval operation Irini, saying that the focus should not be on supporting one side only, but on the end of the conflict, with an arms embargo included.

 

Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias and his Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio sign an Agreement on Maritime Boundaries between the two countries at the Hellenic Ministry of Foreign Affairs; the two delegations in conference.

(Photos: H.Akriviadis/MoFA.)

Greek Minister of Foreign Affairs meets with leadership in Cairo

 

 

Two countries enhance cooperation in all fields

 

Minister of Foreign Affairs Nikos Dendias travelled to Egypt on June 18th, where he was received by the President of Egypt, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. He then met with the Egyptian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sameh Shoukry, with whom he discussed bilateral and regional issues, with emphasis on delimitation of maritime zones and developments in Libya and the wider Eastern Mediterranean region.

In his statement following his visit to Egypt, Minister Dendias said that, “I had the honour of being received by the President of Egypt to whom I conveyed warm greetings from the Prime Minister of Greece, Kyriakos Mitsotakis. I also conveyed to him our country’s determination to strengthen our ties of friendship and cooperation with Egypt. Immediately afterwards, I had long talks with my close friend the Egyptian Minister of Foreign Affairs. We discussed regional issues, developments in the Eastern Mediterranean, Libya, Turkey’s provocations. Finally, we resumed our negotiations on an agreement on the economic zones between Greece and Egypt.”

On the meeting’s sidelines, the two countries held the 12th round of technical negotiations on delimiting maritime borders between Egypt and Greece, as announced by the Egyptian Foreign Ministry Spokesperson. The two Ministers also exchanged views on the overall situation and ways of dealing with developments in the region, the most important of which is the situation in Libya.

Minister Shoukry reaffirmed the importance of working towards supporting the recently launched Cairo Declaration, an Egyptian-led initiative supporting peace in Libya. The initiative was put in place to reach a comprehensive political solution for Libya that preserves its State institutions and the Libyan people’s capabilities. It also looks to establish a new stage for preserving Libya’s sovereignty and unity, security and stability, whilst guaranteeing the elimination of terrorism and extremism.

Minister Dendias expressed Greece’s gratitude over the Cairo Declaration, which they hope will be successful in settling the crisis. He also stressed a rejection of external interference and related negative influences in Libya and across the region.

The two Ministers also discussed developments in the Eastern Mediterranean region and its instability. They stressed the need for all parties to respect and implement the rules and provisions of International Law. At the same time, they also warned against the consequences of taking illegal provocative measures that increase regional tension.

During the Ministerial discussions, they also looked at ways to combat the spread of the coronavirus (Covid-19). Both sides noted the importance of the international community’s solidarity in facing the pandemic and limiting its health, economic and social repercussions. The Ministers further discussed ways to advance and develop cooperation in various fields and regional and international issues of common interest.

At the start of the meeting Minister Shoukry welcomed his Greek counterpart to Cairo, appreciating the distinguished level reached by the cooperation between Cairo and Athens on various levels. He also expressed Egypt’s aspiration to continue its development, whether at the bilateral level or as part of the tripartite cooperation mechanism with Cyprus. Minister Shoukry pointed out the priority that Egypt attaches to continuing coordination with Greece on all common issues. This would achieve the popular interests of the two countries and support regional security and safety.

On his part, Foreign Minister Dendias said that Greece highly values its historical ties with Egypt and is keen on fostering bilateral cooperation in different domains. He noted that Greece gives great importance to promoting coordination with Egypt, for being a key pillar of regional security and stability.

Regarding the Palestinian cause, Minister Shoukry asserted the necessity of resolving the Palestinian-Israeli conflict through adopting the two-State solution, warning against any unilateral steps that could threaten regional security and stability.

The top Egyptian diplomat also updated his Greek counterpart on the deadlock in negotiations between Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam over Addis Ababa’s intransigence, despite the flexibility Egypt has shown to reach a fair and balanced deal that preserves the three parties’ interests.

Minister of Foreign Affairs, Nikos Dendias, pictured in Cairo during his audience with the President of Egypt, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi; in discussion with his Egyptian counterpart, Sameh Shoukry.

(Photos: H.Akriviadis/MoFA.)

The Greek Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe

 

 

“The Greek Chairmanship will send the message that we must see the world through the eyes the young people of Europe. We must focus even more on their problems and concerns, especially in the new environment being created by the pandemic, but also beyond that.”

 

 

Alternate Minister of Foreign Affairs, Miltiadis Varvitsiotis

 

The Greek Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, which began on 15th May 2020, adopted a Joint Declaration on human rights and the environment, together with the outgoing Georgian Chairmanship (November 2019 – May 2020) and the upcoming German Chairmanship (November 2020 – May 2021). The priorities of the Greek Chairmanship of the Council of Europe include the impacts of climate change, with emphasis on protection of cultural heritage and, at the same time, the right of younger generations to enjoy this cultural heritage undamaged by the impacts of climate change.

This, among other things, was stressed by Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis in his message on the commencement of the Greek Chairmanship and by the Alternate Minister of Foreign Affairs, Miltiadis Varvitsiotis, during the assumption of the Chairmanship of the Council of Europe by Greece within the context of a teleconference held with the participation of the outgoing Georgian Chairmanship’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Permanent Representatives of the 47 CoE Member States, the CoE Secretary General and the heads of all the CoE institutions.

Greece took over the Chairmanship from outgoing Georgia for a period of six months until November 18th 2020, via Alternate Foreign Minister Varvitsiotis. The handover ceremony was conducted online due to the special conditions imposed by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Alternate Minister Varvitsiotis, who is in charge of European Union and Council of Europe Affairs at the Greek Foreign Ministry, presented the priorities of the Greek Presidency as the new Chairman of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe (May-November 2020). The central theme of the Greek Presidency is: ‘The protection of human life and public health in conditions of pandemic – effective management of a health crisis with full respect for human rights and the principles of democracy and the Rule of Law’.

Priorities of the Greek Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe

 

 

Protection of human life and public health within the context of a pandemic

Greece, Member of the Council of Europe since August 1949, assumed the Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe in the emergency circumstances imposed by the Covid-19 pandemic. In such an extraordinary context, the Greek Chairmanship considers that it is even more imperative to highlight the fundamental principles and values lying at the core of the Council of Europe’s mission: Democracy, the Rule of Law and the Protection of Human Rights.

The dramatic developments that Europe and the whole world are facing due to the sanitary crisis are, simultaneously, a call for every democratic society governed by the Rule of Law to reiterate its commitment to these principles and values, but from a whole new perspective. A perspective defined on the one hand by the continuous struggle to protect human life and public health and on the other by the challenges and constraints under which States, societies and citizens are called to adapt their functions.

The Greek Chairmanship considers that this unprecedented challenge for our European political culture and institutional tradition calls for the Council of Europe to place the matter at the front line of debate. Within this framework, the main theme of the Greek Chairmanship is: ‘Protection of human life and public health within the context of a pandemic – effectively responding to a sanitary crisis in full respect for human rights and the principles of democracy and the Rule of Law’.

Considering the dramatic changes in our everyday life, we become conscious of the fact that, for the first time, restrictions on human rights and fundamental freedoms are being imposed to an overwhelming extent. Digital technologies, with the expanded opportunities they offer, help significantly to fill the gap created by the lack of physical presence in a series of life manifestations, while at the same time, supporting the exercise of human rights.

In the same spirit, the Greek Chairmanship, conscious of the fact that the Covid-19 pandemic may continue to affect the working methods of the Council of Europe during  the months to come, and well within its mandate, stands ready to conduct an extended part of its scheduled events digitally (E-Chairmanship).

Covid-19 is affecting the entire spectrum of our lives in a multitude of dimensions: political, economic, social, cultural, institutional. The European Convention on Human Rights foresees the possibility of temporary and permissible limitations from its provisions in emergency circumstances, inter alia, for reasons of public health. Continuous vigilance is indispensable, however, for the protection of human life and public health to comply with our commitment to the fundamental principles and values stemming, in particular, from the provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights.

In order to strike a fair balance between the protection of human life and public health and the rights of the individuals concerned, the measures in question must be of a temporary character, proportional to the legitimate aim pursued, and thus necessary in a democratic society, subjected to regular control, and without unduly restricting other human rights and fundamental freedoms.

As specified in the Toolkit for Member States, issued recently by the Secretary General of the Council of Europe (SG/Inf(2020)11 – “Respecting Democracy, Rule of Law and Human Rights in the framework of the Covid-19 sanitary crisis”), the Rule of Law must prevail even in an emergency situation. Undoubtedly, our States’ democratic institutions can play an important role in this respect: ensuring the unhindered function of the legislative process is indeed a substantial guarantee of the continuation of democratic functions and respect for human rights.

A series of other fundamental rights, guaranteed by the European Convention on Human Rights, can equally stand as a counterweight to the imposed restrictions, namely the rights of property, access to justice, the right to impart and receive information, including the right to participate in the information society and access websites and digital platforms, which, under the current emergency circumstances, function as a substitute to public space. Assuring the proper functioning of democratic institutions and of the existing framework for protecting human rights and fundamental freedoms, is a key priority for the “day after”, once the battle for human life and public health will have been won. After all, our political culture and our long tradition in protecting human rights form an integral part of our European legacy to younger generations.

As democratic societies governed by the Rule of Law and, at the same time, as Member States of the Council of Europe, which is especially distinct for its role as guardian of the values and principles that define our political culture, we need to reiterate our commitment to these values and principles.

In the overall framework described in the main theme of the Greek Chairmanship, the following thematic priorities shall be highlighted:

a) Defining the implications of the pandemic on our societies, our democracies and the economy at large;

b) Identifying lessons learned from the Covid-19 pandemic crisis, as related to our mandate, as well as best practices within the context of our response to the crisis, with a view to the day after and, in particular, the issues related to the European Social Charter; and

c) Analysing the conditions under which the precautionary emergency measures, adopted by the authorities in order to protect life and public health, are in conformity with the human rights enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights.

Main Event: ‘70 years since the signing of the European Convention on Human Rights’

The semester of the Greek Chairmanship coincides with the 70th Anniversary of a historic milestone with catalytic effect in the field of protection of human rights in Europe: the signing of the European Convention on Human Rights, in Rome, on 4th November 1950. A Convention that has stood ever since as a constitutional compass in the European human rights protection system.

This occasion is a rare opportunity to take stock of the application of the European Convention on Human Rights to this day and, in particular, the extent to which it has responded to the expectations of the peoples of Europe. Such an important juncture can provide the basis for a discussion on the perspectives of its further application in the near and more distant future. A future expected, inter alia, to bring a far more extended use of digital technologies and artificial intelligence, with all their benefits and challenges, for all generations.

The 130th Ministerial Session of the Committee of Ministers in Athens on 4th November 2020, on the very Anniversary of the signing of the European Convention on Human Rights, is expected to provide us with a significant opportunity for a substantive dialogue.

The Greek Chairmanship believes that it will be possible for all of us to reiterate our commitment to the principles and values that the CoE stands for, in the light of the Covid-19 pandemic crisis and the ensuing unprecedented challenges as far as human life and the protection of human rights are concerned. Within this context, the prospect of accession of the EU to the European Convention on Human Rights is supported by the Greek Chairmanship, as a significant step that would contribute to ensure a more coherent protection of human rights throughout Europe.

In the light of the Interlaken Process, the Greek Chairmanship aims at renewing the political commitment to reaffirming the defining role of the system of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Independence of Justice and the Rule of Law

Within the new context of exercising human, social and governmental activity that we all currently face, issues arise that we must deal with for the first time. Issues that prove that this unprecedented crisis does not only concern our life and our health, but also the quality of our democracy, as well as the Rule of Law. The Rule of Law and the independence and efficiency of justice will be duly highlighted by the Greek Chairmanship through a special Conference of the Justice Ministers of the Member States related to the ‘Independence of Justice and the Rule of Law’.

Investing in the future – the rights of young people

The Greek Chairmanship intends to highlight the need for all of us, citizens, democratic societies and Member States, to concentrate on the younger generations, as they represent the future. A wide range of issues relating to young people form an array of critical fields of interest for today’s Europe: education, brain-drain, sports, climate change and protection of cultural heritage, exploitation of children, unaccompanied minors. These issues constitute key policy priorities for Greece, also at a national level and, at the same time, attract the vivid interest of countries in South Eastern Europe. The countries of the Mediterranean, with which Greece maintains longstanding relations of friendship and cooperation, are also welcome to participate in this dialogue.

Within this framework, the Greek Chairmanship considers that particular emphasis should be attributed to specific thematic priorities, inextricably linked to the rights, the hopes and the concerns of young people. These thematic priorities are:

a) Education and Democratic Culture in a digital era.

b) Children as vulnerable persons (at risk of poverty, victims of violence, trafficking, forced labour, unaccompanied migrant minors).

c) Safeguarding the right of younger generations to enjoy cultural heritage unaffected by the impact of climate change.

d) European Social Charter – social rights within the framework of the Council of Europe – impact of the pandemic crisis on the right of access of vulnerable social groups to health as a public good.

The exceptional opportunities offered by digital technologies in a plethora of sectors and dimensions are becoming more evident through the new everyday life of the citizens and the fight to contain the pandemic and to protect human life and public health. Distant working, distant learning, electronic diagnosis and medicinal prescription, access of vulnerable persons to information and services, digital formulation and submission of requests and proposals, the issuing of attestations, digital market of goods and services are only a few of the applications of digital technologies that can facilitate and improve the life of citizens in the current situation and also after the return to normality.

In these challenging times, it is crucial to recall that securing the access of citizens to official statistics regarding the pandemic crisis, digital technologies, not only contribute to consolidate a relation of enhanced mutual confidence between authorities and citizens, but they also protect citizens from counter-productive disinformation with regard to the sanitary crisis and its dramatic impact on human life and public health. The Greek Chairmanship will organise an expert event, in order to take stock of the potential of the Council of Europe instruments, in particular the European Social Charter, and contribute to policies preserving social cohesion in the post Covid-19 period.

E- Chairmanship

The majority of events of the Chairmanship will take place through teleconferences and live streaming and with the use of social media which will be connected, as a reference, to the digital platform of the Greek Chairmanship.

The E-Chairmanship will provide transmission of events and actions of the Council of Europe to all citizens through new technologies.

The E-Chairmanship is not only imposed by the unquestionable need to tackle the sanitary crisis and plan for the days to follow. It also stands as a self-evident obligation in view of technological challenges, as the array of solutions and choices offered by the new technologies, which are considered important tools facilitating and enhancing access to information and knowledge. After all, digital reality forms an integral part of citizens’ everyday life and defines social behaviour and habits to a large extent.

The Hellenic Defence Industry – Competitive advantages of a dynamic concept

 

The benefits for the country’s economy and the Armed Forces from the active participation of the Greek Defence Industries in the armaments programmes are multiple. The outflow of foreign exchange is limited, economic growth is ensured, expert personnel are employed, specialised jobs are increased while the Defence Industry gains autonomy. At the same time, the Armed Forces are independent to a certain extent from foreign suppliers, based on domestic know-how and technical support, with the result that repair time is shorter and finally the intervention of the Greek Industry in case of emergency or critical situation is immediate.

The implementation of the above in combination with equal treatment between private and public industries, within the context of healthy and fair competition, will contribute on the one hand to the country’s defence shielding and economic stimulation and on the other hand will enable the industries themselves to cooperate with key international defence companies in new and modern weapons systems, claiming a significant share, not only of domestic, but also of international armaments programmes.

The Hellenic Defence Industry is at a crossroads because of the reduced military spending and the insufficiency of coherent policies for its further development. Neighbouring countries possess robust defence industrial bases that serve both their respective armed forces and their national economies. The defence industry should be considered an integral part of the Greek national defence framework. Consequently, the ownership structure and management of major defence industrial enterprises should be reformed within the European framework. A small but viable defence industry requires technology and skilled manpower and Greek institutions of higher education should support this effort.

How can the Greek defence companies be able to develop and enrich their production capabilities with products of gradually higher value added? Will they retain the role of the metal cutter and assembler, or will they succeed in transferring and accumulating substantial technological capabilities? In the case of Greece, a factor directly related to its integration into the global system is the transfer of technology and the technological and other international cooperation projects of local firms. The truth is that sometimes the Greek defence industry is not able to capitalise on offset benefits, not because foreign selling firms do not wish to transfer technology or know how, but because foreign firms cannot see how they can achieve this transfer while working with partners of a considerably lower technological level than their own.

This observation means that in cases where this distance is considered to be too great, foreign companies are practically forced to select simpler forms of technological cooperation and technology transfer, such as licensing, while the smaller this distance the more able are foreign firms to use more complex forms of technology transfer. The latter forms of technological flows are considered to be essential for the deep integration of the Greek defence industry into the global production and technological system.

Cases of firms that have managed to progress technologically, and have made the transition from the technology follower to the technology leader status, indicate that a crucial component for success has been the combination of transfer of critical intangible resources with intensive internal efforts of technological assimilation and advancement. This process is evolutionary and driven by a conscious and planned strenuous learning effort so that the learning curve is steeper and the rate of technological accumulation faster than those of firms and countries operating at the technological frontiers. For this effort to ever take place there is a clear need for a matching technology strategy. How can local and foreign technology best be combined? There is a distinction that should be made between the acquisition of foreign technology and the accumulation of local technological capabilities. Technology can be acquired through direct foreign investment, licensing, know-how and technological collaboration agreements. The accumulation of local technological capabilities, however, requires the creation of human capital, through theoretical education (off-the-job training), practical training (on-the-job training), experience and systematic efforts to acquire, adapt and improve imported technology. Any offset programme, including firms in technologically less advanced countries, should primarily be aimed at the acquisition by the latter of technological capabilities. Different technology suppliers vary as to their willingness and capability for cooperation.

Consequently, it is imperative that all potential suppliers are compared on the basis of cost and technological benefits they can create. Even direct foreign investment can contribute to the creation of technological capabilities, through the training of local staff and through the diffusion of technological information to local suppliers and customers.

For this reason, the Greek defence industry should prioritise its needs and emphasise the speed of learning and of accumulation of the necessary technological capabilities. This means that the central criterion for the choice of industrial partner should not be the weapon system itself, but the partner’s willingness and capability to transfer the technological knowledge and capabilities that will allow the local partner maximal technological accumulation. This knowledge and capabilities will form the basis upon which any comparative advantage the weaker companies might have as a static concept will be transformed into a competitive advantage of a dynamic concept.

Extremely important for the future of the Greek defence industry is its participation in programmes for the development and production of new weapons systems, with the result that the industrial involvement does not coincide in time with the implementation of material supply, but has a time horizon that covers the entire life cycle of the material, that is, in the phases of development, production, control and certification, maintenance, as well as in the various phases of their development, such as modifications, improvements and upgrades.

In this case, the deciding factor is the timely adoption of a decision on the country’s participation in the production process of the weapons system within the context of Transnational Agreements.

Another essential factor that will help in the planned and healthy development of the domestic industry in the implementation of armament programmes is the avoidance of the multiplicity of weapons systems, something that has unfortunately happened repeatedly in the past.

Apart from being a substantial problem in the smooth running of the General Staffs, polytype is also a real obstacle to the effective involvement of the defence industry, because the required industrial investments are multiplied, making domestic participation a fragmentation of small matters of interest and importance, therefore unsustainable.

The utilisation and exploitation of the systems/products that have been designed, developed and manufactured by Greek defence industries will have a double effect. First, it will reduce as much as possible the polytype, will greatly strengthen the domestic defence industry and will enable the cooperation and adoption of Greek products in respective systems of other countries.

Interview of the General Director of Defence Investments and Armaments

 

 

“It is time to identify the new challenges of technological excellence and industrial viability that render cross-border collaboration a mandatory process.”

 

General Director, GDDIA, Lt. Gen. Theodoros Lagios

 

GDL: What kind of collaboration is needed so that the technological gap between European, American and other defence industries will be bridged?

TL: The European Defence Industry is confronted with big challenges, while trying to satisfy advanced technological requirements of modern Armed Forces. The high level of the European defence industrial and market fragmentation reduces the potential of European companies to develop new state-of-the-art products, while maintaining at the same time competitiveness and viability. As a result, European companies have experienced a reduction of their global share of research & development over the past years, compared to their US and Chinese counterparts.

In order to respond effectively to the above situation, the first objective should be the reduction of the above-mentioned fragmentation. The joining of forces of traditional big players within the EU Industry will certainly increase the effectiveness of the development efforts by the constructive exchange of innovative ideas, while unlocking on the other hand important additional funds. There can also exist substantial economies of scale and a more efficient exploitation of individual expertise and experience of different contributors in certain technological areas.

The industrial collaboration will become much more efficient and productive, when it takes place at a cross-border level. Traditionally, national industries tend to concentrate knowledge and experience in certain technological areas, that have proved rewarding in the past, in terms of industrial competitiveness or coverage of national military requirements. But now, it is time to identify the new challenges of technological excellence and industrial viability that render cross-border collaboration a mandatory process.

Another key element in addressing the technology gap issue is the allocation of investment in innovation, with special focus on emerging and disruptive technologies. Bearing in mind that the bringers of innovation are, mainly, the Small & Medium Enterprises (SMEs), as well as the Academia and the Research & Technology Organisations (RTOs), it is a straight forward deduction that those actors must play an important role in the effort and consequently participate in future collaboration schemes. In addition, and recognising the dual nature of modern technologies and applications (civil and military), it becomes obvious that important benefits can be ensured by fostering technology spin-in from the civil to the military sector and facilitating relevant collaborations.

The special nature of the defence industry, where the sole customers are governments, imposes another necessary collaboration element in the effort. It is the public-private partnerships, which will make possible the early engagement of the user in the development of military capabilities, thus ensuring that the final products meet the operational requirements and include all those technologies that satisfy the level of ambition of the Modern European Armed Forces.

It is worth noting that, all the above arguments have been identified by the European Union, which has put in place, through European defence initiatives, a very concrete and promising plan for the collaborative technological and industrial upgrade of the European defence sector.

 

“Greek defence companies need to take advantage of their innovation capacity and gradually advance their business targets, from simple subcontractors of prime manufacturers, to integrators of complete defence systems. This is a complex, long lasting process, which requires, mainly, very targeted cross-border alliances with key players in certain technological areas and a consistent business strategy.”

 

GDL: What is the plan of the Greek Ministry of Defence, together with other EU countries, to develop their bilateral defence cooperation under the European Defence Fund?

TL: Greece is closely following and participating in the actions initiated by the EU, aimed at promoting and strengthening cooperation in defence. Within this context the EU launched the European defence initiatives, namely the Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO), the Coordinated Annual Review on Defence (CARD) and the European Defence Fund (EDF). It is essential for Europe to ensure coherence of those tools, so that they maintain a consistent, mutually reinforcing result.

The European Defence Industrial Development Programme (EDIDP), the predecessor of EDF for the 2019-20 period, launched in 2019, calls for industrial cooperative proposals in the area of defence capability development. In order to prepare for the calls, Greece and Cyprus signed an MOU laying down the framework for the collaboration of the two countries for the support and implementation of projects under the EDIDP. As a result, four proposals were submitted to the 2019 EDIDP calls from consortia led by Greek companies and consisting of industrial, academic and research partners from the two MOU and 12 other European countries. Following the recently issued award decision from the European Commission, all four proposals were successful and will acquire a European funding of 27 million euros, out of a total cost of 29 million.

PESCO was launched in order to foster and commit European countries to the implementation of common projects, both in the areas of defence operations and capability development. Greece, staying committed to the PESCO objectives, has proposed and is currently leading five PESCO projects, while also participating in 10 more projects led by other European countries. In addition and staying committed to the requirement for coherence of the European initiatives, Greece has linked two of the above mentioned, successful EDIDP proposals, to corresponding PESCO projects led by Greece.

CARD was established with the goal to provide, over time, a comprehensive picture of the European capability landscape, helping also European countries identify cooperation opportunities and investment areas for future capability development. Greece is actively participating to the CARD procedure of data collection and analysis, conducted by the European Defence Agency (EDA). It is expected that the results of CARD will further promote cooperation among European countries, including defence research and capability development, eligible for funding under the EDF.

The General Directorate for Defence Investments and Armaments of the Greek Ministry of Defence will continue to investigate industrial cooperation schemes for defence research and development, exploiting the funding opportunities of the EDF. This investigation will be based on capability requirements identified within the National Defence Planning, taking also into account the European initiatives for strengthening cooperation in defence.

GDL: The reorganisation of the structure of the National Defence Industry is a prerequisite for the survival and development of all the Greek defence companies. How can we achieve this?

TL: The Greek Defence Industry has experienced the consequences of the severe financial crisis, which brought a considerable contraction of the national economy. The dramatic reduction of the national defence budget has deprived the industry from previously available funding opportunities. In addition, the harmonisation of the national legal framework with the European Directive for defence procurement has rendered the domestic industrial participation to armament programmes more difficult.

The restructuring of the national Defence Industry becomes necessary, not only for the alleviation of the consequences of the crisis, but mainly for following the developments in the global defence market, as well as exploiting the opportunities created by the new European initiatives in defence. As previously stated, joining forces is a key element in dealing efficiently with cash flow difficulties, while complementing expertise from various sources, in order to create complete solutions and products. The trend in the global defence market is consolidation, although the European market is still lagging in this process, compared to the US and other markets.

There are, however, other effective ways of collaboration and implementation of common strategies. A widespread practice is cooperation for the development of specific products, e.g., the joint venture companies, used mainly for gaining access to new markets. Joint ventures enable acceptable risk sharing, while achieving scale efficiencies by combining assets and operations. Another way of effective collaboration is the creation of clusters of entities in specific technological areas. Clustering can speed up innovation, increase productivity of individual companies and stimulate new businesses in each technology field. This can also be combined with an appropriate opening of the defence sector to spin-in from the civilian sector, for certain common background technologies.

Most importantly, Greek defence companies need to take advantage of their innovation capacity and gradually advance their business targets, from simple subcontractors of prime manufacturers, to integrators of complete defence systems. This is a complex, long lasting process, which requires, mainly, very targeted cross-border alliances with key players in certain technological areas and a consistent business strategy. It can stimulate business growth and the upgrade of SMEs to Middle-Capitalisation companies (Midcaps), creating also the future national leaders in the concerned technology fields.

Special attention must be given to the Defence State Industry, which is an important asset for supporting the security of supply of the Greek Armed Forces. The State companies of the defence sector are, along with the rest of the industry, seriously affected by the economic crisis, however they retain important manufacturing capabilities. While they remain perspective suppliers for the needs of the Greek Armed Forces, they need to adapt their strategies for more extroversion and attraction of investments, pursuing targeted strategic alliances.

 

“The participation of domestic companies in cooperative development of weapon systems from big primes, maintaining ownership rights, is a decisive step toward the real development and sustainability of the domestic defence Industry.”

 

GDL: Should it be mandatory that in each armaments procurement programme, the basic criterion for choosing should be the diversified package of domestic industrial cooperation?

TL: As already mentioned, the adaptation of the national legal framework to the European Directive for defence procurement, has induced serious limitations on the participation of the domestic industry to armament programmes. However, the engagement of increased numbers of domestic defence companies to national procurement programmes remains a continuous objective for the Greek Ministry of Defence. Through this process, we can maintain and further develop the Domestic Defence Technological and Industrial Base (DDTIB), which contributes directly to the strengthening of security of supply for the country. The participation of the domestic industry to big armament procurement programmes should include licensed production, as well as involvement in the Follow On Support (FOS) programmes, which should always complement the acquisition of any weapon system.

The inclusion of domestic enterprises in the supply chains of big prime manufacturers is undoubtedly an important step towards the sustainment of the viability of the Greek defence Industry. However, this is not sufficient for achieving a sustainable development of the domestic Industry, which is the key element for the essential reinforcement of the DDTIB. Instead, the participation of domestic companies in cooperative development of weapon systems from big primes, maintaining ownership rights, is a decisive step toward the real development and sustainability of the domestic defence Industry.

Repositioning itself in the global market – The Hellenic Aerospace Industry SA

“HAI considers that strengthening its innovative level by investing in R&D and new methods is the key to repositioning itself in the global market.”

 

The Hellenic Aerospace Industry SA (HAI) is the leading aerospace and defence industry of Greece. Established in 1975, its major mission is to deliver services and products to the Armed Forces of the Hellenic State. By implementing an extrovert strategy during recent years, HAI has achieved to expand its customer base and establish itself as a reliable partner of the leading global aerospace industries. HAI operates with state-of-the-art production processes and highly qualified personnel, offering high performance products and quality services.

 

Grigorios Freskos, CEO, The Hellenic Aerospace Industry (HAI)

 

GDL: Does HAI fully cover the maintenance requirements of the Hellenic Armed Forces?

GF: HAI is a pillar in the Hellenic Armed Forces and national defence support and a lever for national economic growth.

  • HAI has acquired over the years extensive capabilities for the majority of platforms, operated by the Hellenic Air Force. As such, we have been a reliable partner of HAF, offering an extensive range of maintenance, repair and operations (MRO) services.
  • In addition to the MRO activities, significant upgrade and maintenance programmes are implemented in HAI for the Hellenic Air Force. Among them, the upgrade of the Mirage 2000 Hellenic Air Force fleet to the latest version of Mirage 2000-5, the C-130 ‘Hercules’ avionics upgrade (AUP) and rainbow fitting, the F-4E AUP and the F/RF-4E Service Life Extension programme.
  • The F-16 Viper upgrade for the Hellenic Air Force will be performed at HAI. Works have started on the first of the 84 HAF F-16s that will be upgraded to Viper class by 2027, delivering a significant increase in capability for the HAF fleet, as the F-16 Vs will be the most advanced F-16 configuration available today.
  • For the Hellenic Navy, the implementation of a government-to-government agreement with the United States (announced in 2015) for the re-activation of one P-3B Orion maritime patrol aircraft – already delivered – and the modernisation of four aircraft through the Mid-Life Upgrade (MLU) Programme is currently in progress.
  • We look forward to re-launching our collaboration with the Hellenic Army, supporting their helicopters.
  • Last but not least, it is worth mentioning that HAI has developed an integrated Command and Control System for Greek Artillery, as well as a Communication Combat Zone System.

 

“By developing new technologies, outsourcing of low-cost technology production and engaging in international partnerships, HAI will regain its world market share.”

 

GDL: What are the major investment plans for EAB?

GF: I would categorise them as follows:

  • Investing in the field of Technology and Innovation:

The Hellenic Aerospace Industry has accumulated expertise and know-how in multilateral fields of activities  – in engineering and design in particular –  by participating in major European and international projects and consortiums such as nEUROn – the Unmanned Combat Air Vehicle elaborated within the framework of a European cooperation scheme. In this project, HAI participated with the Design of Aft Fuselage using stealth technologies and the Exhaust Pipe Production.

ΗΑΙ considers that strengthening its innovative level by investing in R&D and new methods is the key to reposition itself in the global market.

Within this context, a plan will be implemented for infrastructure which will upgrade and improve production processes.

A new Paint Stripping Hangar and a Special Processes Facility will perform production activities by using cutting-edge technologies, environmentally friendly, thus, materialising one of the company’s strategic goals for the modernisation and creation of new facilities according to the EU bio-environmental requirements (REACH).

  • Investing in the field of Training:

HAI operates an EASA Part-147 Maintenance Training Organisation, having been approved to conduct training and examinations, meeting the requirements of EASA Part 66 Aircraft Maintenance Licence in all currently available categories.

Α milestone for HAI’s Training is the enduring cooperation with the United Arab Emirates Armed Forces. Being always responsive to the specific needs of the UAE Customer has given HAI invaluable experience, which in turn grants prominence to the organisation as a Training Centre Service Provider overseas.

To cover a broader spectrum of training services, HAI is planning to create a new Training Centre.

 

“To cover a broader spectrum of training services, HAI is planning to create a new Training Centre.”

 

GDL: Could EAB expand its maintenance and manufacturing business in the civil sector?

GF: HAI already has some activity in the civil sector, serving the Hellenic Government’s VIP aircraft.

At this point we would like to mention our contribution during the fire-fighting season in our country. HAI totally supports the CL-215 and CL-415 fleet performing their annual maintenance and providing extensive field support, during the fire hazard season.

 

GDL: What are EAB’s major development plans in the electronic and manufacturing areas?

GF: These can be described as follows:

  • Synergies with the leading players in the global defence and aerospace industry are a primary objective. By developing new technologies, outsourcing of low-cost technology production and engaging in international partnerships, ΗΑΙ will regain its world market share.

This is emphasised by the long-term, continuous cooperation with Lockheed Martin, the most valuable strategic partner of HAI as the establishment of infrastructure and technology transfer provided new manufacturing capabilities for aerospace material and aircraft upgrades.

  • In the aerostructures area, HAI as sole-source supplier worldwide of Lockheed Martin participates in the on-going C-130J programme, manufacturing the Fuselage Plug Panels/Mid Fuselage Panels. Moreover, the re-launching of F-16 aircraft co-production programme has taken place within the context of which, HAI has undertaken by Lockheed Martin the assembly of structural components for the F-16 fighter aircraft, as sole-source supplier, as well.

GDL: The Randstad Employer Brand Research recently revealed the top 10 best companies to work for in Greece for 2020. One of them is HAI. Can you tell us more about this achievement?

GF: According to the most recent research, for the first time the Hellenic Aerospace Industry holds the second place, entering the top ten of best Greek companies to work for.

Statistics indicated a positive image of the company, which has also been reflected on the number of job applications accepted during the recent hiring process.

Our personnel are undoubtedly the most significant asset for our company, especially in view of our new workload. Retaining highly-experienced personnel and attracting new talented recruits is more than crucial.

Innovation is a Key Business Tool – talking to the CEO of IDE

Lockheed Martin confirms its commitment & support to the Armed Forces, Aerospace & Defence Industry

 

Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Vice President Global Pursuits Initiatives, Dennys Plessas

 

“The Hellenic defence industry is a national asset and as such needs to be addressed. Continuous modernisation is important with new capabilities, technologies and training.”

 

GDL: Could you describe the relationship of Lockheed Martin with the Hellenic Aerospace and Defence Industry. What is the status of the programme for upgrading the 85 F-16’s to the block 72 Viper System, and the rest of Lockheed Martin programmes in Greece?

DP: The cooperation between Lockheed Martin and the Hellenic Defence and Aerospace industry, was forged through many decades and evolved into a strategic relation between these pioneering aerospace companies, Lockheed Martin and the Hellenic Aerospace Industry (HAI).

Lockheed Martin, within the framework of the F-16 fighter acquisitions over the last 25 years has implemented, with success and transparency, a series of offset benefit and technology transfer programmes aimed at the upgrade of the operational capabilities of the Armed Forces and the reinforcement of the domestic defence industry.

The continuous transfer of technology to HAI and to other Hellenic companies, combined with the construction of a modern infrastructure, comprise the basic factors for the development of the Hellenic Defence Industry during the last 20+ years. HAI is the sole source supplier of Lockheed Martin, internationally, for specific F-16 fighter aircraft parts (air inlet ducts, aft fuselage, fuel tanks and other aero structural components), as well as for major fuselage parts for the C-130J Super Hercules transport aircraft (plugs and panels).

The important international orders for F-16s and C-130J have provided to HAI a large workload, the benefits being an increase in exports and the upkeep of many aerospace jobs, even during the economic crisis. To do so, Lockheed Martin has proceeded with significant investments at HAI, aiming at the establishment and expansion of its production capacity, the provision of technical know-how in modern aero structures, personnel training, meeting of environmental challenges, etc. These investments lead to HAI’s modernisation and allowed the company to respond to modern requirements and compete with foreign defence industries, the capstone being the US Air Force European F-16 upgrade programme.

The F-16 and the C-130J co-production programmes, of purely export character, are reinforcing the national effort for the development and growth of exports. They are creating precious self-financed work positions and they result in considerable aerospace technical know-how. In both aerostructure programmes, HAI is the sole manufacturer for our global international market of these two legendary aircraft. In addition to co-production programmes, Lockheed Martin is implementing at HAI two major upgrade and modernisation programmes for the Hellenic Ministry of Defence. The F-16 fighter upgrade programme has been structured by the Greek and American Governments and the F-16 manufacturer, Lockheed Martin in such a way as to maximise the participation of the domestic defence industry, but also to fully ensure the supply and information of the weapon system.

The Hellenic defence industry will implement all phases of the programme in Greece, except the design and development, the procurement of individual electronic equipment and the development of the necessary software, which will be implemented by the manufacturing company in the US. In this way the domestic industry will secure a workload worth hundreds of millions of dollars by its active participation in the programme. Except for the prototype aircraft flight testing, no other F-16 will leave Greece to be subjected to any upgrade works in the US. It should not escape us that eight-to-10 years ago, HAI realised the upgrade of about 90 F-16s with the technical support of Lockheed Martin, through which the relevant experience/technical know-how was acquired.

Similar is the involvement of the Hellenic Aerospace and Defence Industry in the P-3 Mid-Life Upgrade Programme for the Hellenic Navy. The Hellenic Defence Industry, HAI, Scytales, AEL, etc, will participate in both structural and mission system upgrades of the Maritime Patrol and Antisubmarine warfare P-3 aircraft.

The Hellenic defence industry has therefore received considerable industrial returns and a large workload creating new aerospace positions, securing HAI’s sustainability and increasing its business growth. We also expect that the technology and technical know-how transfer and the reinforcement of the domestic capabilities will increase the competitiveness of the Hellenic Defence Industry, providing future opportunities for the implementation of similar programmes for other international F-16, P-3 and C-130 users.

GDL: What is the added-value and competitive advantages of the Greek Defence Industry through such procurement programmes?

DP: About 70-75% of HAI’s total annual turnover originates from Lockheed Martin programmes. The exact amount varies from year to year. Their involvement includes:

  • F-16 coproduction for the global market of Lockheed Martin,
  • C-130J coproduction for the global market of Lockheed Martin,
  • P-3B upgrade and overhaul (Mid-Life Upgrade) for the Hellenic Navy,
  • F-16V (Viper) aircraft upgrade for the Hellenic Air Force,
  • C-130 Hercules aircraft repair works [HAI being an] ‘authorised repair centre’, a fact which could be exploited at an international level.

The Hellenic Navy, recognising the operational need to upgrade its Maritime Patrol Capability, has entered into a government-to-government agreement with the US Navy, designating Lockheed Martin as a sole source supplier, to perform a mid-life upgrade and mission system modernisation for its P-3B aircraft.

The HAF, following a detailed assessment and analysis of the present, as well as of the future threats, reached the conclusion that the upgrade of 84 fighter aircraft comprises the most financially efficient programme, offering a significant operational benefit to the HAF and the Armed Forces.

The upgraded F-16s, equipped with electronically scanned array RADAR (the well-known to all AESA), modern LINK 16 communication systems, modern sensors, but also safety systems (like the ground collision avoidance system) are creating a modern fleet, able to counter the current and future threats in the region, while offering at the same time the necessary interoperability with the 5th generation F-35 fighters, as well as with various other ground and maritime platforms.

In addition, I would like to add that without any other financial burden the domestic industry will benefit to a significant degree through our SSI (Security of Supply & Information) programmes:

  • Securing and creating hundreds of jobs, so much in HAI, as well as in several private defence companies for many years.
  • Continuation of the F-16 and C-130J assembly and co-production in HAI.
  • Investments for the support of the Armed Forces operational capabilities, as well as for the upgrade of HAI’s technological capabilities.
  • Provision of additional technical know-how and the exploitation of developed infrastructure.
  • Capability for contesting similar upgrade contracts for third countries.

 

“It is only through major programme participation, such as the F-16, the C-130J and eventually the F-35, that the Greek defence industry will remain modern, competitive and relevant.”

 

GDL: Working with the Greek Aerospace Industry for more than two decades, in your opinion, what improvements could be made to make it more competitive and attractive to international markets?

DP: The cooperation between Lockheed Martin and HAI was developed through many decades and evolved into a strategic relation between Lockheed Martin and HAI, for manufacturing, maintenance, repair, overhaul and Upgrade (MRO&U).

There have been challenges, especially during the past several years, when Greece went through an economic crisis; Lockheed Martin did not hesitate to trust in Hellenic hands two of its most valuable programmes – the F-16 and the C-130J, but also to significantly increase the volume of the workload assigned to HAI.

These high technology programmes, of purely export character, are reinforcing the national effort for the development and growth of exports. They are creating precious self-financed jobs and they result in considerable aerospace technical know-how. The secret of success is simple, but also complex at the same time: methodical approach, professionalism, competitiveness, diligent work, non-negotiable standards of quality and on-time deliveries.

In this work, the high-quality specifications, precision and the faithful observance of the delivery time schedules comprise the key characteristics of a reliable partner. The work performed in Greece does not only have a financial, developmental, industrial and technological character, but it is a national contributor for Greece.

 

GDL: How realistic is the JSF (F-35) newest generation fighter aircraft programme for the Greek Air Force?

DP: Given that the upgrade of the F-16s is already under way, the next step would be the acquisition of 5th generation aircraft. Lockheed Martin is the only company in the world designing and manufacturing the only 5th generation exportable aircraft, the F-35.

The specific aircraft, the JSF F-35 Lightning II, was designed exclusively by partner nations for transforming and redefining not only the air combat, but also the entire conflict. Its state-of-the-art flight characteristics, combined with stealth capability, the capability for performing multiple missions at the same time, its long range, the integration of latest technology sensors allowing the fusion of data, its network-centric character, as well as its reliability and ease of maintenance, are making it the central platform through which the largest part of an air conflict will be conducted in the 21st Century.

GDL: What is your assessment for the future reinforcement of the country’s capabilities regarding the countering of current and future threats?  Is there a possibility for Greece to procure the 5th generation F-35 aircraft?

DP: For the first time the development of a new 5th generation aircraft, like the F-35, foresees an extremely low unit acquisition cost (fly away) compared with the current 4th generation programmes, as well as a considerably reduced life-cycle cost. This is because of the large number of orders secured (economies of scale) and, as a result, of the viability of the programme for the coming decades, but also because of the characteristics of modern design, development and production processes adopted by Lockheed Martin throughout the course of the programme to date.

Finally, I want to stress the multi-national structure of the programme, for which the European dimension of the F-35 is significant. Several European countries already participate as partners in the programme, suggesting the need and the desire of these countries for the transition and transformation to a 5th generation fighter programme technology.

GDL: What is Lockheed Martin’s experience from its cooperation with the Hellenic defense industry?

DP: Lockheed Martin, within the framework of the F-16 fighter acquisitions over the last 25 years, has implemented, with great success, a series of offset benefit and co-production programmes aimed at the upgrade of the operational capabilities of the Armed Forces, but also the reinforcement of the domestic defence industry. HAI, during the last 15 years, is the sole source supplier of Lockheed Martin, internationally, for specific F-16 fighter aircraft parts (air ducts, tail, fuel tanks and other), as well as for major fuselage parts for the C-130J transport aircraft.

As I mentioned before, Lockheed Martin has made significant investments at HAI and coupled with the international demand for F-16s and C-130J, it has provided HAI a large workload, alongside all the benefits that comes with this.

The Hellenic defence industry is a national asset and as such needs to be addressed. Continuous modernisation is important with new capabilities, technologies and training. It is only through major programme participation, such as the F-16, the C-130J and eventually the F-35, that the Greek defence industry will remain modern, competitive and relevant.

Focused on serving the needs of international markets – Metka

GDL: Giorgos Economou, Deputy General Manager of the EPC Projects Department and Factory Manager of Mytilineos tells us about the course of Metka over the past few years?

GE: Mytilineos’ factory in Volos is part of the Greek industrial history. From 1964 it is working continuously, despite difficulties. It hasn’t stopped, not even during the pandemic of Covid-19, without risking the health of its employees.

Today the factory is undertaking serious defence projects exporting patriot launchers and battle tanks to countries in the Middle East through American and German Contractors. The number of technical employees is increasing and the prospects are very positive.

GDL: What are Metka’s major investment plans?

GE: Are new investment plans have to do with new machinery, equipment, special jigs and fixtures.

GDL: What initiatives has the company undertaken to achieve the greatest possible degree of self-reliance in equipment (Hellenisation)?

GE: The Company targets Hellenisation by supporting new design, developing the MDP (Manufacturing Data Procedures) and constructing special tooling (jigs and fixtures) to facilitate production and improve productivity.

Outstanding experience in the electronics sector – Miltech

 

GDL: We asked the Business Development Manager and BoD Member of Miltech Hellas, Stephen Kiosseoglou, how does Miltech compare with other defence companies in terms of range and technology?

SK: Miltech Hellas SA is one of the leading Hellenic companies in the defence sector specialising in design and manufacture of high quality cost effective electro-optic and electronic products for defence applications. The company was established in 1997 and since then, it has been able to develop and provide a wide range of products and services. Our vast experience in handling and successfully completing high demanding projects and our strategic alliances and seamless collaboration with world-wide leading defence companies is a key indicator for our global presence in the defence sector. We are proud of our award tracking record in both national and international tenders against very powerful, in terms of capabilities, competitors.

What is more, Miltech is active in research and innovation projects (Horizon2020, EDIDP, National Research Calls) and has close collaborations with universities and research institutes, both national and abroad. Technology plays a crucial role in defence, nowadays. Miltech, being aware of that, always invests in new technologies and high expertise personnel in order not to follow, but rather pace the way in technological achievements.

GDL: What is your marketing strategy?

SK: National and international exhibitions; and presence in defence related magazines.

Being confident about our products, we strongly believe in “living” marketing, i.e., the best commercial is the feedback from our customers. We put a serious effort to keep the performance to price ratio as high as possible.

GDL: What is the contribution of Miltech to the self-sufficiency of the Hellenic Armed Forces?

SK: Greece, due to both its particular terrain and geopolitical position, requires systems to respond to all potential threats. We strongly believe and promote the so-called “after-sales service” and we seek valuable feedback from all our customers. Thus, we continuously upgrade our systems and develop new ones, according to Hellenic Armed Forces’ requirements and needs. Miltech has succeeded in translating the requirements into reliable systems, especially suitable (and most of the times customised) for the Hellenic territory.

Miltech has provided a plethora of surveillance systems and devices to Hellenic Army, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard and Police Force. It is our strong will to continue and further develop our collaboration, being always on stand-by for the next challenging requirement that may arise.

Strengthening the competitiveness of Greek shipping

 

 

Greek seafaring is, over time, one of the healthiest and most extroverted sectors of the Greek economy and at the same time a key pillar for the country’s future economic development and employment. At European level, the European shipping industry contributes around €60 billion/year to European GDP while providing more than 600,000 direct and more than 500,000 indirect jobs in the EU Member States, of which 190,000 in Greece.

 

The Greek State, and in particular the Ministry of Martitime Affairs and Insular Policy, recognising the contribution of shipping to the economy, and at the level of social cohesion on a macroeconomic horizon, supports shipping activities on a steady basis, through a framework of positive measures aimed at improving the competitiveness of the shipping industry and its interconnection with other business and economic activities, seeking multiplier economic benefits. In addition, the attraction of ships in the national register, as well as shipping companies in the country, is a constant priority of the Greek shipping policy.

With coordinated efforts of the Greek Government, shipping entrepreneurs and the shipping labour force despite the highly competitive international environment and the long-term recession of the shipping markets, as well as the growing protectionist tendencies on the part of various countries, the sizes of Greek Merchant Marine demonstrate the continuation of its competitive position and the primacy of Piraeus as a global shipping centre, an assembly centre of companies with a significant global number of managed ships.

The Greek flag is classified as a ‘quality flag’, listed in the White List of the Paris MOU, with a significantly lower age profile than the average age of the world’s fleet. It is built by a dynamic fleet of traditional (mainly cargo, bulk and tankers), but also specialised ships of modern technology (LNG, LPG) offering special advantages and quality features that make it highly competitive in the international shipping arena.

An important role in the management and further development of this shipping capital is played by the shipping companies of Law 27/1975, which have established offices in Greece and manage ships of Greek or foreign flags over 500gt and so on, as well as the shipping companies of Law 959/1979, which own Greek-flagged ships and manage Greek or foreign-flagged ships.

At the beginning of last year, the total number of active companies of article 25 of Law 27/1975 was 1,401 companies compared to 1,387 companies the year before. Comparing the data, there is an increase in the total number of installed shipping companies of Law 27/75 by 1%, following the overall growth trend of recent years in terms of companies operating in Greece. Out of a total of 1,401 companies, 795 were active in the field of ship management and 606 were active in other shipping items (charter brokerage, purchase, sale, shipbuilding, etc).

Comparing the data between the last two to three years there is a significant increase in the number of managing, by the established companies, of the fleet by 2.37% and of its capacity by 3.42%. 2% of the management companies oversee more than 50 ships, while 8% more than 20 ships. This increase reflects the dynamics of Greek shipping, which continues to provide quality jobs while supporting employment.

The human resources (shipmasters, chief engineers, accountants, shipbuilders, electrical engineers, shipping lawyers, etc) are highly specialised and highly skilled in shipping. In this sense giving special weight to one of the main goals of creating a competitive shipping network and at the same time highlighting the country and especially the wider region of Piraeus as one of the largest centres of international maritime know-how (maritime cluster know-how), giving significant benefits to the Greek economy.

Q&A: Minister of Maritime Affairs & Insular Policy, Yiannis Plakiotakis

 

 

“We have developed a number of specific measures to support maritime work by recognising the specifics of the maritime profession.”

 

 

GDL: How has the Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Insular Policy confronted and participated in the battle against the Covid-19 pandemic?

YP: The first priority of all of us, in this difficult time, was the protection of public health, as well as the people around us. The Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Insular Policy took all the necessary measures in a timely manner to reduce the spread of the Pandemic. Measures are continuously examined and adapted daily.

From the first moment, we restricted maritime connections with Albania and Italy, restricted the arrival of private ships and yachts coming from abroad and prohibited the arrival of cruise ships in Greek ports. We then restricted the ability of ships to sail to the islands, allowing only permanent residents to travel there, for absolutely necessary reasons. We also banned swimming, amateur and underwater fishing, while suspending the operation of the country’s public Merchant Maritime Schools by establishing tele-education, so that the semester is not lost for students. At the same time, we implemented a repatriation programme for Greek citizens from abroad.

There is no doubt that we have taken difficult and unpopular measures to reduce the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic and in doing so we have managed to minimise the number of cases, ensuring the uninterrupted connection between islands and mainland Greece.

GDL: In the midst of the pandemic, Greece was also encountering an increased influx of refugees and migrants via the sea. How did you cope with this reality?

YP: It is true that just a few days before the Covid-19 pandemic passed through Europe, migration flows to our islands had increased. At that time we had taken drastic measures to reduce them and we had already achieved this to a significant extent before the spread of the pandemic and the protection measures.

In the midst of the pandemic, there was a significant downward to zero trend of immigration flows with just a few attempts of illegal passage. It is noteworthy that such a decrease in the migration phenomenon (in zero or double digits) had not been previously recorded since the first half of 2012. This is attributed, on the one hand, to the timely detection of the incidents by the Hellenic Coast Guard and to the deterrent action recorded by forcing the Turkish authorities to respond to our request and on the other hand to the escalation of the Covid-19 pandemic in Turkey and its own restrictions to control it.

GDL: With respect to the sustainability of coastal shipping and meeting the needs of the islands, what initiatives have you undertaken so far?

YP: Both in coastal shipping and island entrepreneurship, and within the context of initiatives taken to alleviate sectors affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, the Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Insular Policy has taken a number of specific and important measures covering critical parameters.

The connection of our islands with the mainland, the smooth operation of businesses, jobs, but also the further strengthening of the workers in the shipping industry were kept constant. We are strengthening the market with a liquidity of more than 33 million euros, while we are working with the relevant Ministries to develop a special programme to strengthen shipping companies affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, using European resources.

We supported island businesses with the institution of transport equivalent to resources of 11.2 million euros.

In cooperation with the Ministries of Finance and Development, an additional funding of 15 million euros was secured to ensure maritime transport services to the island areas, with the ultimate goal of leaving no island without a ferry connection. This funding was added to the 3.5 million euros with which maritime transport was strengthened since the beginning of the measures to limit the virus to the minimum due to the shipping service of the island regions of 29 connecting lines of the national and local shipping network.

The possibility of activating the procedure for additional assignments of public service contracts for a specific route or itineraries to the main and local ferry network has been provided for by an emergency legislative regulation.

In this way, the Ministry of Maritime Affairs And Insular Policy ensures the uninterrupted connection of the islands with the mainland and with each other, as well as the adequate and efficient transport of passengers and goods. Also, an advance payment of 50% for the leases for public service contracts in coastal shipping was granted for the months of February, March and April. According to the first calculations of the Directorate of Maritime Transport of the Ministry, it is estimated that this amount will amount to 7.5 million Euros.

We have developed a number of specific measures to support maritime work by recognising the specifics of the maritime profession. The provision of insurance capacity for unemployed sailors has already been provided for, the provision of emergency financial assistance to sailors as compensation for special purpose to sailors whose shipping contracts are suspended and to sailors whose shipping contract was terminated.

In the field of maritime education, we have made available to the teaching staff and students of the Merchant Navy’s public schools a modern telecommunications service using the digital platform Microsoft Teams in a free academic version, with the possibility of teleconferencing, simultaneous digital exchanges and digital archives, automatically create classes and classrooms based on the number of students attending each school.

5,313 students and 277 teachers are enrolled in the e-learning platform and e-learning. At the same time, procedures are underway to immediately implement the process of modern distance education using the digital platform Microsoft Teams (in a free academic version) and in public schools of postgraduate education, training and the training of merchant marine studies and naval officers in all categories and specialties.

“The US is committed to Greece’s prosperity, security & democracy.” Interview with the US Ambassador

Tourism & Covid-19: talking to the leaders of Tourism in Greece

Interview with the Secretary General for Public Diplomacy, Religious and Consular Affairs

New technologies, innovative ideas & ambitious entrepreneurial ventures – the 85th TIF

President Pavlopoulos on State Visit to Montenegro

 

“Excellent political relations should be enhanced with stronger cooperation in the field of the economy.”

 

President of the Hellenic Republic, Prokopis Pavlopoulos, paid a two-day State Visit to Montenegro on March 7th-8th at the invitation of the President of Montenegro, Milo Đukanović. President Pavlopoulos’ programme included a meeting with the Parliament President Ivan Brajović and a working dinner held by Prime Minister Duško Marković. He also visited the Law School of the University of Montenegro where he addressed a lecture on the ‘Rule of Law and European Unification’.

 

President Pavlopoulos sent a clear message from Podgorica that if neighbouring countries want to have a European future they should fully respect the European acquis and International Law and have resolved their differences with the other EU countries in the region. In his statement during his meeting with President Đukanović he said that “the European prospect of our neighbours contains two self-evident conditions, which we must point out in all sincerity. If they want to have European prospects, they must respect the European acquis and International Law.”

Referring to North Macedonia, he noted that Greece favours its accession to the EU, clarifying however that this prospect requires, in addition, full respect of the Prespes Agreement signed with Greece. The Agreement, he said, “must be interpreted and implemented in a way that will not allow any trace of irredentism. Any other tactic would obviously hinder the progress of the Republic of North Macedonia in its European accession course.”

On Greek-Turkish relations, the Greek Head of State reiterated that “Greece seeks relations of friendship and good neighbourhood and supports Turkey’s European accession prospect,” adding that “the Treaties of Lausanne and Paris, which are totally clear and comprehensive, leave no room for doubt and should be totally respected by all.” He added that regarding the Economic Exclusive Zone, Turkey must respect the Law of the Sea.

On Albania and its European prospect, “which Greece does not oppose” he said that “behaviours as those against the Greek minority constitute an insurmountable obstacle for Albania’s smooth accession to the European Union.” Another obstacle, he said, is “any claim of entirely unwarranted so-called rights of the Albanian Cams, ruthless associates of the Nazis, as it has been historically proven.”

President Pavlopoulos also referred to the Cyprus issue, noting that it is an international and mostly European issue, adding that it must be resolved as soon as possible in a fair and sustainable way.

Finally, President Pavlopoulos pointed out that the participation of all the Balkan countries in the EU is undeniably a guarantee for the peaceful co-existence and common creative course of countries and peoples of the region. Greece, he said, sincerely and practically supports Montenegro’s access to the European Union and is ready to contribute and support towards this direction. He also expressed the hope that this is the first visit of a Greek President to Montenegro after its independence and the establishment of diplomatic ties with Greece and will essentially contribute in the further strengthening of the already very good relations between the two countries. Montenegro is a country of European values and has made the most progress on the road to the EU compared to other Western Balkan countries, the President of the Hellenic Republic said during a working dinner with Prime Minister Duško Marković.

President Pavlopoulos said that Montenegro can count on Greece and all its help in further continuation of the integration process. He estimated that on this path, Europe must remain attractive with a strong European perspective for the Western Balkans region.

 

Prime Minister Marković expressed gratitude for the partnership, friendship and support to Montenegro in achieving its development vision and pointed to the good results achieved in economic policy in the past two years. He highlighted the success in implementing financial consolidation and stabilising public finances, reducing unemployment and pointed to economic growth at a rate of over 4.5%. “The plan is to attain a budget surplus by 2020 and to reduce the level of public debt,” the Prime Minister emphasised.

Both sides agreed that there is plenty of space for strengthening economic relations, especially in the areas of tourism and energy, in which Montenegro has exceptional development potentials. The role of Parliaments, as the strongest basis and pillar of the EU Member States, is enormous, because the Union is based on the representative democracy and the Rule of Law – it was concluded, among other things, at the meeting of the President of the Parliament of Montenegro Ivan Brajović with President Pavlopoulos.

 

Parliament President Brajović pointed out that the Parliamentary dimension of strengthening stability and cooperation among countries in the region would be especially covered at the upcoming 16th Conference of Speakers of Parliaments of the Adriatic-Ionian Initiative which will be held in Budva, where Deputy Speaker of the Hellenic Parliament, Georgios Varemenos, will also participate.

The Greek Head of State emphasised that the international role of Montenegro was measured by the degree of its Europeanism and in line with consistent implementation of principles it shared with the community of European nations. The Parliament of Montenegro could significantly contribute to this, by cooperating with European Parliaments and by adopting European legislation.

Parliament President Brajović thanked Greece for its support so far on Montenegro’s Euro-Atlantic and European path and pointed out that excellent political relations should be enhanced with stronger cooperation in the field of economy.

 

Pictured above: President of the Hellenic Republic, Prokopis Pavlopoulos is welcomed to Podgorica by his Montenegrin counterpart, Milo Đukanović; with Prime Minister Duško Marković and the two Ministers of Foreign Affairs Srdjan Darmanović and George Katrougalos; with President of Montenegro’s Parliament Ivan Brajović.

HIGHLIGHTS OF THE MONTH - FEBRUARY 2020

Greek-Italian cooperation is a model of good neighbourly relations

    Agreement on Maritime Boundaries Signed   Greece and Italy signed an Agreement on Maritime Boundaries on June 9th, delimiting an exclusive economic zone (EEZ) between the two neighbouring countries, ending a 43-year pending issue. The deal, which was signed by Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias and his Italian ...

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Interview of the General Director of Defence Investments and Armaments

    “It is time to identify the new challenges of technological excellence and industrial viability that render cross-border collaboration a mandatory process.”   General Director, GDDIA, Lt. Gen. Theodoros Lagios   GDL: What kind of collaboration is needed so that the technological gap between European, American and other defence ...

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Focused on serving the needs of international markets – Metka

GDL: Giorgos Economou, Deputy General Manager of the EPC Projects Department and Factory Manager of Mytilineos tells us about the course of Metka over the past few years? GE: Mytilineos’ factory in Volos is part of the Greek industrial history. From 1964 it is working continuously, despite difficulties. It hasn’t ...

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Outstanding experience in the electronics sector – Miltech

  GDL: We asked the Business Development Manager and BoD Member of Miltech Hellas, Stephen Kiosseoglou, how does Miltech compare with other defence companies in terms of range and technology? SK: Miltech Hellas SA is one of the leading Hellenic companies in the defence sector specialising in design and manufacture ...

Read More »

Strengthening the competitiveness of Greek shipping

    Greek seafaring is, over time, one of the healthiest and most extroverted sectors of the Greek economy and at the same time a key pillar for the country’s future economic development and employment. At European level, the European shipping industry contributes around €60 billion/year to European GDP while ...

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HIGHLIGHTS OF THE MONTH - JANUARY 2020

Greek-Italian cooperation is a model of good neighbourly relations

    Agreement on Maritime Boundaries Signed   Greece and Italy signed an Agreement on Maritime Boundaries on June 9th, delimiting an exclusive economic zone (EEZ) between the two neighbouring countries, ending a 43-year pending issue. The deal, which was signed by Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias and his Italian ...

Read More »

Interview of the General Director of Defence Investments and Armaments

    “It is time to identify the new challenges of technological excellence and industrial viability that render cross-border collaboration a mandatory process.”   General Director, GDDIA, Lt. Gen. Theodoros Lagios   GDL: What kind of collaboration is needed so that the technological gap between European, American and other defence ...

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Focused on serving the needs of international markets – Metka

GDL: Giorgos Economou, Deputy General Manager of the EPC Projects Department and Factory Manager of Mytilineos tells us about the course of Metka over the past few years? GE: Mytilineos’ factory in Volos is part of the Greek industrial history. From 1964 it is working continuously, despite difficulties. It hasn’t ...

Read More »

Outstanding experience in the electronics sector – Miltech

  GDL: We asked the Business Development Manager and BoD Member of Miltech Hellas, Stephen Kiosseoglou, how does Miltech compare with other defence companies in terms of range and technology? SK: Miltech Hellas SA is one of the leading Hellenic companies in the defence sector specialising in design and manufacture ...

Read More »

Strengthening the competitiveness of Greek shipping

    Greek seafaring is, over time, one of the healthiest and most extroverted sectors of the Greek economy and at the same time a key pillar for the country’s future economic development and employment. At European level, the European shipping industry contributes around €60 billion/year to European GDP while ...

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Greece-US Strategic Cooperation reaffirmed

  Greece and the United States of America reaffirmed their desire to further enhance their strategic defence and security partnership, which greatly contributes to the security of both nations. The Greek Government appears convinced that the key objective of Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis’ visit to the US, which was to ...

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HIGHLIGHTS OF THE MONTH - DECEMBER 2019

Greek-Italian cooperation is a model of good neighbourly relations

    Agreement on Maritime Boundaries Signed   Greece and Italy signed an Agreement on Maritime Boundaries on June 9th, delimiting an exclusive economic zone (EEZ) between the two neighbouring countries, ending a 43-year pending issue. The deal, which was signed by Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias and his Italian ...

Read More »

Interview of the General Director of Defence Investments and Armaments

    “It is time to identify the new challenges of technological excellence and industrial viability that render cross-border collaboration a mandatory process.”   General Director, GDDIA, Lt. Gen. Theodoros Lagios   GDL: What kind of collaboration is needed so that the technological gap between European, American and other defence ...

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Focused on serving the needs of international markets – Metka

GDL: Giorgos Economou, Deputy General Manager of the EPC Projects Department and Factory Manager of Mytilineos tells us about the course of Metka over the past few years? GE: Mytilineos’ factory in Volos is part of the Greek industrial history. From 1964 it is working continuously, despite difficulties. It hasn’t ...

Read More »

Outstanding experience in the electronics sector – Miltech

  GDL: We asked the Business Development Manager and BoD Member of Miltech Hellas, Stephen Kiosseoglou, how does Miltech compare with other defence companies in terms of range and technology? SK: Miltech Hellas SA is one of the leading Hellenic companies in the defence sector specialising in design and manufacture ...

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Strengthening the competitiveness of Greek shipping

    Greek seafaring is, over time, one of the healthiest and most extroverted sectors of the Greek economy and at the same time a key pillar for the country’s future economic development and employment. At European level, the European shipping industry contributes around €60 billion/year to European GDP while ...

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BSEC Council of Ministers of Foreign Affairs in Athens

  BSEC’s efforts to contribute to the sustainable development of the wider Black Sea region was recently reaffirmed in Athens at the 41st Meeting of the Organisation of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation (BSEC) Council of Ministers of Foreign Affairs.   The Ministers discussed prospects for further development of cooperation ...

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HIGHLIGHTS OF THE MONTH - NOVEMBER 2019

Greek-Italian cooperation is a model of good neighbourly relations

    Agreement on Maritime Boundaries Signed   Greece and Italy signed an Agreement on Maritime Boundaries on June 9th, delimiting an exclusive economic zone (EEZ) between the two neighbouring countries, ending a 43-year pending issue. The deal, which was signed by Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias and his Italian ...

Read More »

Interview of the General Director of Defence Investments and Armaments

    “It is time to identify the new challenges of technological excellence and industrial viability that render cross-border collaboration a mandatory process.”   General Director, GDDIA, Lt. Gen. Theodoros Lagios   GDL: What kind of collaboration is needed so that the technological gap between European, American and other defence ...

Read More »

Focused on serving the needs of international markets – Metka

GDL: Giorgos Economou, Deputy General Manager of the EPC Projects Department and Factory Manager of Mytilineos tells us about the course of Metka over the past few years? GE: Mytilineos’ factory in Volos is part of the Greek industrial history. From 1964 it is working continuously, despite difficulties. It hasn’t ...

Read More »

Outstanding experience in the electronics sector – Miltech

  GDL: We asked the Business Development Manager and BoD Member of Miltech Hellas, Stephen Kiosseoglou, how does Miltech compare with other defence companies in terms of range and technology? SK: Miltech Hellas SA is one of the leading Hellenic companies in the defence sector specialising in design and manufacture ...

Read More »

Strengthening the competitiveness of Greek shipping

    Greek seafaring is, over time, one of the healthiest and most extroverted sectors of the Greek economy and at the same time a key pillar for the country’s future economic development and employment. At European level, the European shipping industry contributes around €60 billion/year to European GDP while ...

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HIGHLIGHTS OF THE MONTH - OCTOBER 2019

Hagia Sophia: The violation of a symbol by the Sec-Gen for Public Diplomacy, Religious & Consular Affairs

 

 

Hagia Sophia:
The violation of a symbol

 

By Constantinos Alexandris

 

“It is quite clear that no logical or plausible excuse could justify the violation of a symbol – because this is exactly what the decision for the conversion of Hagia Sophia amounts to. This is not just contempt for history or UNESCO or an international treaty: it is a violation.

Hagia Sophia is not just any church, it is a symbol. It is an emblem of a long historical period, of an entire civilization… and turning it into a mosque is an attack on this civilization. But more importantly, it is also an attack against what the modern world now considers its achievements, such as respect for diversity.”

 

Flipping through an album of travel photos the other day; I recalled lighting a candle at the Taj Mahal a few years after the first Christian Indian Prime Minister decided to grant the temple to the local Church. I admired once again the handmade rugs adorning the floor of the Notre Dame de Paris Mosque, which the French Government had handed over to the Muslim community in order to save it from decay, as the declining number of Christians attending the service could not cover its maintenance costs. And there was that photo with the stunning minarets of St. Peter’s Mosque at the Vatican that the Muslim local Governor of the former city-state decided to add to the building to structurally reinforce it as it was in danger of collapsing! Oh, and that one there, with the Buddhist monks who in recent years have settled at the Buddhist Monastery of Masjid Al-Haram, the former Grand Mosque in Mecca, which following that terrible pandemic no longer accepted Muslim pilgrims…

And if all this sounds unrealistic or taken straight out from a science fiction script, then think again, because something along those lines happened a few days ago when the Erdogan Government decided to turn Hagia Sophia into a mosque, claiming that as such it will not only be preserved, but will also be better protected. After all, as some Turkish officials have pointed out, this was precisely what their Ottoman ancestors had also done, “saving” the magnificent Church from “withering away” (according to the same officials). When, you may ask, did this happen? Well, a mere 6 centuries ago – quite recently in other words! As if the Renaissance, the Enlightenment, the industrial revolution and an unprecedented scientific and technological revolution have not taken place in between. But what am I saying? Aren’t they all fraudulent Judeo-Christian conspiracies from which modern Muslim Turkey must “cleanse” itself? The questions are purely rhetorical…

It is quite clear that no logical or plausible excuse could justify the violation of a symbol – because this is exactly what the decision for the conversion of Hagia Sophia amounts to. This is not just contempt for history or UNESCO or an international treaty: it is a violation. Hagia Sophia is not just any church, it is a symbol. It is an emblem of a long historical period, of an entire civilization, just like the Taj Mahal, St. Peter’s, the Parthenon, the Masjid Al-Haram, the Rumi Mausoleum; and turning it into a mosque is an attack on this civilization. But more importantly, it is also an attack against what the modern world now considers its achievements, such as respect for diversity.

 

In a nutshell, it is obviously a sovereign decision by the Turkish leadership to decide which direction it wants the country to take. But it is also a basic obligation of all others to protect ourselves from policies and actions that threaten to take us back to the distant past.

 

What is the purpose of all this? That the Erdogan Government confirms, after 6 long centuries, the fall of Constantinople? Does it really feel it needs to? Or to demonstrate perhaps the Islamic domination of the 1,000-year-old Christian Eastern Roman Empire? Both incentives lead to a dangerous slippery slope. They add fuel to the fire of nationalism and religious fundamentalism. Is this what the Turkish Government needs right now? Does it need to play to the gallery of those who fantasise about new conquests and throwing enemies into the sea? Or of those who envision the flag of Islam flying in Rome, Cordoba, Vienna and elsewhere? Is this the Turkey it visualises, or the Islam it aspires to lead?

In any case, to every man according to his deeds. Let us bear in mind, however, that symbols, even if damaged, always find ways to retain their shine and magic. If a Greek Government in the future decided to turn the Parthenon into a Christian Church, one can be sure that it would not be the Parthenon that would be ridiculed…

In a nutshell, it is obviously a sovereign decision by the Turkish leadership to decide which direction it wants the country to take. But it is also a basic obligation of all others to protect ourselves from policies and actions that threaten to take us back to the distant past.

 

Constantinos Alexandris is the Secretary-General for Public Diplomacy,
Religious and Consular Affairs of the Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Also published in Euractiv.com

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AGIA SOPHIA INTERESTING FACTS

 

 

Once the largest cathedral in the world, the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, Turkey, has stood for more than 1,500 years along the banks of the Bosporus Strait and has housed three religious groups. It is one of the most important Byzantine structures ever built. Of great architectural beauty and an important monument both for the Byzantine and Ottoman Empires, it was once a church, later a mosque and then a museum until the recent directive by the Turkish authorities. It holds historical significance as a culminating feature of the Christian era Roman Empire and stands as a monument to artistic and architectural achievement.

Over the centuries, the mystical city of Istanbul (Constantinople) has hosted many civilizations, of which the Byzantium and Ottoman Empires were the most famous. The city today carries the characteristics of these two different cultures and surely Hagia Sophia is a perfect synthesis where one can observe both Ottoman and Byzantium effects under one great dome.

The Hagia Sophia, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, had been a museum since 1934. It was a Christian Church, the Byzantine Empire’s most important one, from the 6th to the 15th Centuries, and a Mosque from 1453. It is one of the most visited museums in Turkey, attracting almost 3.3 million visitors annually. According to data released by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, Hagia Sophia was Turkey’s most visited tourist attraction in 2015 and 2019.

  1. THE CHURCH WAS TWICE DESTROYED BY RIOTS.

First built in Constantinople in 360 CE and dedicated by the Roman Emperor Constantius II (son of Constantine, the founder of Constantinople), the initial, wood-constructed Hagia Sophia burned during a series of riots in 404 CE. In 415 CE, Emperor Theodosius II ordered the church rebuilt, but the Nika Revolt in 532 CE caused widespread death and destruction in the city and the church was wiped out a second time.

 

  1. THE FIRST GREAT BYZANTINE RULER ORDERED ITS RECONSTRUCTION.

Located in the Eastern Roman Empire region known as Byzantium, Constantinople was ruled for 38 years by the Emperor Justinian, starting in 527 CE. Five years after the Nika Revolt and the church’s destruction, Justinian inaugurated the newly rebuilt Hagia Sophia, the most important religious structure in his empire, on December 27, 537 CE.

 

  1. THE CHURCH HAS GONE BY SEVERAL NAMES.

Initially called the Great Church (Megale Ekklesia in Greek, Magna Ecclesia in Latin) because of its immense size, the second incarnation of the church came to be known by the name Hagia Sophia around 430 CE. Its Greek meaning, “Holy Wisdom,” remained after the church was rebuilt a century later. After conquest by the Ottomans it was called Ayasofya, and today it is the Ayasofya Müzesi.

 

  1. THE ORIGINAL DOME WAS REPLACED AFTER AN EARTHQUAKE IN 558 CE.

Soaring 160 feet high, with a diameter of 131 feet, the grand feature of the Hagia Sophia was its large central dome. The dome and the church were designed by architects Anthemios of Tralles and Isidoros of Miletos, but unlike the dome of the Pantheon, which has never faltered, an earthquake in 558 CE caused the Hagia Sophia’s dome to collapse. It was rebuilt to a height of 182 feet, and the walls were reinforced in 562 CE. The dome’s weight is supported by a series of smaller domes, arcades and four large arches.

 

  1. ONE OF THE SEVEN ANCIENT WONDERS WAS USED IN THE CHURCH’S CONSTRUCTION.

To fortify (and beautify) the interior of the church, columns from the long-abandoned and destroyed Temple of Artemis in Ephesus were used for the Hagia Sophia. Additional building materials may also have come from ancient sites in Baalbeck and Pergamom.

 

  1. IT’S A GREAT EXAMPLE OF BYZANTINE ART AND ARCHITECTURE.

Byzantium nurtured a centuries-long tradition of art, architecture, knowledge, theology, and literature in a style that fused Greek, Roman, and other Eastern traditions. Long after the decline of the Roman Empire from which it sprang, the Byzantine ruler Justinian spearheaded a series of urban reconstruction projects following the Nika Revolt and started with the Hagia Sophia. The new cathedral included the massive dome atop a rectangular basilica, abundant mosaics that covered nearly every surface, stone inlays, columns and pillars of marble, bronze doors, a marble door, a large cross at the dome’s apex, and a square area on the floor of the nave, paved in marble, called the omphalion, a place where emperors were crowned.

 

  1. ICONOCLASM LED TO THE REMOVAL OF MANY PIECES OF ART

Meaning “image breaking” or “the smashing of images,” the period of iconoclasm (from about 726-787 CE and 815-843 CE) raged when the state banned the production or use of religious images, leaving the cross as the only acceptable icon. Many mosaics and paintings from the Hagia Sophia were destroyed, taken away, or plastered over.

 

  1. A 90-YEAR-OLD, BLIND VENETIAN ONCE CAPTURED HAGIA SOPHIA.

During the Fourth Crusade in 1203 CE, Alexius IV managed to convince the Crusaders to help him take the throne of the Byzantine Empire in exchange for a series of promises and rewards. But just months later, he was murdered in a palace coup. The powerful Doge Enrico Dandolo, the chief magistrate of the Republic of Venice who was over 90 years old and blind, led the Latin Christians on a siege of Constantinople. The city and the church were sacked and desecrated, many golden mosaics were taken back to Italy and Dandolo was buried at Hagia Sophia after his death in 1205 CE.

 

  1. THE CHURCH BECAME A MOSQUE FOR 500 YEARS.

Centuries of sackings, conquests, sieges, raids, and crusades came to an end in 1453 CE with the fall of Constantinople at the hands of the Ottoman Empire, led first by Sultan Murad II and then his successor, Mehmed II. The city was renamed Istanbul, the church was looted for treasures and Mehmed called for a restoration of the 900-year-old building and its conversion into a mosque.

 

  1. A MULTITUDE OF ISLAMIC FEATURES WERE ADDED TO THE BUILDING.

To use the space as a mosque, the rulers ordered that a mihrab (prayer niche), minbar (pulpit), and a fountain for ablutions be added to the Hagia Sophia. A succession of minarets was added to the exterior, and a school, kitchen, library, mausoleums, and sultan’s lodge joined the site over the centuries.

 

  1. THE SULTAN PROTECTED CHRISTIAN MOSAICS.

Instead of destroying the numerous frescoes and mosaics on the Hagia Sophia walls, Mehmed II ordered they be whitewashed in plaster and covered in Islamic designs and calligraphy. Many were later uncovered, documented, or restored by the Swiss-Italian architects Gaspare and Giuseppe Fossati.

 

  1. BELIEVERS SAY THE ‘WEEPING COLUMN’ HAS HEALING POWERS.

Also called the “sweating column,” the “wishing column,” and the “perspiring column,” the weeping column stands in the northwest portion of the church and is one of 107 columns in the building. The pillar is partly covered in bronze, with a hole in the middle, and it is damp to the touch. The alleged blessing of St. Gregory has led many to rub the column in search of divine healing.

 

  1. THE FOUNDER OF MODERN TURKEY TURNED IT INTO A MUSEUM.

Former army officer Mustafa Kemal Atatürk founded modern Turkey and served as its first president from 1923 to 1938. In 1934, after banning many Islamic customs and Westernising the country, Atatürk and the Turkish government secularised the former cathedral and mosque and converted it into a museum.

 

  • Sophia means Wisdom in the Greek Language. When we translate the full name of Hagia Sophia to English it is Shrine of The Holy of God.
  • Hagia Sophia was dedicated to Logos who was the second person in the Holy Trinity, in December 25th.
  • There were two more Churches accepted as Churches of Holy Wisdom, but only Hagia Sophia was not destroyed.
  • The altar, bells, sacrificial vessels and iconostasis were all removed when the church was converted into a mosque.
  • When Hagia Sophia was a church, a 50 foot silver iconostasis decorated the inside, now it is on display in the museum.
  • Only the Patheon in Rome has a slightly bigger dome than the dome of Hagia Sophia.
  • The Eastern Orthodox Church has declared Hagia Sophia for over 1,000 years as an important place.
  • The Blue Mosque and the Sultan Ahmed Mosque in Istanbul were designed using the Hagia Sophia as inspiration.
  • Hagia Sophia, as a museum, has both Christian and Islamic influences and features today.
  • Hagia Sophia has 40 windows in the area where worshipers sit and it is famous for the reflecting mystical light.
  • When the dome of Hagia Sophia was placed, walls began to lean outward because of the weight. Then walls to support to dome were built.
  • A mathematician, a scientist and a physicist designed the Hagia Sophia.
  • Hagia Sophia is visible from great distances because of its grandness.
  • The stone cannonballs, which were used by Mehmet the Conqueror, are on display near the entrance of Hagia Sophia.
  • Hagia Sophia is one of the most important buildings in Istanbul and is in need of some restoration and repairs.
  • Hagia Sophia was constructed over a fault line and earthquake can tear the structure down. It must be strengthened with some works.
  • Some repairs in Hagia Sophia are on-going today, but definitely needs more financing.

 

Greek-Italian cooperation is a model of good neighbourly relations

 

 

Agreement on Maritime Boundaries Signed

 

Greece and Italy signed an Agreement on Maritime Boundaries on June 9th, delimiting an exclusive economic zone (EEZ) between the two neighbouring countries, ending a 43-year pending issue. The deal, which was signed by Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias and his Italian counterpart Luigi Di Maio during the latter’s visit to Athens, follows a long period of tension in the Eastern Mediterranean region, where Turkey has signed an invalid maritime delimitation agreement with interim Libyan Government Premier Sarraj and has commenced offshore drilling, provoking Cyprus Greece and Israel.

The agreement describes the extent of the maritime zones that can be exploited. Furthermore, the agreement recognises sovereign rights in all land areas, both in the mainland and the islands. It is a model of cooperation and good neighbourly relations and anticipates that similar agreements will be reached in the region, among other countries as well.

In joint statements with Italian Foreign Minister Di Maio after the signature of the agreement between Greece and Italy for the delimitation of the two countries’ maritime zones, Foreign Minister Dendias said it was a “historic moment” and an agreement that established the rights of islands to maritime zones, as well as securing their respective fishing rights.

“Our country’s steadfast goal is still to delimitate the maritime zones with all our neighbours within the framework of International Law,” the Greek Foreign Minister said, stressing that the boundaries of maritime zones cannot be delineated selectively and arbitrarily as “some attempt to use the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS)”. “Relations with Italy are at a very good level, a fact that is sealed with the signature today of the agreement to delimitate the maritime zones between the two sides. An agreement that confirms the right of islands to maritime zones and the mid-line of the 1977 agreement for delimitating the Greece-Italy continental shelf,” Miniser Dendias said. He also pointed to the protection of fishing rights under the deal, thanking Rural Development Minister Makis Voridis for his cooperation in the relevant negotiations.

During a meeting with Minister Di Maio at the Greek Foreign Ministry, Minister Dendias also spoke about the escalation of illegal actions on Turkey’s part, such as the recent publication of a Turkish oil company’s applications to drill for oil and gas within the Greek continental shelf and the region generally. “These actions, combined with an aggressive rhetoric, amply demonstrate Turkey’s destabilising role,” he said. “International Law determines the red lines and these must be respected,” he added.

Regarding Libya, the two sides called for a political solution via the UN and the Berlin Process, while Greece hailed the new Egyptian initiative. They also discussed the European prospects of the Western Balkans, which both countries support on provision that conditionalities are met.

Both Ministers spoke about the pandemic and the return to normality, with the Italian Minister briefing his Greek counterpart on the epidemiological situation in Italy. “Greece is lifting the restrictions starting from next Monday and up to the end of the month. Greece expects our Italian friends to spend their holidays in our country this year, as in the previous years,” Minister Dendias said.

A Greece-Italy Statement on Resources in the Mediterranean, in which the two countries pledge their dedication to a balanced and sustainable management of these resources and agree to consultations to determine any repercussion of various factors to existing fishing practices of the two States, was also signed.

Lastly, they signed a joint notification to the European Commission with which the two countries ask for the future modification of the directives on common fisheries policy so that, when Greece decides to extend its territorial waters to 12 nautical miles, existing fishing activities by Italian fishers in the region between 6-12 nautical miles, which are currently classed as international waters, can continue. Minister Di Maio referring to the migration issue, he recalled the collaboration with Greece and said the new EU agreement under discussion has to distribute migrants equally among Member States. He also expressed Italy’s concern about Libya and said that his country believed in political, not military, solutions and fully supported political talks at the Berlin Conference. In addition, he reconfirmed his country’s support for the European naval operation Irini, saying that the focus should not be on supporting one side only, but on the end of the conflict, with an arms embargo included.

 

Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias and his Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio sign an Agreement on Maritime Boundaries between the two countries at the Hellenic Ministry of Foreign Affairs; the two delegations in conference.

(Photos: H.Akriviadis/MoFA.)

Greek Minister of Foreign Affairs meets with leadership in Cairo

 

 

Two countries enhance cooperation in all fields

 

Minister of Foreign Affairs Nikos Dendias travelled to Egypt on June 18th, where he was received by the President of Egypt, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. He then met with the Egyptian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sameh Shoukry, with whom he discussed bilateral and regional issues, with emphasis on delimitation of maritime zones and developments in Libya and the wider Eastern Mediterranean region.

In his statement following his visit to Egypt, Minister Dendias said that, “I had the honour of being received by the President of Egypt to whom I conveyed warm greetings from the Prime Minister of Greece, Kyriakos Mitsotakis. I also conveyed to him our country’s determination to strengthen our ties of friendship and cooperation with Egypt. Immediately afterwards, I had long talks with my close friend the Egyptian Minister of Foreign Affairs. We discussed regional issues, developments in the Eastern Mediterranean, Libya, Turkey’s provocations. Finally, we resumed our negotiations on an agreement on the economic zones between Greece and Egypt.”

On the meeting’s sidelines, the two countries held the 12th round of technical negotiations on delimiting maritime borders between Egypt and Greece, as announced by the Egyptian Foreign Ministry Spokesperson. The two Ministers also exchanged views on the overall situation and ways of dealing with developments in the region, the most important of which is the situation in Libya.

Minister Shoukry reaffirmed the importance of working towards supporting the recently launched Cairo Declaration, an Egyptian-led initiative supporting peace in Libya. The initiative was put in place to reach a comprehensive political solution for Libya that preserves its State institutions and the Libyan people’s capabilities. It also looks to establish a new stage for preserving Libya’s sovereignty and unity, security and stability, whilst guaranteeing the elimination of terrorism and extremism.

Minister Dendias expressed Greece’s gratitude over the Cairo Declaration, which they hope will be successful in settling the crisis. He also stressed a rejection of external interference and related negative influences in Libya and across the region.

The two Ministers also discussed developments in the Eastern Mediterranean region and its instability. They stressed the need for all parties to respect and implement the rules and provisions of International Law. At the same time, they also warned against the consequences of taking illegal provocative measures that increase regional tension.

During the Ministerial discussions, they also looked at ways to combat the spread of the coronavirus (Covid-19). Both sides noted the importance of the international community’s solidarity in facing the pandemic and limiting its health, economic and social repercussions. The Ministers further discussed ways to advance and develop cooperation in various fields and regional and international issues of common interest.

At the start of the meeting Minister Shoukry welcomed his Greek counterpart to Cairo, appreciating the distinguished level reached by the cooperation between Cairo and Athens on various levels. He also expressed Egypt’s aspiration to continue its development, whether at the bilateral level or as part of the tripartite cooperation mechanism with Cyprus. Minister Shoukry pointed out the priority that Egypt attaches to continuing coordination with Greece on all common issues. This would achieve the popular interests of the two countries and support regional security and safety.

On his part, Foreign Minister Dendias said that Greece highly values its historical ties with Egypt and is keen on fostering bilateral cooperation in different domains. He noted that Greece gives great importance to promoting coordination with Egypt, for being a key pillar of regional security and stability.

Regarding the Palestinian cause, Minister Shoukry asserted the necessity of resolving the Palestinian-Israeli conflict through adopting the two-State solution, warning against any unilateral steps that could threaten regional security and stability.

The top Egyptian diplomat also updated his Greek counterpart on the deadlock in negotiations between Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam over Addis Ababa’s intransigence, despite the flexibility Egypt has shown to reach a fair and balanced deal that preserves the three parties’ interests.

Minister of Foreign Affairs, Nikos Dendias, pictured in Cairo during his audience with the President of Egypt, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi; in discussion with his Egyptian counterpart, Sameh Shoukry.

(Photos: H.Akriviadis/MoFA.)

The Greek Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe

 

 

“The Greek Chairmanship will send the message that we must see the world through the eyes the young people of Europe. We must focus even more on their problems and concerns, especially in the new environment being created by the pandemic, but also beyond that.”

 

 

Alternate Minister of Foreign Affairs, Miltiadis Varvitsiotis

 

The Greek Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, which began on 15th May 2020, adopted a Joint Declaration on human rights and the environment, together with the outgoing Georgian Chairmanship (November 2019 – May 2020) and the upcoming German Chairmanship (November 2020 – May 2021). The priorities of the Greek Chairmanship of the Council of Europe include the impacts of climate change, with emphasis on protection of cultural heritage and, at the same time, the right of younger generations to enjoy this cultural heritage undamaged by the impacts of climate change.

This, among other things, was stressed by Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis in his message on the commencement of the Greek Chairmanship and by the Alternate Minister of Foreign Affairs, Miltiadis Varvitsiotis, during the assumption of the Chairmanship of the Council of Europe by Greece within the context of a teleconference held with the participation of the outgoing Georgian Chairmanship’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Permanent Representatives of the 47 CoE Member States, the CoE Secretary General and the heads of all the CoE institutions.

Greece took over the Chairmanship from outgoing Georgia for a period of six months until November 18th 2020, via Alternate Foreign Minister Varvitsiotis. The handover ceremony was conducted online due to the special conditions imposed by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Alternate Minister Varvitsiotis, who is in charge of European Union and Council of Europe Affairs at the Greek Foreign Ministry, presented the priorities of the Greek Presidency as the new Chairman of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe (May-November 2020). The central theme of the Greek Presidency is: ‘The protection of human life and public health in conditions of pandemic – effective management of a health crisis with full respect for human rights and the principles of democracy and the Rule of Law’.

Priorities of the Greek Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe

 

 

Protection of human life and public health within the context of a pandemic

Greece, Member of the Council of Europe since August 1949, assumed the Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe in the emergency circumstances imposed by the Covid-19 pandemic. In such an extraordinary context, the Greek Chairmanship considers that it is even more imperative to highlight the fundamental principles and values lying at the core of the Council of Europe’s mission: Democracy, the Rule of Law and the Protection of Human Rights.

The dramatic developments that Europe and the whole world are facing due to the sanitary crisis are, simultaneously, a call for every democratic society governed by the Rule of Law to reiterate its commitment to these principles and values, but from a whole new perspective. A perspective defined on the one hand by the continuous struggle to protect human life and public health and on the other by the challenges and constraints under which States, societies and citizens are called to adapt their functions.

The Greek Chairmanship considers that this unprecedented challenge for our European political culture and institutional tradition calls for the Council of Europe to place the matter at the front line of debate. Within this framework, the main theme of the Greek Chairmanship is: ‘Protection of human life and public health within the context of a pandemic – effectively responding to a sanitary crisis in full respect for human rights and the principles of democracy and the Rule of Law’.

Considering the dramatic changes in our everyday life, we become conscious of the fact that, for the first time, restrictions on human rights and fundamental freedoms are being imposed to an overwhelming extent. Digital technologies, with the expanded opportunities they offer, help significantly to fill the gap created by the lack of physical presence in a series of life manifestations, while at the same time, supporting the exercise of human rights.

In the same spirit, the Greek Chairmanship, conscious of the fact that the Covid-19 pandemic may continue to affect the working methods of the Council of Europe during  the months to come, and well within its mandate, stands ready to conduct an extended part of its scheduled events digitally (E-Chairmanship).

Covid-19 is affecting the entire spectrum of our lives in a multitude of dimensions: political, economic, social, cultural, institutional. The European Convention on Human Rights foresees the possibility of temporary and permissible limitations from its provisions in emergency circumstances, inter alia, for reasons of public health. Continuous vigilance is indispensable, however, for the protection of human life and public health to comply with our commitment to the fundamental principles and values stemming, in particular, from the provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights.

In order to strike a fair balance between the protection of human life and public health and the rights of the individuals concerned, the measures in question must be of a temporary character, proportional to the legitimate aim pursued, and thus necessary in a democratic society, subjected to regular control, and without unduly restricting other human rights and fundamental freedoms.

As specified in the Toolkit for Member States, issued recently by the Secretary General of the Council of Europe (SG/Inf(2020)11 – “Respecting Democracy, Rule of Law and Human Rights in the framework of the Covid-19 sanitary crisis”), the Rule of Law must prevail even in an emergency situation. Undoubtedly, our States’ democratic institutions can play an important role in this respect: ensuring the unhindered function of the legislative process is indeed a substantial guarantee of the continuation of democratic functions and respect for human rights.

A series of other fundamental rights, guaranteed by the European Convention on Human Rights, can equally stand as a counterweight to the imposed restrictions, namely the rights of property, access to justice, the right to impart and receive information, including the right to participate in the information society and access websites and digital platforms, which, under the current emergency circumstances, function as a substitute to public space. Assuring the proper functioning of democratic institutions and of the existing framework for protecting human rights and fundamental freedoms, is a key priority for the “day after”, once the battle for human life and public health will have been won. After all, our political culture and our long tradition in protecting human rights form an integral part of our European legacy to younger generations.

As democratic societies governed by the Rule of Law and, at the same time, as Member States of the Council of Europe, which is especially distinct for its role as guardian of the values and principles that define our political culture, we need to reiterate our commitment to these values and principles.

In the overall framework described in the main theme of the Greek Chairmanship, the following thematic priorities shall be highlighted:

a) Defining the implications of the pandemic on our societies, our democracies and the economy at large;

b) Identifying lessons learned from the Covid-19 pandemic crisis, as related to our mandate, as well as best practices within the context of our response to the crisis, with a view to the day after and, in particular, the issues related to the European Social Charter; and

c) Analysing the conditions under which the precautionary emergency measures, adopted by the authorities in order to protect life and public health, are in conformity with the human rights enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights.

Main Event: ‘70 years since the signing of the European Convention on Human Rights’

The semester of the Greek Chairmanship coincides with the 70th Anniversary of a historic milestone with catalytic effect in the field of protection of human rights in Europe: the signing of the European Convention on Human Rights, in Rome, on 4th November 1950. A Convention that has stood ever since as a constitutional compass in the European human rights protection system.

This occasion is a rare opportunity to take stock of the application of the European Convention on Human Rights to this day and, in particular, the extent to which it has responded to the expectations of the peoples of Europe. Such an important juncture can provide the basis for a discussion on the perspectives of its further application in the near and more distant future. A future expected, inter alia, to bring a far more extended use of digital technologies and artificial intelligence, with all their benefits and challenges, for all generations.

The 130th Ministerial Session of the Committee of Ministers in Athens on 4th November 2020, on the very Anniversary of the signing of the European Convention on Human Rights, is expected to provide us with a significant opportunity for a substantive dialogue.

The Greek Chairmanship believes that it will be possible for all of us to reiterate our commitment to the principles and values that the CoE stands for, in the light of the Covid-19 pandemic crisis and the ensuing unprecedented challenges as far as human life and the protection of human rights are concerned. Within this context, the prospect of accession of the EU to the European Convention on Human Rights is supported by the Greek Chairmanship, as a significant step that would contribute to ensure a more coherent protection of human rights throughout Europe.

In the light of the Interlaken Process, the Greek Chairmanship aims at renewing the political commitment to reaffirming the defining role of the system of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Independence of Justice and the Rule of Law

Within the new context of exercising human, social and governmental activity that we all currently face, issues arise that we must deal with for the first time. Issues that prove that this unprecedented crisis does not only concern our life and our health, but also the quality of our democracy, as well as the Rule of Law. The Rule of Law and the independence and efficiency of justice will be duly highlighted by the Greek Chairmanship through a special Conference of the Justice Ministers of the Member States related to the ‘Independence of Justice and the Rule of Law’.

Investing in the future – the rights of young people

The Greek Chairmanship intends to highlight the need for all of us, citizens, democratic societies and Member States, to concentrate on the younger generations, as they represent the future. A wide range of issues relating to young people form an array of critical fields of interest for today’s Europe: education, brain-drain, sports, climate change and protection of cultural heritage, exploitation of children, unaccompanied minors. These issues constitute key policy priorities for Greece, also at a national level and, at the same time, attract the vivid interest of countries in South Eastern Europe. The countries of the Mediterranean, with which Greece maintains longstanding relations of friendship and cooperation, are also welcome to participate in this dialogue.

Within this framework, the Greek Chairmanship considers that particular emphasis should be attributed to specific thematic priorities, inextricably linked to the rights, the hopes and the concerns of young people. These thematic priorities are:

a) Education and Democratic Culture in a digital era.

b) Children as vulnerable persons (at risk of poverty, victims of violence, trafficking, forced labour, unaccompanied migrant minors).

c) Safeguarding the right of younger generations to enjoy cultural heritage unaffected by the impact of climate change.

d) European Social Charter – social rights within the framework of the Council of Europe – impact of the pandemic crisis on the right of access of vulnerable social groups to health as a public good.

The exceptional opportunities offered by digital technologies in a plethora of sectors and dimensions are becoming more evident through the new everyday life of the citizens and the fight to contain the pandemic and to protect human life and public health. Distant working, distant learning, electronic diagnosis and medicinal prescription, access of vulnerable persons to information and services, digital formulation and submission of requests and proposals, the issuing of attestations, digital market of goods and services are only a few of the applications of digital technologies that can facilitate and improve the life of citizens in the current situation and also after the return to normality.

In these challenging times, it is crucial to recall that securing the access of citizens to official statistics regarding the pandemic crisis, digital technologies, not only contribute to consolidate a relation of enhanced mutual confidence between authorities and citizens, but they also protect citizens from counter-productive disinformation with regard to the sanitary crisis and its dramatic impact on human life and public health. The Greek Chairmanship will organise an expert event, in order to take stock of the potential of the Council of Europe instruments, in particular the European Social Charter, and contribute to policies preserving social cohesion in the post Covid-19 period.

E- Chairmanship

The majority of events of the Chairmanship will take place through teleconferences and live streaming and with the use of social media which will be connected, as a reference, to the digital platform of the Greek Chairmanship.

The E-Chairmanship will provide transmission of events and actions of the Council of Europe to all citizens through new technologies.

The E-Chairmanship is not only imposed by the unquestionable need to tackle the sanitary crisis and plan for the days to follow. It also stands as a self-evident obligation in view of technological challenges, as the array of solutions and choices offered by the new technologies, which are considered important tools facilitating and enhancing access to information and knowledge. After all, digital reality forms an integral part of citizens’ everyday life and defines social behaviour and habits to a large extent.

The Hellenic Defence Industry – Competitive advantages of a dynamic concept

 

The benefits for the country’s economy and the Armed Forces from the active participation of the Greek Defence Industries in the armaments programmes are multiple. The outflow of foreign exchange is limited, economic growth is ensured, expert personnel are employed, specialised jobs are increased while the Defence Industry gains autonomy. At the same time, the Armed Forces are independent to a certain extent from foreign suppliers, based on domestic know-how and technical support, with the result that repair time is shorter and finally the intervention of the Greek Industry in case of emergency or critical situation is immediate.

The implementation of the above in combination with equal treatment between private and public industries, within the context of healthy and fair competition, will contribute on the one hand to the country’s defence shielding and economic stimulation and on the other hand will enable the industries themselves to cooperate with key international defence companies in new and modern weapons systems, claiming a significant share, not only of domestic, but also of international armaments programmes.

The Hellenic Defence Industry is at a crossroads because of the reduced military spending and the insufficiency of coherent policies for its further development. Neighbouring countries possess robust defence industrial bases that serve both their respective armed forces and their national economies. The defence industry should be considered an integral part of the Greek national defence framework. Consequently, the ownership structure and management of major defence industrial enterprises should be reformed within the European framework. A small but viable defence industry requires technology and skilled manpower and Greek institutions of higher education should support this effort.

How can the Greek defence companies be able to develop and enrich their production capabilities with products of gradually higher value added? Will they retain the role of the metal cutter and assembler, or will they succeed in transferring and accumulating substantial technological capabilities? In the case of Greece, a factor directly related to its integration into the global system is the transfer of technology and the technological and other international cooperation projects of local firms. The truth is that sometimes the Greek defence industry is not able to capitalise on offset benefits, not because foreign selling firms do not wish to transfer technology or know how, but because foreign firms cannot see how they can achieve this transfer while working with partners of a considerably lower technological level than their own.

This observation means that in cases where this distance is considered to be too great, foreign companies are practically forced to select simpler forms of technological cooperation and technology transfer, such as licensing, while the smaller this distance the more able are foreign firms to use more complex forms of technology transfer. The latter forms of technological flows are considered to be essential for the deep integration of the Greek defence industry into the global production and technological system.

Cases of firms that have managed to progress technologically, and have made the transition from the technology follower to the technology leader status, indicate that a crucial component for success has been the combination of transfer of critical intangible resources with intensive internal efforts of technological assimilation and advancement. This process is evolutionary and driven by a conscious and planned strenuous learning effort so that the learning curve is steeper and the rate of technological accumulation faster than those of firms and countries operating at the technological frontiers. For this effort to ever take place there is a clear need for a matching technology strategy. How can local and foreign technology best be combined? There is a distinction that should be made between the acquisition of foreign technology and the accumulation of local technological capabilities. Technology can be acquired through direct foreign investment, licensing, know-how and technological collaboration agreements. The accumulation of local technological capabilities, however, requires the creation of human capital, through theoretical education (off-the-job training), practical training (on-the-job training), experience and systematic efforts to acquire, adapt and improve imported technology. Any offset programme, including firms in technologically less advanced countries, should primarily be aimed at the acquisition by the latter of technological capabilities. Different technology suppliers vary as to their willingness and capability for cooperation.

Consequently, it is imperative that all potential suppliers are compared on the basis of cost and technological benefits they can create. Even direct foreign investment can contribute to the creation of technological capabilities, through the training of local staff and through the diffusion of technological information to local suppliers and customers.

For this reason, the Greek defence industry should prioritise its needs and emphasise the speed of learning and of accumulation of the necessary technological capabilities. This means that the central criterion for the choice of industrial partner should not be the weapon system itself, but the partner’s willingness and capability to transfer the technological knowledge and capabilities that will allow the local partner maximal technological accumulation. This knowledge and capabilities will form the basis upon which any comparative advantage the weaker companies might have as a static concept will be transformed into a competitive advantage of a dynamic concept.

Extremely important for the future of the Greek defence industry is its participation in programmes for the development and production of new weapons systems, with the result that the industrial involvement does not coincide in time with the implementation of material supply, but has a time horizon that covers the entire life cycle of the material, that is, in the phases of development, production, control and certification, maintenance, as well as in the various phases of their development, such as modifications, improvements and upgrades.

In this case, the deciding factor is the timely adoption of a decision on the country’s participation in the production process of the weapons system within the context of Transnational Agreements.

Another essential factor that will help in the planned and healthy development of the domestic industry in the implementation of armament programmes is the avoidance of the multiplicity of weapons systems, something that has unfortunately happened repeatedly in the past.

Apart from being a substantial problem in the smooth running of the General Staffs, polytype is also a real obstacle to the effective involvement of the defence industry, because the required industrial investments are multiplied, making domestic participation a fragmentation of small matters of interest and importance, therefore unsustainable.

The utilisation and exploitation of the systems/products that have been designed, developed and manufactured by Greek defence industries will have a double effect. First, it will reduce as much as possible the polytype, will greatly strengthen the domestic defence industry and will enable the cooperation and adoption of Greek products in respective systems of other countries.

Interview of the General Director of Defence Investments and Armaments

 

 

“It is time to identify the new challenges of technological excellence and industrial viability that render cross-border collaboration a mandatory process.”

 

General Director, GDDIA, Lt. Gen. Theodoros Lagios

 

GDL: What kind of collaboration is needed so that the technological gap between European, American and other defence industries will be bridged?

TL: The European Defence Industry is confronted with big challenges, while trying to satisfy advanced technological requirements of modern Armed Forces. The high level of the European defence industrial and market fragmentation reduces the potential of European companies to develop new state-of-the-art products, while maintaining at the same time competitiveness and viability. As a result, European companies have experienced a reduction of their global share of research & development over the past years, compared to their US and Chinese counterparts.

In order to respond effectively to the above situation, the first objective should be the reduction of the above-mentioned fragmentation. The joining of forces of traditional big players within the EU Industry will certainly increase the effectiveness of the development efforts by the constructive exchange of innovative ideas, while unlocking on the other hand important additional funds. There can also exist substantial economies of scale and a more efficient exploitation of individual expertise and experience of different contributors in certain technological areas.

The industrial collaboration will become much more efficient and productive, when it takes place at a cross-border level. Traditionally, national industries tend to concentrate knowledge and experience in certain technological areas, that have proved rewarding in the past, in terms of industrial competitiveness or coverage of national military requirements. But now, it is time to identify the new challenges of technological excellence and industrial viability that render cross-border collaboration a mandatory process.

Another key element in addressing the technology gap issue is the allocation of investment in innovation, with special focus on emerging and disruptive technologies. Bearing in mind that the bringers of innovation are, mainly, the Small & Medium Enterprises (SMEs), as well as the Academia and the Research & Technology Organisations (RTOs), it is a straight forward deduction that those actors must play an important role in the effort and consequently participate in future collaboration schemes. In addition, and recognising the dual nature of modern technologies and applications (civil and military), it becomes obvious that important benefits can be ensured by fostering technology spin-in from the civil to the military sector and facilitating relevant collaborations.

The special nature of the defence industry, where the sole customers are governments, imposes another necessary collaboration element in the effort. It is the public-private partnerships, which will make possible the early engagement of the user in the development of military capabilities, thus ensuring that the final products meet the operational requirements and include all those technologies that satisfy the level of ambition of the Modern European Armed Forces.

It is worth noting that, all the above arguments have been identified by the European Union, which has put in place, through European defence initiatives, a very concrete and promising plan for the collaborative technological and industrial upgrade of the European defence sector.

 

“Greek defence companies need to take advantage of their innovation capacity and gradually advance their business targets, from simple subcontractors of prime manufacturers, to integrators of complete defence systems. This is a complex, long lasting process, which requires, mainly, very targeted cross-border alliances with key players in certain technological areas and a consistent business strategy.”

 

GDL: What is the plan of the Greek Ministry of Defence, together with other EU countries, to develop their bilateral defence cooperation under the European Defence Fund?

TL: Greece is closely following and participating in the actions initiated by the EU, aimed at promoting and strengthening cooperation in defence. Within this context the EU launched the European defence initiatives, namely the Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO), the Coordinated Annual Review on Defence (CARD) and the European Defence Fund (EDF). It is essential for Europe to ensure coherence of those tools, so that they maintain a consistent, mutually reinforcing result.

The European Defence Industrial Development Programme (EDIDP), the predecessor of EDF for the 2019-20 period, launched in 2019, calls for industrial cooperative proposals in the area of defence capability development. In order to prepare for the calls, Greece and Cyprus signed an MOU laying down the framework for the collaboration of the two countries for the support and implementation of projects under the EDIDP. As a result, four proposals were submitted to the 2019 EDIDP calls from consortia led by Greek companies and consisting of industrial, academic and research partners from the two MOU and 12 other European countries. Following the recently issued award decision from the European Commission, all four proposals were successful and will acquire a European funding of 27 million euros, out of a total cost of 29 million.

PESCO was launched in order to foster and commit European countries to the implementation of common projects, both in the areas of defence operations and capability development. Greece, staying committed to the PESCO objectives, has proposed and is currently leading five PESCO projects, while also participating in 10 more projects led by other European countries. In addition and staying committed to the requirement for coherence of the European initiatives, Greece has linked two of the above mentioned, successful EDIDP proposals, to corresponding PESCO projects led by Greece.

CARD was established with the goal to provide, over time, a comprehensive picture of the European capability landscape, helping also European countries identify cooperation opportunities and investment areas for future capability development. Greece is actively participating to the CARD procedure of data collection and analysis, conducted by the European Defence Agency (EDA). It is expected that the results of CARD will further promote cooperation among European countries, including defence research and capability development, eligible for funding under the EDF.

The General Directorate for Defence Investments and Armaments of the Greek Ministry of Defence will continue to investigate industrial cooperation schemes for defence research and development, exploiting the funding opportunities of the EDF. This investigation will be based on capability requirements identified within the National Defence Planning, taking also into account the European initiatives for strengthening cooperation in defence.

GDL: The reorganisation of the structure of the National Defence Industry is a prerequisite for the survival and development of all the Greek defence companies. How can we achieve this?

TL: The Greek Defence Industry has experienced the consequences of the severe financial crisis, which brought a considerable contraction of the national economy. The dramatic reduction of the national defence budget has deprived the industry from previously available funding opportunities. In addition, the harmonisation of the national legal framework with the European Directive for defence procurement has rendered the domestic industrial participation to armament programmes more difficult.

The restructuring of the national Defence Industry becomes necessary, not only for the alleviation of the consequences of the crisis, but mainly for following the developments in the global defence market, as well as exploiting the opportunities created by the new European initiatives in defence. As previously stated, joining forces is a key element in dealing efficiently with cash flow difficulties, while complementing expertise from various sources, in order to create complete solutions and products. The trend in the global defence market is consolidation, although the European market is still lagging in this process, compared to the US and other markets.

There are, however, other effective ways of collaboration and implementation of common strategies. A widespread practice is cooperation for the development of specific products, e.g., the joint venture companies, used mainly for gaining access to new markets. Joint ventures enable acceptable risk sharing, while achieving scale efficiencies by combining assets and operations. Another way of effective collaboration is the creation of clusters of entities in specific technological areas. Clustering can speed up innovation, increase productivity of individual companies and stimulate new businesses in each technology field. This can also be combined with an appropriate opening of the defence sector to spin-in from the civilian sector, for certain common background technologies.

Most importantly, Greek defence companies need to take advantage of their innovation capacity and gradually advance their business targets, from simple subcontractors of prime manufacturers, to integrators of complete defence systems. This is a complex, long lasting process, which requires, mainly, very targeted cross-border alliances with key players in certain technological areas and a consistent business strategy. It can stimulate business growth and the upgrade of SMEs to Middle-Capitalisation companies (Midcaps), creating also the future national leaders in the concerned technology fields.

Special attention must be given to the Defence State Industry, which is an important asset for supporting the security of supply of the Greek Armed Forces. The State companies of the defence sector are, along with the rest of the industry, seriously affected by the economic crisis, however they retain important manufacturing capabilities. While they remain perspective suppliers for the needs of the Greek Armed Forces, they need to adapt their strategies for more extroversion and attraction of investments, pursuing targeted strategic alliances.

 

“The participation of domestic companies in cooperative development of weapon systems from big primes, maintaining ownership rights, is a decisive step toward the real development and sustainability of the domestic defence Industry.”

 

GDL: Should it be mandatory that in each armaments procurement programme, the basic criterion for choosing should be the diversified package of domestic industrial cooperation?

TL: As already mentioned, the adaptation of the national legal framework to the European Directive for defence procurement, has induced serious limitations on the participation of the domestic industry to armament programmes. However, the engagement of increased numbers of domestic defence companies to national procurement programmes remains a continuous objective for the Greek Ministry of Defence. Through this process, we can maintain and further develop the Domestic Defence Technological and Industrial Base (DDTIB), which contributes directly to the strengthening of security of supply for the country. The participation of the domestic industry to big armament procurement programmes should include licensed production, as well as involvement in the Follow On Support (FOS) programmes, which should always complement the acquisition of any weapon system.

The inclusion of domestic enterprises in the supply chains of big prime manufacturers is undoubtedly an important step towards the sustainment of the viability of the Greek defence Industry. However, this is not sufficient for achieving a sustainable development of the domestic Industry, which is the key element for the essential reinforcement of the DDTIB. Instead, the participation of domestic companies in cooperative development of weapon systems from big primes, maintaining ownership rights, is a decisive step toward the real development and sustainability of the domestic defence Industry.

Repositioning itself in the global market – The Hellenic Aerospace Industry SA

“HAI considers that strengthening its innovative level by investing in R&D and new methods is the key to repositioning itself in the global market.”

 

The Hellenic Aerospace Industry SA (HAI) is the leading aerospace and defence industry of Greece. Established in 1975, its major mission is to deliver services and products to the Armed Forces of the Hellenic State. By implementing an extrovert strategy during recent years, HAI has achieved to expand its customer base and establish itself as a reliable partner of the leading global aerospace industries. HAI operates with state-of-the-art production processes and highly qualified personnel, offering high performance products and quality services.

 

Grigorios Freskos, CEO, The Hellenic Aerospace Industry (HAI)

 

GDL: Does HAI fully cover the maintenance requirements of the Hellenic Armed Forces?

GF: HAI is a pillar in the Hellenic Armed Forces and national defence support and a lever for national economic growth.

  • HAI has acquired over the years extensive capabilities for the majority of platforms, operated by the Hellenic Air Force. As such, we have been a reliable partner of HAF, offering an extensive range of maintenance, repair and operations (MRO) services.
  • In addition to the MRO activities, significant upgrade and maintenance programmes are implemented in HAI for the Hellenic Air Force. Among them, the upgrade of the Mirage 2000 Hellenic Air Force fleet to the latest version of Mirage 2000-5, the C-130 ‘Hercules’ avionics upgrade (AUP) and rainbow fitting, the F-4E AUP and the F/RF-4E Service Life Extension programme.
  • The F-16 Viper upgrade for the Hellenic Air Force will be performed at HAI. Works have started on the first of the 84 HAF F-16s that will be upgraded to Viper class by 2027, delivering a significant increase in capability for the HAF fleet, as the F-16 Vs will be the most advanced F-16 configuration available today.
  • For the Hellenic Navy, the implementation of a government-to-government agreement with the United States (announced in 2015) for the re-activation of one P-3B Orion maritime patrol aircraft – already delivered – and the modernisation of four aircraft through the Mid-Life Upgrade (MLU) Programme is currently in progress.
  • We look forward to re-launching our collaboration with the Hellenic Army, supporting their helicopters.
  • Last but not least, it is worth mentioning that HAI has developed an integrated Command and Control System for Greek Artillery, as well as a Communication Combat Zone System.

 

“By developing new technologies, outsourcing of low-cost technology production and engaging in international partnerships, HAI will regain its world market share.”

 

GDL: What are the major investment plans for EAB?

GF: I would categorise them as follows:

  • Investing in the field of Technology and Innovation:

The Hellenic Aerospace Industry has accumulated expertise and know-how in multilateral fields of activities  – in engineering and design in particular –  by participating in major European and international projects and consortiums such as nEUROn – the Unmanned Combat Air Vehicle elaborated within the framework of a European cooperation scheme. In this project, HAI participated with the Design of Aft Fuselage using stealth technologies and the Exhaust Pipe Production.

ΗΑΙ considers that strengthening its innovative level by investing in R&D and new methods is the key to reposition itself in the global market.

Within this context, a plan will be implemented for infrastructure which will upgrade and improve production processes.

A new Paint Stripping Hangar and a Special Processes Facility will perform production activities by using cutting-edge technologies, environmentally friendly, thus, materialising one of the company’s strategic goals for the modernisation and creation of new facilities according to the EU bio-environmental requirements (REACH).

  • Investing in the field of Training:

HAI operates an EASA Part-147 Maintenance Training Organisation, having been approved to conduct training and examinations, meeting the requirements of EASA Part 66 Aircraft Maintenance Licence in all currently available categories.

Α milestone for HAI’s Training is the enduring cooperation with the United Arab Emirates Armed Forces. Being always responsive to the specific needs of the UAE Customer has given HAI invaluable experience, which in turn grants prominence to the organisation as a Training Centre Service Provider overseas.

To cover a broader spectrum of training services, HAI is planning to create a new Training Centre.

 

“To cover a broader spectrum of training services, HAI is planning to create a new Training Centre.”

 

GDL: Could EAB expand its maintenance and manufacturing business in the civil sector?

GF: HAI already has some activity in the civil sector, serving the Hellenic Government’s VIP aircraft.

At this point we would like to mention our contribution during the fire-fighting season in our country. HAI totally supports the CL-215 and CL-415 fleet performing their annual maintenance and providing extensive field support, during the fire hazard season.

 

GDL: What are EAB’s major development plans in the electronic and manufacturing areas?

GF: These can be described as follows:

  • Synergies with the leading players in the global defence and aerospace industry are a primary objective. By developing new technologies, outsourcing of low-cost technology production and engaging in international partnerships, ΗΑΙ will regain its world market share.

This is emphasised by the long-term, continuous cooperation with Lockheed Martin, the most valuable strategic partner of HAI as the establishment of infrastructure and technology transfer provided new manufacturing capabilities for aerospace material and aircraft upgrades.

  • In the aerostructures area, HAI as sole-source supplier worldwide of Lockheed Martin participates in the on-going C-130J programme, manufacturing the Fuselage Plug Panels/Mid Fuselage Panels. Moreover, the re-launching of F-16 aircraft co-production programme has taken place within the context of which, HAI has undertaken by Lockheed Martin the assembly of structural components for the F-16 fighter aircraft, as sole-source supplier, as well.

GDL: The Randstad Employer Brand Research recently revealed the top 10 best companies to work for in Greece for 2020. One of them is HAI. Can you tell us more about this achievement?

GF: According to the most recent research, for the first time the Hellenic Aerospace Industry holds the second place, entering the top ten of best Greek companies to work for.

Statistics indicated a positive image of the company, which has also been reflected on the number of job applications accepted during the recent hiring process.

Our personnel are undoubtedly the most significant asset for our company, especially in view of our new workload. Retaining highly-experienced personnel and attracting new talented recruits is more than crucial.

Innovation is a Key Business Tool – talking to the CEO of IDE

Lockheed Martin confirms its commitment & support to the Armed Forces, Aerospace & Defence Industry

 

Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Vice President Global Pursuits Initiatives, Dennys Plessas

 

“The Hellenic defence industry is a national asset and as such needs to be addressed. Continuous modernisation is important with new capabilities, technologies and training.”

 

GDL: Could you describe the relationship of Lockheed Martin with the Hellenic Aerospace and Defence Industry. What is the status of the programme for upgrading the 85 F-16’s to the block 72 Viper System, and the rest of Lockheed Martin programmes in Greece?

DP: The cooperation between Lockheed Martin and the Hellenic Defence and Aerospace industry, was forged through many decades and evolved into a strategic relation between these pioneering aerospace companies, Lockheed Martin and the Hellenic Aerospace Industry (HAI).

Lockheed Martin, within the framework of the F-16 fighter acquisitions over the last 25 years has implemented, with success and transparency, a series of offset benefit and technology transfer programmes aimed at the upgrade of the operational capabilities of the Armed Forces and the reinforcement of the domestic defence industry.

The continuous transfer of technology to HAI and to other Hellenic companies, combined with the construction of a modern infrastructure, comprise the basic factors for the development of the Hellenic Defence Industry during the last 20+ years. HAI is the sole source supplier of Lockheed Martin, internationally, for specific F-16 fighter aircraft parts (air inlet ducts, aft fuselage, fuel tanks and other aero structural components), as well as for major fuselage parts for the C-130J Super Hercules transport aircraft (plugs and panels).

The important international orders for F-16s and C-130J have provided to HAI a large workload, the benefits being an increase in exports and the upkeep of many aerospace jobs, even during the economic crisis. To do so, Lockheed Martin has proceeded with significant investments at HAI, aiming at the establishment and expansion of its production capacity, the provision of technical know-how in modern aero structures, personnel training, meeting of environmental challenges, etc. These investments lead to HAI’s modernisation and allowed the company to respond to modern requirements and compete with foreign defence industries, the capstone being the US Air Force European F-16 upgrade programme.

The F-16 and the C-130J co-production programmes, of purely export character, are reinforcing the national effort for the development and growth of exports. They are creating precious self-financed work positions and they result in considerable aerospace technical know-how. In both aerostructure programmes, HAI is the sole manufacturer for our global international market of these two legendary aircraft. In addition to co-production programmes, Lockheed Martin is implementing at HAI two major upgrade and modernisation programmes for the Hellenic Ministry of Defence. The F-16 fighter upgrade programme has been structured by the Greek and American Governments and the F-16 manufacturer, Lockheed Martin in such a way as to maximise the participation of the domestic defence industry, but also to fully ensure the supply and information of the weapon system.

The Hellenic defence industry will implement all phases of the programme in Greece, except the design and development, the procurement of individual electronic equipment and the development of the necessary software, which will be implemented by the manufacturing company in the US. In this way the domestic industry will secure a workload worth hundreds of millions of dollars by its active participation in the programme. Except for the prototype aircraft flight testing, no other F-16 will leave Greece to be subjected to any upgrade works in the US. It should not escape us that eight-to-10 years ago, HAI realised the upgrade of about 90 F-16s with the technical support of Lockheed Martin, through which the relevant experience/technical know-how was acquired.

Similar is the involvement of the Hellenic Aerospace and Defence Industry in the P-3 Mid-Life Upgrade Programme for the Hellenic Navy. The Hellenic Defence Industry, HAI, Scytales, AEL, etc, will participate in both structural and mission system upgrades of the Maritime Patrol and Antisubmarine warfare P-3 aircraft.

The Hellenic defence industry has therefore received considerable industrial returns and a large workload creating new aerospace positions, securing HAI’s sustainability and increasing its business growth. We also expect that the technology and technical know-how transfer and the reinforcement of the domestic capabilities will increase the competitiveness of the Hellenic Defence Industry, providing future opportunities for the implementation of similar programmes for other international F-16, P-3 and C-130 users.

GDL: What is the added-value and competitive advantages of the Greek Defence Industry through such procurement programmes?

DP: About 70-75% of HAI’s total annual turnover originates from Lockheed Martin programmes. The exact amount varies from year to year. Their involvement includes:

  • F-16 coproduction for the global market of Lockheed Martin,
  • C-130J coproduction for the global market of Lockheed Martin,
  • P-3B upgrade and overhaul (Mid-Life Upgrade) for the Hellenic Navy,
  • F-16V (Viper) aircraft upgrade for the Hellenic Air Force,
  • C-130 Hercules aircraft repair works [HAI being an] ‘authorised repair centre’, a fact which could be exploited at an international level.

The Hellenic Navy, recognising the operational need to upgrade its Maritime Patrol Capability, has entered into a government-to-government agreement with the US Navy, designating Lockheed Martin as a sole source supplier, to perform a mid-life upgrade and mission system modernisation for its P-3B aircraft.

The HAF, following a detailed assessment and analysis of the present, as well as of the future threats, reached the conclusion that the upgrade of 84 fighter aircraft comprises the most financially efficient programme, offering a significant operational benefit to the HAF and the Armed Forces.

The upgraded F-16s, equipped with electronically scanned array RADAR (the well-known to all AESA), modern LINK 16 communication systems, modern sensors, but also safety systems (like the ground collision avoidance system) are creating a modern fleet, able to counter the current and future threats in the region, while offering at the same time the necessary interoperability with the 5th generation F-35 fighters, as well as with various other ground and maritime platforms.

In addition, I would like to add that without any other financial burden the domestic industry will benefit to a significant degree through our SSI (Security of Supply & Information) programmes:

  • Securing and creating hundreds of jobs, so much in HAI, as well as in several private defence companies for many years.
  • Continuation of the F-16 and C-130J assembly and co-production in HAI.
  • Investments for the support of the Armed Forces operational capabilities, as well as for the upgrade of HAI’s technological capabilities.
  • Provision of additional technical know-how and the exploitation of developed infrastructure.
  • Capability for contesting similar upgrade contracts for third countries.

 

“It is only through major programme participation, such as the F-16, the C-130J and eventually the F-35, that the Greek defence industry will remain modern, competitive and relevant.”

 

GDL: Working with the Greek Aerospace Industry for more than two decades, in your opinion, what improvements could be made to make it more competitive and attractive to international markets?

DP: The cooperation between Lockheed Martin and HAI was developed through many decades and evolved into a strategic relation between Lockheed Martin and HAI, for manufacturing, maintenance, repair, overhaul and Upgrade (MRO&U).

There have been challenges, especially during the past several years, when Greece went through an economic crisis; Lockheed Martin did not hesitate to trust in Hellenic hands two of its most valuable programmes – the F-16 and the C-130J, but also to significantly increase the volume of the workload assigned to HAI.

These high technology programmes, of purely export character, are reinforcing the national effort for the development and growth of exports. They are creating precious self-financed jobs and they result in considerable aerospace technical know-how. The secret of success is simple, but also complex at the same time: methodical approach, professionalism, competitiveness, diligent work, non-negotiable standards of quality and on-time deliveries.

In this work, the high-quality specifications, precision and the faithful observance of the delivery time schedules comprise the key characteristics of a reliable partner. The work performed in Greece does not only have a financial, developmental, industrial and technological character, but it is a national contributor for Greece.

 

GDL: How realistic is the JSF (F-35) newest generation fighter aircraft programme for the Greek Air Force?

DP: Given that the upgrade of the F-16s is already under way, the next step would be the acquisition of 5th generation aircraft. Lockheed Martin is the only company in the world designing and manufacturing the only 5th generation exportable aircraft, the F-35.

The specific aircraft, the JSF F-35 Lightning II, was designed exclusively by partner nations for transforming and redefining not only the air combat, but also the entire conflict. Its state-of-the-art flight characteristics, combined with stealth capability, the capability for performing multiple missions at the same time, its long range, the integration of latest technology sensors allowing the fusion of data, its network-centric character, as well as its reliability and ease of maintenance, are making it the central platform through which the largest part of an air conflict will be conducted in the 21st Century.

GDL: What is your assessment for the future reinforcement of the country’s capabilities regarding the countering of current and future threats?  Is there a possibility for Greece to procure the 5th generation F-35 aircraft?

DP: For the first time the development of a new 5th generation aircraft, like the F-35, foresees an extremely low unit acquisition cost (fly away) compared with the current 4th generation programmes, as well as a considerably reduced life-cycle cost. This is because of the large number of orders secured (economies of scale) and, as a result, of the viability of the programme for the coming decades, but also because of the characteristics of modern design, development and production processes adopted by Lockheed Martin throughout the course of the programme to date.

Finally, I want to stress the multi-national structure of the programme, for which the European dimension of the F-35 is significant. Several European countries already participate as partners in the programme, suggesting the need and the desire of these countries for the transition and transformation to a 5th generation fighter programme technology.

GDL: What is Lockheed Martin’s experience from its cooperation with the Hellenic defense industry?

DP: Lockheed Martin, within the framework of the F-16 fighter acquisitions over the last 25 years, has implemented, with great success, a series of offset benefit and co-production programmes aimed at the upgrade of the operational capabilities of the Armed Forces, but also the reinforcement of the domestic defence industry. HAI, during the last 15 years, is the sole source supplier of Lockheed Martin, internationally, for specific F-16 fighter aircraft parts (air ducts, tail, fuel tanks and other), as well as for major fuselage parts for the C-130J transport aircraft.

As I mentioned before, Lockheed Martin has made significant investments at HAI and coupled with the international demand for F-16s and C-130J, it has provided HAI a large workload, alongside all the benefits that comes with this.

The Hellenic defence industry is a national asset and as such needs to be addressed. Continuous modernisation is important with new capabilities, technologies and training. It is only through major programme participation, such as the F-16, the C-130J and eventually the F-35, that the Greek defence industry will remain modern, competitive and relevant.

Focused on serving the needs of international markets – Metka

GDL: Giorgos Economou, Deputy General Manager of the EPC Projects Department and Factory Manager of Mytilineos tells us about the course of Metka over the past few years?

GE: Mytilineos’ factory in Volos is part of the Greek industrial history. From 1964 it is working continuously, despite difficulties. It hasn’t stopped, not even during the pandemic of Covid-19, without risking the health of its employees.

Today the factory is undertaking serious defence projects exporting patriot launchers and battle tanks to countries in the Middle East through American and German Contractors. The number of technical employees is increasing and the prospects are very positive.

GDL: What are Metka’s major investment plans?

GE: Are new investment plans have to do with new machinery, equipment, special jigs and fixtures.

GDL: What initiatives has the company undertaken to achieve the greatest possible degree of self-reliance in equipment (Hellenisation)?

GE: The Company targets Hellenisation by supporting new design, developing the MDP (Manufacturing Data Procedures) and constructing special tooling (jigs and fixtures) to facilitate production and improve productivity.

Outstanding experience in the electronics sector – Miltech

 

GDL: We asked the Business Development Manager and BoD Member of Miltech Hellas, Stephen Kiosseoglou, how does Miltech compare with other defence companies in terms of range and technology?

SK: Miltech Hellas SA is one of the leading Hellenic companies in the defence sector specialising in design and manufacture of high quality cost effective electro-optic and electronic products for defence applications. The company was established in 1997 and since then, it has been able to develop and provide a wide range of products and services. Our vast experience in handling and successfully completing high demanding projects and our strategic alliances and seamless collaboration with world-wide leading defence companies is a key indicator for our global presence in the defence sector. We are proud of our award tracking record in both national and international tenders against very powerful, in terms of capabilities, competitors.

What is more, Miltech is active in research and innovation projects (Horizon2020, EDIDP, National Research Calls) and has close collaborations with universities and research institutes, both national and abroad. Technology plays a crucial role in defence, nowadays. Miltech, being aware of that, always invests in new technologies and high expertise personnel in order not to follow, but rather pace the way in technological achievements.

GDL: What is your marketing strategy?

SK: National and international exhibitions; and presence in defence related magazines.

Being confident about our products, we strongly believe in “living” marketing, i.e., the best commercial is the feedback from our customers. We put a serious effort to keep the performance to price ratio as high as possible.

GDL: What is the contribution of Miltech to the self-sufficiency of the Hellenic Armed Forces?

SK: Greece, due to both its particular terrain and geopolitical position, requires systems to respond to all potential threats. We strongly believe and promote the so-called “after-sales service” and we seek valuable feedback from all our customers. Thus, we continuously upgrade our systems and develop new ones, according to Hellenic Armed Forces’ requirements and needs. Miltech has succeeded in translating the requirements into reliable systems, especially suitable (and most of the times customised) for the Hellenic territory.

Miltech has provided a plethora of surveillance systems and devices to Hellenic Army, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard and Police Force. It is our strong will to continue and further develop our collaboration, being always on stand-by for the next challenging requirement that may arise.

Strengthening the competitiveness of Greek shipping

 

 

Greek seafaring is, over time, one of the healthiest and most extroverted sectors of the Greek economy and at the same time a key pillar for the country’s future economic development and employment. At European level, the European shipping industry contributes around €60 billion/year to European GDP while providing more than 600,000 direct and more than 500,000 indirect jobs in the EU Member States, of which 190,000 in Greece.

 

The Greek State, and in particular the Ministry of Martitime Affairs and Insular Policy, recognising the contribution of shipping to the economy, and at the level of social cohesion on a macroeconomic horizon, supports shipping activities on a steady basis, through a framework of positive measures aimed at improving the competitiveness of the shipping industry and its interconnection with other business and economic activities, seeking multiplier economic benefits. In addition, the attraction of ships in the national register, as well as shipping companies in the country, is a constant priority of the Greek shipping policy.

With coordinated efforts of the Greek Government, shipping entrepreneurs and the shipping labour force despite the highly competitive international environment and the long-term recession of the shipping markets, as well as the growing protectionist tendencies on the part of various countries, the sizes of Greek Merchant Marine demonstrate the continuation of its competitive position and the primacy of Piraeus as a global shipping centre, an assembly centre of companies with a significant global number of managed ships.

The Greek flag is classified as a ‘quality flag’, listed in the White List of the Paris MOU, with a significantly lower age profile than the average age of the world’s fleet. It is built by a dynamic fleet of traditional (mainly cargo, bulk and tankers), but also specialised ships of modern technology (LNG, LPG) offering special advantages and quality features that make it highly competitive in the international shipping arena.

An important role in the management and further development of this shipping capital is played by the shipping companies of Law 27/1975, which have established offices in Greece and manage ships of Greek or foreign flags over 500gt and so on, as well as the shipping companies of Law 959/1979, which own Greek-flagged ships and manage Greek or foreign-flagged ships.

At the beginning of last year, the total number of active companies of article 25 of Law 27/1975 was 1,401 companies compared to 1,387 companies the year before. Comparing the data, there is an increase in the total number of installed shipping companies of Law 27/75 by 1%, following the overall growth trend of recent years in terms of companies operating in Greece. Out of a total of 1,401 companies, 795 were active in the field of ship management and 606 were active in other shipping items (charter brokerage, purchase, sale, shipbuilding, etc).

Comparing the data between the last two to three years there is a significant increase in the number of managing, by the established companies, of the fleet by 2.37% and of its capacity by 3.42%. 2% of the management companies oversee more than 50 ships, while 8% more than 20 ships. This increase reflects the dynamics of Greek shipping, which continues to provide quality jobs while supporting employment.

The human resources (shipmasters, chief engineers, accountants, shipbuilders, electrical engineers, shipping lawyers, etc) are highly specialised and highly skilled in shipping. In this sense giving special weight to one of the main goals of creating a competitive shipping network and at the same time highlighting the country and especially the wider region of Piraeus as one of the largest centres of international maritime know-how (maritime cluster know-how), giving significant benefits to the Greek economy.

Q&A: Minister of Maritime Affairs & Insular Policy, Yiannis Plakiotakis

 

 

“We have developed a number of specific measures to support maritime work by recognising the specifics of the maritime profession.”

 

 

GDL: How has the Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Insular Policy confronted and participated in the battle against the Covid-19 pandemic?

YP: The first priority of all of us, in this difficult time, was the protection of public health, as well as the people around us. The Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Insular Policy took all the necessary measures in a timely manner to reduce the spread of the Pandemic. Measures are continuously examined and adapted daily.

From the first moment, we restricted maritime connections with Albania and Italy, restricted the arrival of private ships and yachts coming from abroad and prohibited the arrival of cruise ships in Greek ports. We then restricted the ability of ships to sail to the islands, allowing only permanent residents to travel there, for absolutely necessary reasons. We also banned swimming, amateur and underwater fishing, while suspending the operation of the country’s public Merchant Maritime Schools by establishing tele-education, so that the semester is not lost for students. At the same time, we implemented a repatriation programme for Greek citizens from abroad.

There is no doubt that we have taken difficult and unpopular measures to reduce the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic and in doing so we have managed to minimise the number of cases, ensuring the uninterrupted connection between islands and mainland Greece.

GDL: In the midst of the pandemic, Greece was also encountering an increased influx of refugees and migrants via the sea. How did you cope with this reality?

YP: It is true that just a few days before the Covid-19 pandemic passed through Europe, migration flows to our islands had increased. At that time we had taken drastic measures to reduce them and we had already achieved this to a significant extent before the spread of the pandemic and the protection measures.

In the midst of the pandemic, there was a significant downward to zero trend of immigration flows with just a few attempts of illegal passage. It is noteworthy that such a decrease in the migration phenomenon (in zero or double digits) had not been previously recorded since the first half of 2012. This is attributed, on the one hand, to the timely detection of the incidents by the Hellenic Coast Guard and to the deterrent action recorded by forcing the Turkish authorities to respond to our request and on the other hand to the escalation of the Covid-19 pandemic in Turkey and its own restrictions to control it.

GDL: With respect to the sustainability of coastal shipping and meeting the needs of the islands, what initiatives have you undertaken so far?

YP: Both in coastal shipping and island entrepreneurship, and within the context of initiatives taken to alleviate sectors affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, the Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Insular Policy has taken a number of specific and important measures covering critical parameters.

The connection of our islands with the mainland, the smooth operation of businesses, jobs, but also the further strengthening of the workers in the shipping industry were kept constant. We are strengthening the market with a liquidity of more than 33 million euros, while we are working with the relevant Ministries to develop a special programme to strengthen shipping companies affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, using European resources.

We supported island businesses with the institution of transport equivalent to resources of 11.2 million euros.

In cooperation with the Ministries of Finance and Development, an additional funding of 15 million euros was secured to ensure maritime transport services to the island areas, with the ultimate goal of leaving no island without a ferry connection. This funding was added to the 3.5 million euros with which maritime transport was strengthened since the beginning of the measures to limit the virus to the minimum due to the shipping service of the island regions of 29 connecting lines of the national and local shipping network.

The possibility of activating the procedure for additional assignments of public service contracts for a specific route or itineraries to the main and local ferry network has been provided for by an emergency legislative regulation.

In this way, the Ministry of Maritime Affairs And Insular Policy ensures the uninterrupted connection of the islands with the mainland and with each other, as well as the adequate and efficient transport of passengers and goods. Also, an advance payment of 50% for the leases for public service contracts in coastal shipping was granted for the months of February, March and April. According to the first calculations of the Directorate of Maritime Transport of the Ministry, it is estimated that this amount will amount to 7.5 million Euros.

We have developed a number of specific measures to support maritime work by recognising the specifics of the maritime profession. The provision of insurance capacity for unemployed sailors has already been provided for, the provision of emergency financial assistance to sailors as compensation for special purpose to sailors whose shipping contracts are suspended and to sailors whose shipping contract was terminated.

In the field of maritime education, we have made available to the teaching staff and students of the Merchant Navy’s public schools a modern telecommunications service using the digital platform Microsoft Teams in a free academic version, with the possibility of teleconferencing, simultaneous digital exchanges and digital archives, automatically create classes and classrooms based on the number of students attending each school.

5,313 students and 277 teachers are enrolled in the e-learning platform and e-learning. At the same time, procedures are underway to immediately implement the process of modern distance education using the digital platform Microsoft Teams (in a free academic version) and in public schools of postgraduate education, training and the training of merchant marine studies and naval officers in all categories and specialties.

“The US is committed to Greece’s prosperity, security & democracy.” Interview with the US Ambassador

Tourism & Covid-19: talking to the leaders of Tourism in Greece

Interview with the Secretary General for Public Diplomacy, Religious and Consular Affairs

New technologies, innovative ideas & ambitious entrepreneurial ventures – the 85th TIF

HIGHLIGHTS OF THE MONTH - SEPTEMBER 2019

Greek-Italian cooperation is a model of good neighbourly relations

    Agreement on Maritime Boundaries Signed   Greece and Italy signed an Agreement on Maritime Boundaries on June 9th, delimiting an exclusive economic zone (EEZ) between the two neighbouring countries, ending a 43-year pending issue. The deal, which was signed by Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias and his Italian ...

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Interview of the General Director of Defence Investments and Armaments

    “It is time to identify the new challenges of technological excellence and industrial viability that render cross-border collaboration a mandatory process.”   General Director, GDDIA, Lt. Gen. Theodoros Lagios   GDL: What kind of collaboration is needed so that the technological gap between European, American and other defence ...

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Focused on serving the needs of international markets – Metka

GDL: Giorgos Economou, Deputy General Manager of the EPC Projects Department and Factory Manager of Mytilineos tells us about the course of Metka over the past few years? GE: Mytilineos’ factory in Volos is part of the Greek industrial history. From 1964 it is working continuously, despite difficulties. It hasn’t ...

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Outstanding experience in the electronics sector – Miltech

  GDL: We asked the Business Development Manager and BoD Member of Miltech Hellas, Stephen Kiosseoglou, how does Miltech compare with other defence companies in terms of range and technology? SK: Miltech Hellas SA is one of the leading Hellenic companies in the defence sector specialising in design and manufacture ...

Read More »

Strengthening the competitiveness of Greek shipping

    Greek seafaring is, over time, one of the healthiest and most extroverted sectors of the Greek economy and at the same time a key pillar for the country’s future economic development and employment. At European level, the European shipping industry contributes around €60 billion/year to European GDP while ...

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HIGHLIGHTS OF THE MONTH - JULY/AUGUST 2019

Greek-Italian cooperation is a model of good neighbourly relations

    Agreement on Maritime Boundaries Signed   Greece and Italy signed an Agreement on Maritime Boundaries on June 9th, delimiting an exclusive economic zone (EEZ) between the two neighbouring countries, ending a 43-year pending issue. The deal, which was signed by Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias and his Italian ...

Read More »

Interview of the General Director of Defence Investments and Armaments

    “It is time to identify the new challenges of technological excellence and industrial viability that render cross-border collaboration a mandatory process.”   General Director, GDDIA, Lt. Gen. Theodoros Lagios   GDL: What kind of collaboration is needed so that the technological gap between European, American and other defence ...

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Focused on serving the needs of international markets – Metka

GDL: Giorgos Economou, Deputy General Manager of the EPC Projects Department and Factory Manager of Mytilineos tells us about the course of Metka over the past few years? GE: Mytilineos’ factory in Volos is part of the Greek industrial history. From 1964 it is working continuously, despite difficulties. It hasn’t ...

Read More »

Outstanding experience in the electronics sector – Miltech

  GDL: We asked the Business Development Manager and BoD Member of Miltech Hellas, Stephen Kiosseoglou, how does Miltech compare with other defence companies in terms of range and technology? SK: Miltech Hellas SA is one of the leading Hellenic companies in the defence sector specialising in design and manufacture ...

Read More »

Strengthening the competitiveness of Greek shipping

    Greek seafaring is, over time, one of the healthiest and most extroverted sectors of the Greek economy and at the same time a key pillar for the country’s future economic development and employment. At European level, the European shipping industry contributes around €60 billion/year to European GDP while ...

Read More »

HIGHLIGHTS OF THE MONTH - JUNE 2019

Greek-Italian cooperation is a model of good neighbourly relations

    Agreement on Maritime Boundaries Signed   Greece and Italy signed an Agreement on Maritime Boundaries on June 9th, delimiting an exclusive economic zone (EEZ) between the two neighbouring countries, ending a 43-year pending issue. The deal, which was signed by Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias and his Italian ...

Read More »

Interview of the General Director of Defence Investments and Armaments

    “It is time to identify the new challenges of technological excellence and industrial viability that render cross-border collaboration a mandatory process.”   General Director, GDDIA, Lt. Gen. Theodoros Lagios   GDL: What kind of collaboration is needed so that the technological gap between European, American and other defence ...

Read More »

Focused on serving the needs of international markets – Metka

GDL: Giorgos Economou, Deputy General Manager of the EPC Projects Department and Factory Manager of Mytilineos tells us about the course of Metka over the past few years? GE: Mytilineos’ factory in Volos is part of the Greek industrial history. From 1964 it is working continuously, despite difficulties. It hasn’t ...

Read More »

Outstanding experience in the electronics sector – Miltech

  GDL: We asked the Business Development Manager and BoD Member of Miltech Hellas, Stephen Kiosseoglou, how does Miltech compare with other defence companies in terms of range and technology? SK: Miltech Hellas SA is one of the leading Hellenic companies in the defence sector specialising in design and manufacture ...

Read More »

Strengthening the competitiveness of Greek shipping

    Greek seafaring is, over time, one of the healthiest and most extroverted sectors of the Greek economy and at the same time a key pillar for the country’s future economic development and employment. At European level, the European shipping industry contributes around €60 billion/year to European GDP while ...

Read More »

Minister of Foreign Affairs on an Official Visit to Singapore

    New impetus in strengthening ties between Singapore and Greece   Minister of Foreign Affairs George Katrougalos was on an Official Visit to Singapore at the end of last month, where he had key political and economic contacts. The Greek Foreign Minister and his counterpart, Vivian Balakrishnan, discussed bilateral ...

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HIGHLIGHTS OF THE MONTH - MAY 2019

Greek-Italian cooperation is a model of good neighbourly relations

    Agreement on Maritime Boundaries Signed   Greece and Italy signed an Agreement on Maritime Boundaries on June 9th, delimiting an exclusive economic zone (EEZ) between the two neighbouring countries, ending a 43-year pending issue. The deal, which was signed by Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias and his Italian ...

Read More »

Interview of the General Director of Defence Investments and Armaments

    “It is time to identify the new challenges of technological excellence and industrial viability that render cross-border collaboration a mandatory process.”   General Director, GDDIA, Lt. Gen. Theodoros Lagios   GDL: What kind of collaboration is needed so that the technological gap between European, American and other defence ...

Read More »

Focused on serving the needs of international markets – Metka

GDL: Giorgos Economou, Deputy General Manager of the EPC Projects Department and Factory Manager of Mytilineos tells us about the course of Metka over the past few years? GE: Mytilineos’ factory in Volos is part of the Greek industrial history. From 1964 it is working continuously, despite difficulties. It hasn’t ...

Read More »

Outstanding experience in the electronics sector – Miltech

  GDL: We asked the Business Development Manager and BoD Member of Miltech Hellas, Stephen Kiosseoglou, how does Miltech compare with other defence companies in terms of range and technology? SK: Miltech Hellas SA is one of the leading Hellenic companies in the defence sector specialising in design and manufacture ...

Read More »

Strengthening the competitiveness of Greek shipping

    Greek seafaring is, over time, one of the healthiest and most extroverted sectors of the Greek economy and at the same time a key pillar for the country’s future economic development and employment. At European level, the European shipping industry contributes around €60 billion/year to European GDP while ...

Read More »

Minister of Foreign Affairs tours the Gulf Region

  The private sector in Qatar is looking to identify available investment opportunities in Greece     Minister of Foreign Affairs, George Katrougalos, conducted a tour of the Gulf region at the beginning of May, successively visiting Oman, Qatar and Bahrain, in which regional development were at the heart of ...

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HIGHLIGHTS OF THE MONTH - APRIL 2019

Greek-Italian cooperation is a model of good neighbourly relations

    Agreement on Maritime Boundaries Signed   Greece and Italy signed an Agreement on Maritime Boundaries on June 9th, delimiting an exclusive economic zone (EEZ) between the two neighbouring countries, ending a 43-year pending issue. The deal, which was signed by Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias and his Italian ...

Read More »

Interview of the General Director of Defence Investments and Armaments

    “It is time to identify the new challenges of technological excellence and industrial viability that render cross-border collaboration a mandatory process.”   General Director, GDDIA, Lt. Gen. Theodoros Lagios   GDL: What kind of collaboration is needed so that the technological gap between European, American and other defence ...

Read More »

Focused on serving the needs of international markets – Metka

GDL: Giorgos Economou, Deputy General Manager of the EPC Projects Department and Factory Manager of Mytilineos tells us about the course of Metka over the past few years? GE: Mytilineos’ factory in Volos is part of the Greek industrial history. From 1964 it is working continuously, despite difficulties. It hasn’t ...

Read More »

Outstanding experience in the electronics sector – Miltech

  GDL: We asked the Business Development Manager and BoD Member of Miltech Hellas, Stephen Kiosseoglou, how does Miltech compare with other defence companies in terms of range and technology? SK: Miltech Hellas SA is one of the leading Hellenic companies in the defence sector specialising in design and manufacture ...

Read More »

Strengthening the competitiveness of Greek shipping

    Greek seafaring is, over time, one of the healthiest and most extroverted sectors of the Greek economy and at the same time a key pillar for the country’s future economic development and employment. At European level, the European shipping industry contributes around €60 billion/year to European GDP while ...

Read More »

HIGHLIGHTS OF THE MONTH - MARCH 2019

Greek-Italian cooperation is a model of good neighbourly relations

    Agreement on Maritime Boundaries Signed   Greece and Italy signed an Agreement on Maritime Boundaries on June 9th, delimiting an exclusive economic zone (EEZ) between the two neighbouring countries, ending a 43-year pending issue. The deal, which was signed by Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias and his Italian ...

Read More »

Interview of the General Director of Defence Investments and Armaments

    “It is time to identify the new challenges of technological excellence and industrial viability that render cross-border collaboration a mandatory process.”   General Director, GDDIA, Lt. Gen. Theodoros Lagios   GDL: What kind of collaboration is needed so that the technological gap between European, American and other defence ...

Read More »

Focused on serving the needs of international markets – Metka

GDL: Giorgos Economou, Deputy General Manager of the EPC Projects Department and Factory Manager of Mytilineos tells us about the course of Metka over the past few years? GE: Mytilineos’ factory in Volos is part of the Greek industrial history. From 1964 it is working continuously, despite difficulties. It hasn’t ...

Read More »

Outstanding experience in the electronics sector – Miltech

  GDL: We asked the Business Development Manager and BoD Member of Miltech Hellas, Stephen Kiosseoglou, how does Miltech compare with other defence companies in terms of range and technology? SK: Miltech Hellas SA is one of the leading Hellenic companies in the defence sector specialising in design and manufacture ...

Read More »

Strengthening the competitiveness of Greek shipping

    Greek seafaring is, over time, one of the healthiest and most extroverted sectors of the Greek economy and at the same time a key pillar for the country’s future economic development and employment. At European level, the European shipping industry contributes around €60 billion/year to European GDP while ...

Read More »

HIGHLIGHTS OF THE MONTH - FEBRUARY 2019

Greek-Italian cooperation is a model of good neighbourly relations

    Agreement on Maritime Boundaries Signed   Greece and Italy signed an Agreement on Maritime Boundaries on June 9th, delimiting an exclusive economic zone (EEZ) between the two neighbouring countries, ending a 43-year pending issue. The deal, which was signed by Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias and his Italian ...

Read More »

Interview of the General Director of Defence Investments and Armaments

    “It is time to identify the new challenges of technological excellence and industrial viability that render cross-border collaboration a mandatory process.”   General Director, GDDIA, Lt. Gen. Theodoros Lagios   GDL: What kind of collaboration is needed so that the technological gap between European, American and other defence ...

Read More »

Focused on serving the needs of international markets – Metka

GDL: Giorgos Economou, Deputy General Manager of the EPC Projects Department and Factory Manager of Mytilineos tells us about the course of Metka over the past few years? GE: Mytilineos’ factory in Volos is part of the Greek industrial history. From 1964 it is working continuously, despite difficulties. It hasn’t ...

Read More »

Outstanding experience in the electronics sector – Miltech

  GDL: We asked the Business Development Manager and BoD Member of Miltech Hellas, Stephen Kiosseoglou, how does Miltech compare with other defence companies in terms of range and technology? SK: Miltech Hellas SA is one of the leading Hellenic companies in the defence sector specialising in design and manufacture ...

Read More »

Strengthening the competitiveness of Greek shipping

    Greek seafaring is, over time, one of the healthiest and most extroverted sectors of the Greek economy and at the same time a key pillar for the country’s future economic development and employment. At European level, the European shipping industry contributes around €60 billion/year to European GDP while ...

Read More »

HIGHLIGHTS OF THE MONTH - JANUARY 2019

Greek-Italian cooperation is a model of good neighbourly relations

    Agreement on Maritime Boundaries Signed   Greece and Italy signed an Agreement on Maritime Boundaries on June 9th, delimiting an exclusive economic zone (EEZ) between the two neighbouring countries, ending a 43-year pending issue. The deal, which was signed by Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias and his Italian ...

Read More »

Interview of the General Director of Defence Investments and Armaments

    “It is time to identify the new challenges of technological excellence and industrial viability that render cross-border collaboration a mandatory process.”   General Director, GDDIA, Lt. Gen. Theodoros Lagios   GDL: What kind of collaboration is needed so that the technological gap between European, American and other defence ...

Read More »

Focused on serving the needs of international markets – Metka

GDL: Giorgos Economou, Deputy General Manager of the EPC Projects Department and Factory Manager of Mytilineos tells us about the course of Metka over the past few years? GE: Mytilineos’ factory in Volos is part of the Greek industrial history. From 1964 it is working continuously, despite difficulties. It hasn’t ...

Read More »

Outstanding experience in the electronics sector – Miltech

  GDL: We asked the Business Development Manager and BoD Member of Miltech Hellas, Stephen Kiosseoglou, how does Miltech compare with other defence companies in terms of range and technology? SK: Miltech Hellas SA is one of the leading Hellenic companies in the defence sector specialising in design and manufacture ...

Read More »

Strengthening the competitiveness of Greek shipping

    Greek seafaring is, over time, one of the healthiest and most extroverted sectors of the Greek economy and at the same time a key pillar for the country’s future economic development and employment. At European level, the European shipping industry contributes around €60 billion/year to European GDP while ...

Read More »

HIGHLIGHTS OF THE MONTH - DECEMBER 2018

Greek-Italian cooperation is a model of good neighbourly relations

    Agreement on Maritime Boundaries Signed   Greece and Italy signed an Agreement on Maritime Boundaries on June 9th, delimiting an exclusive economic zone (EEZ) between the two neighbouring countries, ending a 43-year pending issue. The deal, which was signed by Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias and his Italian ...

Read More »

Interview of the General Director of Defence Investments and Armaments

    “It is time to identify the new challenges of technological excellence and industrial viability that render cross-border collaboration a mandatory process.”   General Director, GDDIA, Lt. Gen. Theodoros Lagios   GDL: What kind of collaboration is needed so that the technological gap between European, American and other defence ...

Read More »

Focused on serving the needs of international markets – Metka

GDL: Giorgos Economou, Deputy General Manager of the EPC Projects Department and Factory Manager of Mytilineos tells us about the course of Metka over the past few years? GE: Mytilineos’ factory in Volos is part of the Greek industrial history. From 1964 it is working continuously, despite difficulties. It hasn’t ...

Read More »

Outstanding experience in the electronics sector – Miltech

  GDL: We asked the Business Development Manager and BoD Member of Miltech Hellas, Stephen Kiosseoglou, how does Miltech compare with other defence companies in terms of range and technology? SK: Miltech Hellas SA is one of the leading Hellenic companies in the defence sector specialising in design and manufacture ...

Read More »

Strengthening the competitiveness of Greek shipping

    Greek seafaring is, over time, one of the healthiest and most extroverted sectors of the Greek economy and at the same time a key pillar for the country’s future economic development and employment. At European level, the European shipping industry contributes around €60 billion/year to European GDP while ...

Read More »

HIGHLIGHTS OF THE MONTH - NOVEMBER 2018

Greek-Italian cooperation is a model of good neighbourly relations

    Agreement on Maritime Boundaries Signed   Greece and Italy signed an Agreement on Maritime Boundaries on June 9th, delimiting an exclusive economic zone (EEZ) between the two neighbouring countries, ending a 43-year pending issue. The deal, which was signed by Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias and his Italian ...

Read More »

Interview of the General Director of Defence Investments and Armaments

    “It is time to identify the new challenges of technological excellence and industrial viability that render cross-border collaboration a mandatory process.”   General Director, GDDIA, Lt. Gen. Theodoros Lagios   GDL: What kind of collaboration is needed so that the technological gap between European, American and other defence ...

Read More »

Focused on serving the needs of international markets – Metka

GDL: Giorgos Economou, Deputy General Manager of the EPC Projects Department and Factory Manager of Mytilineos tells us about the course of Metka over the past few years? GE: Mytilineos’ factory in Volos is part of the Greek industrial history. From 1964 it is working continuously, despite difficulties. It hasn’t ...

Read More »

Outstanding experience in the electronics sector – Miltech

  GDL: We asked the Business Development Manager and BoD Member of Miltech Hellas, Stephen Kiosseoglou, how does Miltech compare with other defence companies in terms of range and technology? SK: Miltech Hellas SA is one of the leading Hellenic companies in the defence sector specialising in design and manufacture ...

Read More »

Strengthening the competitiveness of Greek shipping

    Greek seafaring is, over time, one of the healthiest and most extroverted sectors of the Greek economy and at the same time a key pillar for the country’s future economic development and employment. At European level, the European shipping industry contributes around €60 billion/year to European GDP while ...

Read More »

HIGHLIGHTS OF THE MONTH - OCTOBER 2018

Greek-Italian cooperation is a model of good neighbourly relations

    Agreement on Maritime Boundaries Signed   Greece and Italy signed an Agreement on Maritime Boundaries on June 9th, delimiting an exclusive economic zone (EEZ) between the two neighbouring countries, ending a 43-year pending issue. The deal, which was signed by Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias and his Italian ...

Read More »

Interview of the General Director of Defence Investments and Armaments

    “It is time to identify the new challenges of technological excellence and industrial viability that render cross-border collaboration a mandatory process.”   General Director, GDDIA, Lt. Gen. Theodoros Lagios   GDL: What kind of collaboration is needed so that the technological gap between European, American and other defence ...

Read More »

Focused on serving the needs of international markets – Metka

GDL: Giorgos Economou, Deputy General Manager of the EPC Projects Department and Factory Manager of Mytilineos tells us about the course of Metka over the past few years? GE: Mytilineos’ factory in Volos is part of the Greek industrial history. From 1964 it is working continuously, despite difficulties. It hasn’t ...

Read More »

Outstanding experience in the electronics sector – Miltech

  GDL: We asked the Business Development Manager and BoD Member of Miltech Hellas, Stephen Kiosseoglou, how does Miltech compare with other defence companies in terms of range and technology? SK: Miltech Hellas SA is one of the leading Hellenic companies in the defence sector specialising in design and manufacture ...

Read More »

Strengthening the competitiveness of Greek shipping

    Greek seafaring is, over time, one of the healthiest and most extroverted sectors of the Greek economy and at the same time a key pillar for the country’s future economic development and employment. At European level, the European shipping industry contributes around €60 billion/year to European GDP while ...

Read More »

State Visit of the President of Germany to Greece

Greece and Germany making a new start Federal President of Germany Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Mrs. Elke Büdenbender paid a State Visit to the Hellenic Republic from 10th-12th October 2018, during which time the German President praised the efforts of the Greek people to master the country’s financial crisis through tough ...

Read More »

HIGHLIGHTS ON THE MONTH - SEPTEMBER 2018

Greek-Italian cooperation is a model of good neighbourly relations

    Agreement on Maritime Boundaries Signed   Greece and Italy signed an Agreement on Maritime Boundaries on June 9th, delimiting an exclusive economic zone (EEZ) between the two neighbouring countries, ending a 43-year pending issue. The deal, which was signed by Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias and his Italian ...

Read More »

Interview of the General Director of Defence Investments and Armaments

    “It is time to identify the new challenges of technological excellence and industrial viability that render cross-border collaboration a mandatory process.”   General Director, GDDIA, Lt. Gen. Theodoros Lagios   GDL: What kind of collaboration is needed so that the technological gap between European, American and other defence ...

Read More »

Focused on serving the needs of international markets – Metka

GDL: Giorgos Economou, Deputy General Manager of the EPC Projects Department and Factory Manager of Mytilineos tells us about the course of Metka over the past few years? GE: Mytilineos’ factory in Volos is part of the Greek industrial history. From 1964 it is working continuously, despite difficulties. It hasn’t ...

Read More »

Outstanding experience in the electronics sector – Miltech

  GDL: We asked the Business Development Manager and BoD Member of Miltech Hellas, Stephen Kiosseoglou, how does Miltech compare with other defence companies in terms of range and technology? SK: Miltech Hellas SA is one of the leading Hellenic companies in the defence sector specialising in design and manufacture ...

Read More »

Strengthening the competitiveness of Greek shipping

    Greek seafaring is, over time, one of the healthiest and most extroverted sectors of the Greek economy and at the same time a key pillar for the country’s future economic development and employment. At European level, the European shipping industry contributes around €60 billion/year to European GDP while ...

Read More »

HIGHLIGHTS OF THE MONTH - JULY/AUGUST 2018

Greek-Italian cooperation is a model of good neighbourly relations

    Agreement on Maritime Boundaries Signed   Greece and Italy signed an Agreement on Maritime Boundaries on June 9th, delimiting an exclusive economic zone (EEZ) between the two neighbouring countries, ending a 43-year pending issue. The deal, which was signed by Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias and his Italian ...

Read More »

Interview of the General Director of Defence Investments and Armaments

    “It is time to identify the new challenges of technological excellence and industrial viability that render cross-border collaboration a mandatory process.”   General Director, GDDIA, Lt. Gen. Theodoros Lagios   GDL: What kind of collaboration is needed so that the technological gap between European, American and other defence ...

Read More »

Focused on serving the needs of international markets – Metka

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HIGHLIGHTS OF THE MONTH - MAY 2018

Hagia Sophia: The violation of a symbol by the Sec-Gen for Public Diplomacy, Religious & Consular Affairs

 

 

Hagia Sophia:
The violation of a symbol

 

By Constantinos Alexandris

 

“It is quite clear that no logical or plausible excuse could justify the violation of a symbol – because this is exactly what the decision for the conversion of Hagia Sophia amounts to. This is not just contempt for history or UNESCO or an international treaty: it is a violation.

Hagia Sophia is not just any church, it is a symbol. It is an emblem of a long historical period, of an entire civilization… and turning it into a mosque is an attack on this civilization. But more importantly, it is also an attack against what the modern world now considers its achievements, such as respect for diversity.”

 

Flipping through an album of travel photos the other day; I recalled lighting a candle at the Taj Mahal a few years after the first Christian Indian Prime Minister decided to grant the temple to the local Church. I admired once again the handmade rugs adorning the floor of the Notre Dame de Paris Mosque, which the French Government had handed over to the Muslim community in order to save it from decay, as the declining number of Christians attending the service could not cover its maintenance costs. And there was that photo with the stunning minarets of St. Peter’s Mosque at the Vatican that the Muslim local Governor of the former city-state decided to add to the building to structurally reinforce it as it was in danger of collapsing! Oh, and that one there, with the Buddhist monks who in recent years have settled at the Buddhist Monastery of Masjid Al-Haram, the former Grand Mosque in Mecca, which following that terrible pandemic no longer accepted Muslim pilgrims…

And if all this sounds unrealistic or taken straight out from a science fiction script, then think again, because something along those lines happened a few days ago when the Erdogan Government decided to turn Hagia Sophia into a mosque, claiming that as such it will not only be preserved, but will also be better protected. After all, as some Turkish officials have pointed out, this was precisely what their Ottoman ancestors had also done, “saving” the magnificent Church from “withering away” (according to the same officials). When, you may ask, did this happen? Well, a mere 6 centuries ago – quite recently in other words! As if the Renaissance, the Enlightenment, the industrial revolution and an unprecedented scientific and technological revolution have not taken place in between. But what am I saying? Aren’t they all fraudulent Judeo-Christian conspiracies from which modern Muslim Turkey must “cleanse” itself? The questions are purely rhetorical…

It is quite clear that no logical or plausible excuse could justify the violation of a symbol – because this is exactly what the decision for the conversion of Hagia Sophia amounts to. This is not just contempt for history or UNESCO or an international treaty: it is a violation. Hagia Sophia is not just any church, it is a symbol. It is an emblem of a long historical period, of an entire civilization, just like the Taj Mahal, St. Peter’s, the Parthenon, the Masjid Al-Haram, the Rumi Mausoleum; and turning it into a mosque is an attack on this civilization. But more importantly, it is also an attack against what the modern world now considers its achievements, such as respect for diversity.

 

In a nutshell, it is obviously a sovereign decision by the Turkish leadership to decide which direction it wants the country to take. But it is also a basic obligation of all others to protect ourselves from policies and actions that threaten to take us back to the distant past.

 

What is the purpose of all this? That the Erdogan Government confirms, after 6 long centuries, the fall of Constantinople? Does it really feel it needs to? Or to demonstrate perhaps the Islamic domination of the 1,000-year-old Christian Eastern Roman Empire? Both incentives lead to a dangerous slippery slope. They add fuel to the fire of nationalism and religious fundamentalism. Is this what the Turkish Government needs right now? Does it need to play to the gallery of those who fantasise about new conquests and throwing enemies into the sea? Or of those who envision the flag of Islam flying in Rome, Cordoba, Vienna and elsewhere? Is this the Turkey it visualises, or the Islam it aspires to lead?

In any case, to every man according to his deeds. Let us bear in mind, however, that symbols, even if damaged, always find ways to retain their shine and magic. If a Greek Government in the future decided to turn the Parthenon into a Christian Church, one can be sure that it would not be the Parthenon that would be ridiculed…

In a nutshell, it is obviously a sovereign decision by the Turkish leadership to decide which direction it wants the country to take. But it is also a basic obligation of all others to protect ourselves from policies and actions that threaten to take us back to the distant past.

 

Constantinos Alexandris is the Secretary-General for Public Diplomacy,
Religious and Consular Affairs of the Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Also published in Euractiv.com

***************

AGIA SOPHIA INTERESTING FACTS

 

 

Once the largest cathedral in the world, the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, Turkey, has stood for more than 1,500 years along the banks of the Bosporus Strait and has housed three religious groups. It is one of the most important Byzantine structures ever built. Of great architectural beauty and an important monument both for the Byzantine and Ottoman Empires, it was once a church, later a mosque and then a museum until the recent directive by the Turkish authorities. It holds historical significance as a culminating feature of the Christian era Roman Empire and stands as a monument to artistic and architectural achievement.

Over the centuries, the mystical city of Istanbul (Constantinople) has hosted many civilizations, of which the Byzantium and Ottoman Empires were the most famous. The city today carries the characteristics of these two different cultures and surely Hagia Sophia is a perfect synthesis where one can observe both Ottoman and Byzantium effects under one great dome.

The Hagia Sophia, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, had been a museum since 1934. It was a Christian Church, the Byzantine Empire’s most important one, from the 6th to the 15th Centuries, and a Mosque from 1453. It is one of the most visited museums in Turkey, attracting almost 3.3 million visitors annually. According to data released by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, Hagia Sophia was Turkey’s most visited tourist attraction in 2015 and 2019.

  1. THE CHURCH WAS TWICE DESTROYED BY RIOTS.

First built in Constantinople in 360 CE and dedicated by the Roman Emperor Constantius II (son of Constantine, the founder of Constantinople), the initial, wood-constructed Hagia Sophia burned during a series of riots in 404 CE. In 415 CE, Emperor Theodosius II ordered the church rebuilt, but the Nika Revolt in 532 CE caused widespread death and destruction in the city and the church was wiped out a second time.

 

  1. THE FIRST GREAT BYZANTINE RULER ORDERED ITS RECONSTRUCTION.

Located in the Eastern Roman Empire region known as Byzantium, Constantinople was ruled for 38 years by the Emperor Justinian, starting in 527 CE. Five years after the Nika Revolt and the church’s destruction, Justinian inaugurated the newly rebuilt Hagia Sophia, the most important religious structure in his empire, on December 27, 537 CE.

 

  1. THE CHURCH HAS GONE BY SEVERAL NAMES.

Initially called the Great Church (Megale Ekklesia in Greek, Magna Ecclesia in Latin) because of its immense size, the second incarnation of the church came to be known by the name Hagia Sophia around 430 CE. Its Greek meaning, “Holy Wisdom,” remained after the church was rebuilt a century later. After conquest by the Ottomans it was called Ayasofya, and today it is the Ayasofya Müzesi.

 

  1. THE ORIGINAL DOME WAS REPLACED AFTER AN EARTHQUAKE IN 558 CE.

Soaring 160 feet high, with a diameter of 131 feet, the grand feature of the Hagia Sophia was its large central dome. The dome and the church were designed by architects Anthemios of Tralles and Isidoros of Miletos, but unlike the dome of the Pantheon, which has never faltered, an earthquake in 558 CE caused the Hagia Sophia’s dome to collapse. It was rebuilt to a height of 182 feet, and the walls were reinforced in 562 CE. The dome’s weight is supported by a series of smaller domes, arcades and four large arches.

 

  1. ONE OF THE SEVEN ANCIENT WONDERS WAS USED IN THE CHURCH’S CONSTRUCTION.

To fortify (and beautify) the interior of the church, columns from the long-abandoned and destroyed Temple of Artemis in Ephesus were used for the Hagia Sophia. Additional building materials may also have come from ancient sites in Baalbeck and Pergamom.

 

  1. IT’S A GREAT EXAMPLE OF BYZANTINE ART AND ARCHITECTURE.

Byzantium nurtured a centuries-long tradition of art, architecture, knowledge, theology, and literature in a style that fused Greek, Roman, and other Eastern traditions. Long after the decline of the Roman Empire from which it sprang, the Byzantine ruler Justinian spearheaded a series of urban reconstruction projects following the Nika Revolt and started with the Hagia Sophia. The new cathedral included the massive dome atop a rectangular basilica, abundant mosaics that covered nearly every surface, stone inlays, columns and pillars of marble, bronze doors, a marble door, a large cross at the dome’s apex, and a square area on the floor of the nave, paved in marble, called the omphalion, a place where emperors were crowned.

 

  1. ICONOCLASM LED TO THE REMOVAL OF MANY PIECES OF ART

Meaning “image breaking” or “the smashing of images,” the period of iconoclasm (from about 726-787 CE and 815-843 CE) raged when the state banned the production or use of religious images, leaving the cross as the only acceptable icon. Many mosaics and paintings from the Hagia Sophia were destroyed, taken away, or plastered over.

 

  1. A 90-YEAR-OLD, BLIND VENETIAN ONCE CAPTURED HAGIA SOPHIA.

During the Fourth Crusade in 1203 CE, Alexius IV managed to convince the Crusaders to help him take the throne of the Byzantine Empire in exchange for a series of promises and rewards. But just months later, he was murdered in a palace coup. The powerful Doge Enrico Dandolo, the chief magistrate of the Republic of Venice who was over 90 years old and blind, led the Latin Christians on a siege of Constantinople. The city and the church were sacked and desecrated, many golden mosaics were taken back to Italy and Dandolo was buried at Hagia Sophia after his death in 1205 CE.

 

  1. THE CHURCH BECAME A MOSQUE FOR 500 YEARS.

Centuries of sackings, conquests, sieges, raids, and crusades came to an end in 1453 CE with the fall of Constantinople at the hands of the Ottoman Empire, led first by Sultan Murad II and then his successor, Mehmed II. The city was renamed Istanbul, the church was looted for treasures and Mehmed called for a restoration of the 900-year-old building and its conversion into a mosque.

 

  1. A MULTITUDE OF ISLAMIC FEATURES WERE ADDED TO THE BUILDING.

To use the space as a mosque, the rulers ordered that a mihrab (prayer niche), minbar (pulpit), and a fountain for ablutions be added to the Hagia Sophia. A succession of minarets was added to the exterior, and a school, kitchen, library, mausoleums, and sultan’s lodge joined the site over the centuries.

 

  1. THE SULTAN PROTECTED CHRISTIAN MOSAICS.

Instead of destroying the numerous frescoes and mosaics on the Hagia Sophia walls, Mehmed II ordered they be whitewashed in plaster and covered in Islamic designs and calligraphy. Many were later uncovered, documented, or restored by the Swiss-Italian architects Gaspare and Giuseppe Fossati.

 

  1. BELIEVERS SAY THE ‘WEEPING COLUMN’ HAS HEALING POWERS.

Also called the “sweating column,” the “wishing column,” and the “perspiring column,” the weeping column stands in the northwest portion of the church and is one of 107 columns in the building. The pillar is partly covered in bronze, with a hole in the middle, and it is damp to the touch. The alleged blessing of St. Gregory has led many to rub the column in search of divine healing.

 

  1. THE FOUNDER OF MODERN TURKEY TURNED IT INTO A MUSEUM.

Former army officer Mustafa Kemal Atatürk founded modern Turkey and served as its first president from 1923 to 1938. In 1934, after banning many Islamic customs and Westernising the country, Atatürk and the Turkish government secularised the former cathedral and mosque and converted it into a museum.

 

  • Sophia means Wisdom in the Greek Language. When we translate the full name of Hagia Sophia to English it is Shrine of The Holy of God.
  • Hagia Sophia was dedicated to Logos who was the second person in the Holy Trinity, in December 25th.
  • There were two more Churches accepted as Churches of Holy Wisdom, but only Hagia Sophia was not destroyed.
  • The altar, bells, sacrificial vessels and iconostasis were all removed when the church was converted into a mosque.
  • When Hagia Sophia was a church, a 50 foot silver iconostasis decorated the inside, now it is on display in the museum.
  • Only the Patheon in Rome has a slightly bigger dome than the dome of Hagia Sophia.
  • The Eastern Orthodox Church has declared Hagia Sophia for over 1,000 years as an important place.
  • The Blue Mosque and the Sultan Ahmed Mosque in Istanbul were designed using the Hagia Sophia as inspiration.
  • Hagia Sophia, as a museum, has both Christian and Islamic influences and features today.
  • Hagia Sophia has 40 windows in the area where worshipers sit and it is famous for the reflecting mystical light.
  • When the dome of Hagia Sophia was placed, walls began to lean outward because of the weight. Then walls to support to dome were built.
  • A mathematician, a scientist and a physicist designed the Hagia Sophia.
  • Hagia Sophia is visible from great distances because of its grandness.
  • The stone cannonballs, which were used by Mehmet the Conqueror, are on display near the entrance of Hagia Sophia.
  • Hagia Sophia is one of the most important buildings in Istanbul and is in need of some restoration and repairs.
  • Hagia Sophia was constructed over a fault line and earthquake can tear the structure down. It must be strengthened with some works.
  • Some repairs in Hagia Sophia are on-going today, but definitely needs more financing.

 

Greek-Italian cooperation is a model of good neighbourly relations

 

 

Agreement on Maritime Boundaries Signed

 

Greece and Italy signed an Agreement on Maritime Boundaries on June 9th, delimiting an exclusive economic zone (EEZ) between the two neighbouring countries, ending a 43-year pending issue. The deal, which was signed by Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias and his Italian counterpart Luigi Di Maio during the latter’s visit to Athens, follows a long period of tension in the Eastern Mediterranean region, where Turkey has signed an invalid maritime delimitation agreement with interim Libyan Government Premier Sarraj and has commenced offshore drilling, provoking Cyprus Greece and Israel.

The agreement describes the extent of the maritime zones that can be exploited. Furthermore, the agreement recognises sovereign rights in all land areas, both in the mainland and the islands. It is a model of cooperation and good neighbourly relations and anticipates that similar agreements will be reached in the region, among other countries as well.

In joint statements with Italian Foreign Minister Di Maio after the signature of the agreement between Greece and Italy for the delimitation of the two countries’ maritime zones, Foreign Minister Dendias said it was a “historic moment” and an agreement that established the rights of islands to maritime zones, as well as securing their respective fishing rights.

“Our country’s steadfast goal is still to delimitate the maritime zones with all our neighbours within the framework of International Law,” the Greek Foreign Minister said, stressing that the boundaries of maritime zones cannot be delineated selectively and arbitrarily as “some attempt to use the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS)”. “Relations with Italy are at a very good level, a fact that is sealed with the signature today of the agreement to delimitate the maritime zones between the two sides. An agreement that confirms the right of islands to maritime zones and the mid-line of the 1977 agreement for delimitating the Greece-Italy continental shelf,” Miniser Dendias said. He also pointed to the protection of fishing rights under the deal, thanking Rural Development Minister Makis Voridis for his cooperation in the relevant negotiations.

During a meeting with Minister Di Maio at the Greek Foreign Ministry, Minister Dendias also spoke about the escalation of illegal actions on Turkey’s part, such as the recent publication of a Turkish oil company’s applications to drill for oil and gas within the Greek continental shelf and the region generally. “These actions, combined with an aggressive rhetoric, amply demonstrate Turkey’s destabilising role,” he said. “International Law determines the red lines and these must be respected,” he added.

Regarding Libya, the two sides called for a political solution via the UN and the Berlin Process, while Greece hailed the new Egyptian initiative. They also discussed the European prospects of the Western Balkans, which both countries support on provision that conditionalities are met.

Both Ministers spoke about the pandemic and the return to normality, with the Italian Minister briefing his Greek counterpart on the epidemiological situation in Italy. “Greece is lifting the restrictions starting from next Monday and up to the end of the month. Greece expects our Italian friends to spend their holidays in our country this year, as in the previous years,” Minister Dendias said.

A Greece-Italy Statement on Resources in the Mediterranean, in which the two countries pledge their dedication to a balanced and sustainable management of these resources and agree to consultations to determine any repercussion of various factors to existing fishing practices of the two States, was also signed.

Lastly, they signed a joint notification to the European Commission with which the two countries ask for the future modification of the directives on common fisheries policy so that, when Greece decides to extend its territorial waters to 12 nautical miles, existing fishing activities by Italian fishers in the region between 6-12 nautical miles, which are currently classed as international waters, can continue. Minister Di Maio referring to the migration issue, he recalled the collaboration with Greece and said the new EU agreement under discussion has to distribute migrants equally among Member States. He also expressed Italy’s concern about Libya and said that his country believed in political, not military, solutions and fully supported political talks at the Berlin Conference. In addition, he reconfirmed his country’s support for the European naval operation Irini, saying that the focus should not be on supporting one side only, but on the end of the conflict, with an arms embargo included.

 

Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias and his Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio sign an Agreement on Maritime Boundaries between the two countries at the Hellenic Ministry of Foreign Affairs; the two delegations in conference.

(Photos: H.Akriviadis/MoFA.)

Greek Minister of Foreign Affairs meets with leadership in Cairo

 

 

Two countries enhance cooperation in all fields

 

Minister of Foreign Affairs Nikos Dendias travelled to Egypt on June 18th, where he was received by the President of Egypt, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. He then met with the Egyptian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sameh Shoukry, with whom he discussed bilateral and regional issues, with emphasis on delimitation of maritime zones and developments in Libya and the wider Eastern Mediterranean region.

In his statement following his visit to Egypt, Minister Dendias said that, “I had the honour of being received by the President of Egypt to whom I conveyed warm greetings from the Prime Minister of Greece, Kyriakos Mitsotakis. I also conveyed to him our country’s determination to strengthen our ties of friendship and cooperation with Egypt. Immediately afterwards, I had long talks with my close friend the Egyptian Minister of Foreign Affairs. We discussed regional issues, developments in the Eastern Mediterranean, Libya, Turkey’s provocations. Finally, we resumed our negotiations on an agreement on the economic zones between Greece and Egypt.”

On the meeting’s sidelines, the two countries held the 12th round of technical negotiations on delimiting maritime borders between Egypt and Greece, as announced by the Egyptian Foreign Ministry Spokesperson. The two Ministers also exchanged views on the overall situation and ways of dealing with developments in the region, the most important of which is the situation in Libya.

Minister Shoukry reaffirmed the importance of working towards supporting the recently launched Cairo Declaration, an Egyptian-led initiative supporting peace in Libya. The initiative was put in place to reach a comprehensive political solution for Libya that preserves its State institutions and the Libyan people’s capabilities. It also looks to establish a new stage for preserving Libya’s sovereignty and unity, security and stability, whilst guaranteeing the elimination of terrorism and extremism.

Minister Dendias expressed Greece’s gratitude over the Cairo Declaration, which they hope will be successful in settling the crisis. He also stressed a rejection of external interference and related negative influences in Libya and across the region.

The two Ministers also discussed developments in the Eastern Mediterranean region and its instability. They stressed the need for all parties to respect and implement the rules and provisions of International Law. At the same time, they also warned against the consequences of taking illegal provocative measures that increase regional tension.

During the Ministerial discussions, they also looked at ways to combat the spread of the coronavirus (Covid-19). Both sides noted the importance of the international community’s solidarity in facing the pandemic and limiting its health, economic and social repercussions. The Ministers further discussed ways to advance and develop cooperation in various fields and regional and international issues of common interest.

At the start of the meeting Minister Shoukry welcomed his Greek counterpart to Cairo, appreciating the distinguished level reached by the cooperation between Cairo and Athens on various levels. He also expressed Egypt’s aspiration to continue its development, whether at the bilateral level or as part of the tripartite cooperation mechanism with Cyprus. Minister Shoukry pointed out the priority that Egypt attaches to continuing coordination with Greece on all common issues. This would achieve the popular interests of the two countries and support regional security and safety.

On his part, Foreign Minister Dendias said that Greece highly values its historical ties with Egypt and is keen on fostering bilateral cooperation in different domains. He noted that Greece gives great importance to promoting coordination with Egypt, for being a key pillar of regional security and stability.

Regarding the Palestinian cause, Minister Shoukry asserted the necessity of resolving the Palestinian-Israeli conflict through adopting the two-State solution, warning against any unilateral steps that could threaten regional security and stability.

The top Egyptian diplomat also updated his Greek counterpart on the deadlock in negotiations between Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam over Addis Ababa’s intransigence, despite the flexibility Egypt has shown to reach a fair and balanced deal that preserves the three parties’ interests.

Minister of Foreign Affairs, Nikos Dendias, pictured in Cairo during his audience with the President of Egypt, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi; in discussion with his Egyptian counterpart, Sameh Shoukry.

(Photos: H.Akriviadis/MoFA.)

The Greek Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe

 

 

“The Greek Chairmanship will send the message that we must see the world through the eyes the young people of Europe. We must focus even more on their problems and concerns, especially in the new environment being created by the pandemic, but also beyond that.”

 

 

Alternate Minister of Foreign Affairs, Miltiadis Varvitsiotis

 

The Greek Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, which began on 15th May 2020, adopted a Joint Declaration on human rights and the environment, together with the outgoing Georgian Chairmanship (November 2019 – May 2020) and the upcoming German Chairmanship (November 2020 – May 2021). The priorities of the Greek Chairmanship of the Council of Europe include the impacts of climate change, with emphasis on protection of cultural heritage and, at the same time, the right of younger generations to enjoy this cultural heritage undamaged by the impacts of climate change.

This, among other things, was stressed by Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis in his message on the commencement of the Greek Chairmanship and by the Alternate Minister of Foreign Affairs, Miltiadis Varvitsiotis, during the assumption of the Chairmanship of the Council of Europe by Greece within the context of a teleconference held with the participation of the outgoing Georgian Chairmanship’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Permanent Representatives of the 47 CoE Member States, the CoE Secretary General and the heads of all the CoE institutions.

Greece took over the Chairmanship from outgoing Georgia for a period of six months until November 18th 2020, via Alternate Foreign Minister Varvitsiotis. The handover ceremony was conducted online due to the special conditions imposed by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Alternate Minister Varvitsiotis, who is in charge of European Union and Council of Europe Affairs at the Greek Foreign Ministry, presented the priorities of the Greek Presidency as the new Chairman of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe (May-November 2020). The central theme of the Greek Presidency is: ‘The protection of human life and public health in conditions of pandemic – effective management of a health crisis with full respect for human rights and the principles of democracy and the Rule of Law’.

Priorities of the Greek Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe

 

 

Protection of human life and public health within the context of a pandemic

Greece, Member of the Council of Europe since August 1949, assumed the Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe in the emergency circumstances imposed by the Covid-19 pandemic. In such an extraordinary context, the Greek Chairmanship considers that it is even more imperative to highlight the fundamental principles and values lying at the core of the Council of Europe’s mission: Democracy, the Rule of Law and the Protection of Human Rights.

The dramatic developments that Europe and the whole world are facing due to the sanitary crisis are, simultaneously, a call for every democratic society governed by the Rule of Law to reiterate its commitment to these principles and values, but from a whole new perspective. A perspective defined on the one hand by the continuous struggle to protect human life and public health and on the other by the challenges and constraints under which States, societies and citizens are called to adapt their functions.

The Greek Chairmanship considers that this unprecedented challenge for our European political culture and institutional tradition calls for the Council of Europe to place the matter at the front line of debate. Within this framework, the main theme of the Greek Chairmanship is: ‘Protection of human life and public health within the context of a pandemic – effectively responding to a sanitary crisis in full respect for human rights and the principles of democracy and the Rule of Law’.

Considering the dramatic changes in our everyday life, we become conscious of the fact that, for the first time, restrictions on human rights and fundamental freedoms are being imposed to an overwhelming extent. Digital technologies, with the expanded opportunities they offer, help significantly to fill the gap created by the lack of physical presence in a series of life manifestations, while at the same time, supporting the exercise of human rights.

In the same spirit, the Greek Chairmanship, conscious of the fact that the Covid-19 pandemic may continue to affect the working methods of the Council of Europe during  the months to come, and well within its mandate, stands ready to conduct an extended part of its scheduled events digitally (E-Chairmanship).

Covid-19 is affecting the entire spectrum of our lives in a multitude of dimensions: political, economic, social, cultural, institutional. The European Convention on Human Rights foresees the possibility of temporary and permissible limitations from its provisions in emergency circumstances, inter alia, for reasons of public health. Continuous vigilance is indispensable, however, for the protection of human life and public health to comply with our commitment to the fundamental principles and values stemming, in particular, from the provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights.

In order to strike a fair balance between the protection of human life and public health and the rights of the individuals concerned, the measures in question must be of a temporary character, proportional to the legitimate aim pursued, and thus necessary in a democratic society, subjected to regular control, and without unduly restricting other human rights and fundamental freedoms.

As specified in the Toolkit for Member States, issued recently by the Secretary General of the Council of Europe (SG/Inf(2020)11 – “Respecting Democracy, Rule of Law and Human Rights in the framework of the Covid-19 sanitary crisis”), the Rule of Law must prevail even in an emergency situation. Undoubtedly, our States’ democratic institutions can play an important role in this respect: ensuring the unhindered function of the legislative process is indeed a substantial guarantee of the continuation of democratic functions and respect for human rights.

A series of other fundamental rights, guaranteed by the European Convention on Human Rights, can equally stand as a counterweight to the imposed restrictions, namely the rights of property, access to justice, the right to impart and receive information, including the right to participate in the information society and access websites and digital platforms, which, under the current emergency circumstances, function as a substitute to public space. Assuring the proper functioning of democratic institutions and of the existing framework for protecting human rights and fundamental freedoms, is a key priority for the “day after”, once the battle for human life and public health will have been won. After all, our political culture and our long tradition in protecting human rights form an integral part of our European legacy to younger generations.

As democratic societies governed by the Rule of Law and, at the same time, as Member States of the Council of Europe, which is especially distinct for its role as guardian of the values and principles that define our political culture, we need to reiterate our commitment to these values and principles.

In the overall framework described in the main theme of the Greek Chairmanship, the following thematic priorities shall be highlighted:

a) Defining the implications of the pandemic on our societies, our democracies and the economy at large;

b) Identifying lessons learned from the Covid-19 pandemic crisis, as related to our mandate, as well as best practices within the context of our response to the crisis, with a view to the day after and, in particular, the issues related to the European Social Charter; and

c) Analysing the conditions under which the precautionary emergency measures, adopted by the authorities in order to protect life and public health, are in conformity with the human rights enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights.

Main Event: ‘70 years since the signing of the European Convention on Human Rights’

The semester of the Greek Chairmanship coincides with the 70th Anniversary of a historic milestone with catalytic effect in the field of protection of human rights in Europe: the signing of the European Convention on Human Rights, in Rome, on 4th November 1950. A Convention that has stood ever since as a constitutional compass in the European human rights protection system.

This occasion is a rare opportunity to take stock of the application of the European Convention on Human Rights to this day and, in particular, the extent to which it has responded to the expectations of the peoples of Europe. Such an important juncture can provide the basis for a discussion on the perspectives of its further application in the near and more distant future. A future expected, inter alia, to bring a far more extended use of digital technologies and artificial intelligence, with all their benefits and challenges, for all generations.

The 130th Ministerial Session of the Committee of Ministers in Athens on 4th November 2020, on the very Anniversary of the signing of the European Convention on Human Rights, is expected to provide us with a significant opportunity for a substantive dialogue.

The Greek Chairmanship believes that it will be possible for all of us to reiterate our commitment to the principles and values that the CoE stands for, in the light of the Covid-19 pandemic crisis and the ensuing unprecedented challenges as far as human life and the protection of human rights are concerned. Within this context, the prospect of accession of the EU to the European Convention on Human Rights is supported by the Greek Chairmanship, as a significant step that would contribute to ensure a more coherent protection of human rights throughout Europe.

In the light of the Interlaken Process, the Greek Chairmanship aims at renewing the political commitment to reaffirming the defining role of the system of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Independence of Justice and the Rule of Law

Within the new context of exercising human, social and governmental activity that we all currently face, issues arise that we must deal with for the first time. Issues that prove that this unprecedented crisis does not only concern our life and our health, but also the quality of our democracy, as well as the Rule of Law. The Rule of Law and the independence and efficiency of justice will be duly highlighted by the Greek Chairmanship through a special Conference of the Justice Ministers of the Member States related to the ‘Independence of Justice and the Rule of Law’.

Investing in the future – the rights of young people

The Greek Chairmanship intends to highlight the need for all of us, citizens, democratic societies and Member States, to concentrate on the younger generations, as they represent the future. A wide range of issues relating to young people form an array of critical fields of interest for today’s Europe: education, brain-drain, sports, climate change and protection of cultural heritage, exploitation of children, unaccompanied minors. These issues constitute key policy priorities for Greece, also at a national level and, at the same time, attract the vivid interest of countries in South Eastern Europe. The countries of the Mediterranean, with which Greece maintains longstanding relations of friendship and cooperation, are also welcome to participate in this dialogue.

Within this framework, the Greek Chairmanship considers that particular emphasis should be attributed to specific thematic priorities, inextricably linked to the rights, the hopes and the concerns of young people. These thematic priorities are:

a) Education and Democratic Culture in a digital era.

b) Children as vulnerable persons (at risk of poverty, victims of violence, trafficking, forced labour, unaccompanied migrant minors).

c) Safeguarding the right of younger generations to enjoy cultural heritage unaffected by the impact of climate change.

d) European Social Charter – social rights within the framework of the Council of Europe – impact of the pandemic crisis on the right of access of vulnerable social groups to health as a public good.

The exceptional opportunities offered by digital technologies in a plethora of sectors and dimensions are becoming more evident through the new everyday life of the citizens and the fight to contain the pandemic and to protect human life and public health. Distant working, distant learning, electronic diagnosis and medicinal prescription, access of vulnerable persons to information and services, digital formulation and submission of requests and proposals, the issuing of attestations, digital market of goods and services are only a few of the applications of digital technologies that can facilitate and improve the life of citizens in the current situation and also after the return to normality.

In these challenging times, it is crucial to recall that securing the access of citizens to official statistics regarding the pandemic crisis, digital technologies, not only contribute to consolidate a relation of enhanced mutual confidence between authorities and citizens, but they also protect citizens from counter-productive disinformation with regard to the sanitary crisis and its dramatic impact on human life and public health. The Greek Chairmanship will organise an expert event, in order to take stock of the potential of the Council of Europe instruments, in particular the European Social Charter, and contribute to policies preserving social cohesion in the post Covid-19 period.

E- Chairmanship

The majority of events of the Chairmanship will take place through teleconferences and live streaming and with the use of social media which will be connected, as a reference, to the digital platform of the Greek Chairmanship.

The E-Chairmanship will provide transmission of events and actions of the Council of Europe to all citizens through new technologies.

The E-Chairmanship is not only imposed by the unquestionable need to tackle the sanitary crisis and plan for the days to follow. It also stands as a self-evident obligation in view of technological challenges, as the array of solutions and choices offered by the new technologies, which are considered important tools facilitating and enhancing access to information and knowledge. After all, digital reality forms an integral part of citizens’ everyday life and defines social behaviour and habits to a large extent.

The Hellenic Defence Industry – Competitive advantages of a dynamic concept

 

The benefits for the country’s economy and the Armed Forces from the active participation of the Greek Defence Industries in the armaments programmes are multiple. The outflow of foreign exchange is limited, economic growth is ensured, expert personnel are employed, specialised jobs are increased while the Defence Industry gains autonomy. At the same time, the Armed Forces are independent to a certain extent from foreign suppliers, based on domestic know-how and technical support, with the result that repair time is shorter and finally the intervention of the Greek Industry in case of emergency or critical situation is immediate.

The implementation of the above in combination with equal treatment between private and public industries, within the context of healthy and fair competition, will contribute on the one hand to the country’s defence shielding and economic stimulation and on the other hand will enable the industries themselves to cooperate with key international defence companies in new and modern weapons systems, claiming a significant share, not only of domestic, but also of international armaments programmes.

The Hellenic Defence Industry is at a crossroads because of the reduced military spending and the insufficiency of coherent policies for its further development. Neighbouring countries possess robust defence industrial bases that serve both their respective armed forces and their national economies. The defence industry should be considered an integral part of the Greek national defence framework. Consequently, the ownership structure and management of major defence industrial enterprises should be reformed within the European framework. A small but viable defence industry requires technology and skilled manpower and Greek institutions of higher education should support this effort.

How can the Greek defence companies be able to develop and enrich their production capabilities with products of gradually higher value added? Will they retain the role of the metal cutter and assembler, or will they succeed in transferring and accumulating substantial technological capabilities? In the case of Greece, a factor directly related to its integration into the global system is the transfer of technology and the technological and other international cooperation projects of local firms. The truth is that sometimes the Greek defence industry is not able to capitalise on offset benefits, not because foreign selling firms do not wish to transfer technology or know how, but because foreign firms cannot see how they can achieve this transfer while working with partners of a considerably lower technological level than their own.

This observation means that in cases where this distance is considered to be too great, foreign companies are practically forced to select simpler forms of technological cooperation and technology transfer, such as licensing, while the smaller this distance the more able are foreign firms to use more complex forms of technology transfer. The latter forms of technological flows are considered to be essential for the deep integration of the Greek defence industry into the global production and technological system.

Cases of firms that have managed to progress technologically, and have made the transition from the technology follower to the technology leader status, indicate that a crucial component for success has been the combination of transfer of critical intangible resources with intensive internal efforts of technological assimilation and advancement. This process is evolutionary and driven by a conscious and planned strenuous learning effort so that the learning curve is steeper and the rate of technological accumulation faster than those of firms and countries operating at the technological frontiers. For this effort to ever take place there is a clear need for a matching technology strategy. How can local and foreign technology best be combined? There is a distinction that should be made between the acquisition of foreign technology and the accumulation of local technological capabilities. Technology can be acquired through direct foreign investment, licensing, know-how and technological collaboration agreements. The accumulation of local technological capabilities, however, requires the creation of human capital, through theoretical education (off-the-job training), practical training (on-the-job training), experience and systematic efforts to acquire, adapt and improve imported technology. Any offset programme, including firms in technologically less advanced countries, should primarily be aimed at the acquisition by the latter of technological capabilities. Different technology suppliers vary as to their willingness and capability for cooperation.

Consequently, it is imperative that all potential suppliers are compared on the basis of cost and technological benefits they can create. Even direct foreign investment can contribute to the creation of technological capabilities, through the training of local staff and through the diffusion of technological information to local suppliers and customers.

For this reason, the Greek defence industry should prioritise its needs and emphasise the speed of learning and of accumulation of the necessary technological capabilities. This means that the central criterion for the choice of industrial partner should not be the weapon system itself, but the partner’s willingness and capability to transfer the technological knowledge and capabilities that will allow the local partner maximal technological accumulation. This knowledge and capabilities will form the basis upon which any comparative advantage the weaker companies might have as a static concept will be transformed into a competitive advantage of a dynamic concept.

Extremely important for the future of the Greek defence industry is its participation in programmes for the development and production of new weapons systems, with the result that the industrial involvement does not coincide in time with the implementation of material supply, but has a time horizon that covers the entire life cycle of the material, that is, in the phases of development, production, control and certification, maintenance, as well as in the various phases of their development, such as modifications, improvements and upgrades.

In this case, the deciding factor is the timely adoption of a decision on the country’s participation in the production process of the weapons system within the context of Transnational Agreements.

Another essential factor that will help in the planned and healthy development of the domestic industry in the implementation of armament programmes is the avoidance of the multiplicity of weapons systems, something that has unfortunately happened repeatedly in the past.

Apart from being a substantial problem in the smooth running of the General Staffs, polytype is also a real obstacle to the effective involvement of the defence industry, because the required industrial investments are multiplied, making domestic participation a fragmentation of small matters of interest and importance, therefore unsustainable.

The utilisation and exploitation of the systems/products that have been designed, developed and manufactured by Greek defence industries will have a double effect. First, it will reduce as much as possible the polytype, will greatly strengthen the domestic defence industry and will enable the cooperation and adoption of Greek products in respective systems of other countries.

Interview of the General Director of Defence Investments and Armaments

 

 

“It is time to identify the new challenges of technological excellence and industrial viability that render cross-border collaboration a mandatory process.”

 

General Director, GDDIA, Lt. Gen. Theodoros Lagios

 

GDL: What kind of collaboration is needed so that the technological gap between European, American and other defence industries will be bridged?

TL: The European Defence Industry is confronted with big challenges, while trying to satisfy advanced technological requirements of modern Armed Forces. The high level of the European defence industrial and market fragmentation reduces the potential of European companies to develop new state-of-the-art products, while maintaining at the same time competitiveness and viability. As a result, European companies have experienced a reduction of their global share of research & development over the past years, compared to their US and Chinese counterparts.

In order to respond effectively to the above situation, the first objective should be the reduction of the above-mentioned fragmentation. The joining of forces of traditional big players within the EU Industry will certainly increase the effectiveness of the development efforts by the constructive exchange of innovative ideas, while unlocking on the other hand important additional funds. There can also exist substantial economies of scale and a more efficient exploitation of individual expertise and experience of different contributors in certain technological areas.

The industrial collaboration will become much more efficient and productive, when it takes place at a cross-border level. Traditionally, national industries tend to concentrate knowledge and experience in certain technological areas, that have proved rewarding in the past, in terms of industrial competitiveness or coverage of national military requirements. But now, it is time to identify the new challenges of technological excellence and industrial viability that render cross-border collaboration a mandatory process.

Another key element in addressing the technology gap issue is the allocation of investment in innovation, with special focus on emerging and disruptive technologies. Bearing in mind that the bringers of innovation are, mainly, the Small & Medium Enterprises (SMEs), as well as the Academia and the Research & Technology Organisations (RTOs), it is a straight forward deduction that those actors must play an important role in the effort and consequently participate in future collaboration schemes. In addition, and recognising the dual nature of modern technologies and applications (civil and military), it becomes obvious that important benefits can be ensured by fostering technology spin-in from the civil to the military sector and facilitating relevant collaborations.

The special nature of the defence industry, where the sole customers are governments, imposes another necessary collaboration element in the effort. It is the public-private partnerships, which will make possible the early engagement of the user in the development of military capabilities, thus ensuring that the final products meet the operational requirements and include all those technologies that satisfy the level of ambition of the Modern European Armed Forces.

It is worth noting that, all the above arguments have been identified by the European Union, which has put in place, through European defence initiatives, a very concrete and promising plan for the collaborative technological and industrial upgrade of the European defence sector.

 

“Greek defence companies need to take advantage of their innovation capacity and gradually advance their business targets, from simple subcontractors of prime manufacturers, to integrators of complete defence systems. This is a complex, long lasting process, which requires, mainly, very targeted cross-border alliances with key players in certain technological areas and a consistent business strategy.”

 

GDL: What is the plan of the Greek Ministry of Defence, together with other EU countries, to develop their bilateral defence cooperation under the European Defence Fund?

TL: Greece is closely following and participating in the actions initiated by the EU, aimed at promoting and strengthening cooperation in defence. Within this context the EU launched the European defence initiatives, namely the Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO), the Coordinated Annual Review on Defence (CARD) and the European Defence Fund (EDF). It is essential for Europe to ensure coherence of those tools, so that they maintain a consistent, mutually reinforcing result.

The European Defence Industrial Development Programme (EDIDP), the predecessor of EDF for the 2019-20 period, launched in 2019, calls for industrial cooperative proposals in the area of defence capability development. In order to prepare for the calls, Greece and Cyprus signed an MOU laying down the framework for the collaboration of the two countries for the support and implementation of projects under the EDIDP. As a result, four proposals were submitted to the 2019 EDIDP calls from consortia led by Greek companies and consisting of industrial, academic and research partners from the two MOU and 12 other European countries. Following the recently issued award decision from the European Commission, all four proposals were successful and will acquire a European funding of 27 million euros, out of a total cost of 29 million.

PESCO was launched in order to foster and commit European countries to the implementation of common projects, both in the areas of defence operations and capability development. Greece, staying committed to the PESCO objectives, has proposed and is currently leading five PESCO projects, while also participating in 10 more projects led by other European countries. In addition and staying committed to the requirement for coherence of the European initiatives, Greece has linked two of the above mentioned, successful EDIDP proposals, to corresponding PESCO projects led by Greece.

CARD was established with the goal to provide, over time, a comprehensive picture of the European capability landscape, helping also European countries identify cooperation opportunities and investment areas for future capability development. Greece is actively participating to the CARD procedure of data collection and analysis, conducted by the European Defence Agency (EDA). It is expected that the results of CARD will further promote cooperation among European countries, including defence research and capability development, eligible for funding under the EDF.

The General Directorate for Defence Investments and Armaments of the Greek Ministry of Defence will continue to investigate industrial cooperation schemes for defence research and development, exploiting the funding opportunities of the EDF. This investigation will be based on capability requirements identified within the National Defence Planning, taking also into account the European initiatives for strengthening cooperation in defence.

GDL: The reorganisation of the structure of the National Defence Industry is a prerequisite for the survival and development of all the Greek defence companies. How can we achieve this?

TL: The Greek Defence Industry has experienced the consequences of the severe financial crisis, which brought a considerable contraction of the national economy. The dramatic reduction of the national defence budget has deprived the industry from previously available funding opportunities. In addition, the harmonisation of the national legal framework with the European Directive for defence procurement has rendered the domestic industrial participation to armament programmes more difficult.

The restructuring of the national Defence Industry becomes necessary, not only for the alleviation of the consequences of the crisis, but mainly for following the developments in the global defence market, as well as exploiting the opportunities created by the new European initiatives in defence. As previously stated, joining forces is a key element in dealing efficiently with cash flow difficulties, while complementing expertise from various sources, in order to create complete solutions and products. The trend in the global defence market is consolidation, although the European market is still lagging in this process, compared to the US and other markets.

There are, however, other effective ways of collaboration and implementation of common strategies. A widespread practice is cooperation for the development of specific products, e.g., the joint venture companies, used mainly for gaining access to new markets. Joint ventures enable acceptable risk sharing, while achieving scale efficiencies by combining assets and operations. Another way of effective collaboration is the creation of clusters of entities in specific technological areas. Clustering can speed up innovation, increase productivity of individual companies and stimulate new businesses in each technology field. This can also be combined with an appropriate opening of the defence sector to spin-in from the civilian sector, for certain common background technologies.

Most importantly, Greek defence companies need to take advantage of their innovation capacity and gradually advance their business targets, from simple subcontractors of prime manufacturers, to integrators of complete defence systems. This is a complex, long lasting process, which requires, mainly, very targeted cross-border alliances with key players in certain technological areas and a consistent business strategy. It can stimulate business growth and the upgrade of SMEs to Middle-Capitalisation companies (Midcaps), creating also the future national leaders in the concerned technology fields.

Special attention must be given to the Defence State Industry, which is an important asset for supporting the security of supply of the Greek Armed Forces. The State companies of the defence sector are, along with the rest of the industry, seriously affected by the economic crisis, however they retain important manufacturing capabilities. While they remain perspective suppliers for the needs of the Greek Armed Forces, they need to adapt their strategies for more extroversion and attraction of investments, pursuing targeted strategic alliances.

 

“The participation of domestic companies in cooperative development of weapon systems from big primes, maintaining ownership rights, is a decisive step toward the real development and sustainability of the domestic defence Industry.”

 

GDL: Should it be mandatory that in each armaments procurement programme, the basic criterion for choosing should be the diversified package of domestic industrial cooperation?

TL: As already mentioned, the adaptation of the national legal framework to the European Directive for defence procurement, has induced serious limitations on the participation of the domestic industry to armament programmes. However, the engagement of increased numbers of domestic defence companies to national procurement programmes remains a continuous objective for the Greek Ministry of Defence. Through this process, we can maintain and further develop the Domestic Defence Technological and Industrial Base (DDTIB), which contributes directly to the strengthening of security of supply for the country. The participation of the domestic industry to big armament procurement programmes should include licensed production, as well as involvement in the Follow On Support (FOS) programmes, which should always complement the acquisition of any weapon system.

The inclusion of domestic enterprises in the supply chains of big prime manufacturers is undoubtedly an important step towards the sustainment of the viability of the Greek defence Industry. However, this is not sufficient for achieving a sustainable development of the domestic Industry, which is the key element for the essential reinforcement of the DDTIB. Instead, the participation of domestic companies in cooperative development of weapon systems from big primes, maintaining ownership rights, is a decisive step toward the real development and sustainability of the domestic defence Industry.

Repositioning itself in the global market – The Hellenic Aerospace Industry SA

“HAI considers that strengthening its innovative level by investing in R&D and new methods is the key to repositioning itself in the global market.”

 

The Hellenic Aerospace Industry SA (HAI) is the leading aerospace and defence industry of Greece. Established in 1975, its major mission is to deliver services and products to the Armed Forces of the Hellenic State. By implementing an extrovert strategy during recent years, HAI has achieved to expand its customer base and establish itself as a reliable partner of the leading global aerospace industries. HAI operates with state-of-the-art production processes and highly qualified personnel, offering high performance products and quality services.

 

Grigorios Freskos, CEO, The Hellenic Aerospace Industry (HAI)

 

GDL: Does HAI fully cover the maintenance requirements of the Hellenic Armed Forces?

GF: HAI is a pillar in the Hellenic Armed Forces and national defence support and a lever for national economic growth.

  • HAI has acquired over the years extensive capabilities for the majority of platforms, operated by the Hellenic Air Force. As such, we have been a reliable partner of HAF, offering an extensive range of maintenance, repair and operations (MRO) services.
  • In addition to the MRO activities, significant upgrade and maintenance programmes are implemented in HAI for the Hellenic Air Force. Among them, the upgrade of the Mirage 2000 Hellenic Air Force fleet to the latest version of Mirage 2000-5, the C-130 ‘Hercules’ avionics upgrade (AUP) and rainbow fitting, the F-4E AUP and the F/RF-4E Service Life Extension programme.
  • The F-16 Viper upgrade for the Hellenic Air Force will be performed at HAI. Works have started on the first of the 84 HAF F-16s that will be upgraded to Viper class by 2027, delivering a significant increase in capability for the HAF fleet, as the F-16 Vs will be the most advanced F-16 configuration available today.
  • For the Hellenic Navy, the implementation of a government-to-government agreement with the United States (announced in 2015) for the re-activation of one P-3B Orion maritime patrol aircraft – already delivered – and the modernisation of four aircraft through the Mid-Life Upgrade (MLU) Programme is currently in progress.
  • We look forward to re-launching our collaboration with the Hellenic Army, supporting their helicopters.
  • Last but not least, it is worth mentioning that HAI has developed an integrated Command and Control System for Greek Artillery, as well as a Communication Combat Zone System.

 

“By developing new technologies, outsourcing of low-cost technology production and engaging in international partnerships, HAI will regain its world market share.”

 

GDL: What are the major investment plans for EAB?

GF: I would categorise them as follows:

  • Investing in the field of Technology and Innovation:

The Hellenic Aerospace Industry has accumulated expertise and know-how in multilateral fields of activities  – in engineering and design in particular –  by participating in major European and international projects and consortiums such as nEUROn – the Unmanned Combat Air Vehicle elaborated within the framework of a European cooperation scheme. In this project, HAI participated with the Design of Aft Fuselage using stealth technologies and the Exhaust Pipe Production.

ΗΑΙ considers that strengthening its innovative level by investing in R&D and new methods is the key to reposition itself in the global market.

Within this context, a plan will be implemented for infrastructure which will upgrade and improve production processes.

A new Paint Stripping Hangar and a Special Processes Facility will perform production activities by using cutting-edge technologies, environmentally friendly, thus, materialising one of the company’s strategic goals for the modernisation and creation of new facilities according to the EU bio-environmental requirements (REACH).

  • Investing in the field of Training:

HAI operates an EASA Part-147 Maintenance Training Organisation, having been approved to conduct training and examinations, meeting the requirements of EASA Part 66 Aircraft Maintenance Licence in all currently available categories.

Α milestone for HAI’s Training is the enduring cooperation with the United Arab Emirates Armed Forces. Being always responsive to the specific needs of the UAE Customer has given HAI invaluable experience, which in turn grants prominence to the organisation as a Training Centre Service Provider overseas.

To cover a broader spectrum of training services, HAI is planning to create a new Training Centre.

 

“To cover a broader spectrum of training services, HAI is planning to create a new Training Centre.”

 

GDL: Could EAB expand its maintenance and manufacturing business in the civil sector?

GF: HAI already has some activity in the civil sector, serving the Hellenic Government’s VIP aircraft.

At this point we would like to mention our contribution during the fire-fighting season in our country. HAI totally supports the CL-215 and CL-415 fleet performing their annual maintenance and providing extensive field support, during the fire hazard season.

 

GDL: What are EAB’s major development plans in the electronic and manufacturing areas?

GF: These can be described as follows:

  • Synergies with the leading players in the global defence and aerospace industry are a primary objective. By developing new technologies, outsourcing of low-cost technology production and engaging in international partnerships, ΗΑΙ will regain its world market share.

This is emphasised by the long-term, continuous cooperation with Lockheed Martin, the most valuable strategic partner of HAI as the establishment of infrastructure and technology transfer provided new manufacturing capabilities for aerospace material and aircraft upgrades.

  • In the aerostructures area, HAI as sole-source supplier worldwide of Lockheed Martin participates in the on-going C-130J programme, manufacturing the Fuselage Plug Panels/Mid Fuselage Panels. Moreover, the re-launching of F-16 aircraft co-production programme has taken place within the context of which, HAI has undertaken by Lockheed Martin the assembly of structural components for the F-16 fighter aircraft, as sole-source supplier, as well.

GDL: The Randstad Employer Brand Research recently revealed the top 10 best companies to work for in Greece for 2020. One of them is HAI. Can you tell us more about this achievement?

GF: According to the most recent research, for the first time the Hellenic Aerospace Industry holds the second place, entering the top ten of best Greek companies to work for.

Statistics indicated a positive image of the company, which has also been reflected on the number of job applications accepted during the recent hiring process.

Our personnel are undoubtedly the most significant asset for our company, especially in view of our new workload. Retaining highly-experienced personnel and attracting new talented recruits is more than crucial.

Innovation is a Key Business Tool – talking to the CEO of IDE

Lockheed Martin confirms its commitment & support to the Armed Forces, Aerospace & Defence Industry

 

Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Vice President Global Pursuits Initiatives, Dennys Plessas

 

“The Hellenic defence industry is a national asset and as such needs to be addressed. Continuous modernisation is important with new capabilities, technologies and training.”

 

GDL: Could you describe the relationship of Lockheed Martin with the Hellenic Aerospace and Defence Industry. What is the status of the programme for upgrading the 85 F-16’s to the block 72 Viper System, and the rest of Lockheed Martin programmes in Greece?

DP: The cooperation between Lockheed Martin and the Hellenic Defence and Aerospace industry, was forged through many decades and evolved into a strategic relation between these pioneering aerospace companies, Lockheed Martin and the Hellenic Aerospace Industry (HAI).

Lockheed Martin, within the framework of the F-16 fighter acquisitions over the last 25 years has implemented, with success and transparency, a series of offset benefit and technology transfer programmes aimed at the upgrade of the operational capabilities of the Armed Forces and the reinforcement of the domestic defence industry.

The continuous transfer of technology to HAI and to other Hellenic companies, combined with the construction of a modern infrastructure, comprise the basic factors for the development of the Hellenic Defence Industry during the last 20+ years. HAI is the sole source supplier of Lockheed Martin, internationally, for specific F-16 fighter aircraft parts (air inlet ducts, aft fuselage, fuel tanks and other aero structural components), as well as for major fuselage parts for the C-130J Super Hercules transport aircraft (plugs and panels).

The important international orders for F-16s and C-130J have provided to HAI a large workload, the benefits being an increase in exports and the upkeep of many aerospace jobs, even during the economic crisis. To do so, Lockheed Martin has proceeded with significant investments at HAI, aiming at the establishment and expansion of its production capacity, the provision of technical know-how in modern aero structures, personnel training, meeting of environmental challenges, etc. These investments lead to HAI’s modernisation and allowed the company to respond to modern requirements and compete with foreign defence industries, the capstone being the US Air Force European F-16 upgrade programme.

The F-16 and the C-130J co-production programmes, of purely export character, are reinforcing the national effort for the development and growth of exports. They are creating precious self-financed work positions and they result in considerable aerospace technical know-how. In both aerostructure programmes, HAI is the sole manufacturer for our global international market of these two legendary aircraft. In addition to co-production programmes, Lockheed Martin is implementing at HAI two major upgrade and modernisation programmes for the Hellenic Ministry of Defence. The F-16 fighter upgrade programme has been structured by the Greek and American Governments and the F-16 manufacturer, Lockheed Martin in such a way as to maximise the participation of the domestic defence industry, but also to fully ensure the supply and information of the weapon system.

The Hellenic defence industry will implement all phases of the programme in Greece, except the design and development, the procurement of individual electronic equipment and the development of the necessary software, which will be implemented by the manufacturing company in the US. In this way the domestic industry will secure a workload worth hundreds of millions of dollars by its active participation in the programme. Except for the prototype aircraft flight testing, no other F-16 will leave Greece to be subjected to any upgrade works in the US. It should not escape us that eight-to-10 years ago, HAI realised the upgrade of about 90 F-16s with the technical support of Lockheed Martin, through which the relevant experience/technical know-how was acquired.

Similar is the involvement of the Hellenic Aerospace and Defence Industry in the P-3 Mid-Life Upgrade Programme for the Hellenic Navy. The Hellenic Defence Industry, HAI, Scytales, AEL, etc, will participate in both structural and mission system upgrades of the Maritime Patrol and Antisubmarine warfare P-3 aircraft.

The Hellenic defence industry has therefore received considerable industrial returns and a large workload creating new aerospace positions, securing HAI’s sustainability and increasing its business growth. We also expect that the technology and technical know-how transfer and the reinforcement of the domestic capabilities will increase the competitiveness of the Hellenic Defence Industry, providing future opportunities for the implementation of similar programmes for other international F-16, P-3 and C-130 users.

GDL: What is the added-value and competitive advantages of the Greek Defence Industry through such procurement programmes?

DP: About 70-75% of HAI’s total annual turnover originates from Lockheed Martin programmes. The exact amount varies from year to year. Their involvement includes:

  • F-16 coproduction for the global market of Lockheed Martin,
  • C-130J coproduction for the global market of Lockheed Martin,
  • P-3B upgrade and overhaul (Mid-Life Upgrade) for the Hellenic Navy,
  • F-16V (Viper) aircraft upgrade for the Hellenic Air Force,
  • C-130 Hercules aircraft repair works [HAI being an] ‘authorised repair centre’, a fact which could be exploited at an international level.

The Hellenic Navy, recognising the operational need to upgrade its Maritime Patrol Capability, has entered into a government-to-government agreement with the US Navy, designating Lockheed Martin as a sole source supplier, to perform a mid-life upgrade and mission system modernisation for its P-3B aircraft.

The HAF, following a detailed assessment and analysis of the present, as well as of the future threats, reached the conclusion that the upgrade of 84 fighter aircraft comprises the most financially efficient programme, offering a significant operational benefit to the HAF and the Armed Forces.

The upgraded F-16s, equipped with electronically scanned array RADAR (the well-known to all AESA), modern LINK 16 communication systems, modern sensors, but also safety systems (like the ground collision avoidance system) are creating a modern fleet, able to counter the current and future threats in the region, while offering at the same time the necessary interoperability with the 5th generation F-35 fighters, as well as with various other ground and maritime platforms.

In addition, I would like to add that without any other financial burden the domestic industry will benefit to a significant degree through our SSI (Security of Supply & Information) programmes:

  • Securing and creating hundreds of jobs, so much in HAI, as well as in several private defence companies for many years.
  • Continuation of the F-16 and C-130J assembly and co-production in HAI.
  • Investments for the support of the Armed Forces operational capabilities, as well as for the upgrade of HAI’s technological capabilities.
  • Provision of additional technical know-how and the exploitation of developed infrastructure.
  • Capability for contesting similar upgrade contracts for third countries.

 

“It is only through major programme participation, such as the F-16, the C-130J and eventually the F-35, that the Greek defence industry will remain modern, competitive and relevant.”

 

GDL: Working with the Greek Aerospace Industry for more than two decades, in your opinion, what improvements could be made to make it more competitive and attractive to international markets?

DP: The cooperation between Lockheed Martin and HAI was developed through many decades and evolved into a strategic relation between Lockheed Martin and HAI, for manufacturing, maintenance, repair, overhaul and Upgrade (MRO&U).

There have been challenges, especially during the past several years, when Greece went through an economic crisis; Lockheed Martin did not hesitate to trust in Hellenic hands two of its most valuable programmes – the F-16 and the C-130J, but also to significantly increase the volume of the workload assigned to HAI.

These high technology programmes, of purely export character, are reinforcing the national effort for the development and growth of exports. They are creating precious self-financed jobs and they result in considerable aerospace technical know-how. The secret of success is simple, but also complex at the same time: methodical approach, professionalism, competitiveness, diligent work, non-negotiable standards of quality and on-time deliveries.

In this work, the high-quality specifications, precision and the faithful observance of the delivery time schedules comprise the key characteristics of a reliable partner. The work performed in Greece does not only have a financial, developmental, industrial and technological character, but it is a national contributor for Greece.

 

GDL: How realistic is the JSF (F-35) newest generation fighter aircraft programme for the Greek Air Force?

DP: Given that the upgrade of the F-16s is already under way, the next step would be the acquisition of 5th generation aircraft. Lockheed Martin is the only company in the world designing and manufacturing the only 5th generation exportable aircraft, the F-35.

The specific aircraft, the JSF F-35 Lightning II, was designed exclusively by partner nations for transforming and redefining not only the air combat, but also the entire conflict. Its state-of-the-art flight characteristics, combined with stealth capability, the capability for performing multiple missions at the same time, its long range, the integration of latest technology sensors allowing the fusion of data, its network-centric character, as well as its reliability and ease of maintenance, are making it the central platform through which the largest part of an air conflict will be conducted in the 21st Century.

GDL: What is your assessment for the future reinforcement of the country’s capabilities regarding the countering of current and future threats?  Is there a possibility for Greece to procure the 5th generation F-35 aircraft?

DP: For the first time the development of a new 5th generation aircraft, like the F-35, foresees an extremely low unit acquisition cost (fly away) compared with the current 4th generation programmes, as well as a considerably reduced life-cycle cost. This is because of the large number of orders secured (economies of scale) and, as a result, of the viability of the programme for the coming decades, but also because of the characteristics of modern design, development and production processes adopted by Lockheed Martin throughout the course of the programme to date.

Finally, I want to stress the multi-national structure of the programme, for which the European dimension of the F-35 is significant. Several European countries already participate as partners in the programme, suggesting the need and the desire of these countries for the transition and transformation to a 5th generation fighter programme technology.

GDL: What is Lockheed Martin’s experience from its cooperation with the Hellenic defense industry?

DP: Lockheed Martin, within the framework of the F-16 fighter acquisitions over the last 25 years, has implemented, with great success, a series of offset benefit and co-production programmes aimed at the upgrade of the operational capabilities of the Armed Forces, but also the reinforcement of the domestic defence industry. HAI, during the last 15 years, is the sole source supplier of Lockheed Martin, internationally, for specific F-16 fighter aircraft parts (air ducts, tail, fuel tanks and other), as well as for major fuselage parts for the C-130J transport aircraft.

As I mentioned before, Lockheed Martin has made significant investments at HAI and coupled with the international demand for F-16s and C-130J, it has provided HAI a large workload, alongside all the benefits that comes with this.

The Hellenic defence industry is a national asset and as such needs to be addressed. Continuous modernisation is important with new capabilities, technologies and training. It is only through major programme participation, such as the F-16, the C-130J and eventually the F-35, that the Greek defence industry will remain modern, competitive and relevant.

Focused on serving the needs of international markets – Metka

GDL: Giorgos Economou, Deputy General Manager of the EPC Projects Department and Factory Manager of Mytilineos tells us about the course of Metka over the past few years?

GE: Mytilineos’ factory in Volos is part of the Greek industrial history. From 1964 it is working continuously, despite difficulties. It hasn’t stopped, not even during the pandemic of Covid-19, without risking the health of its employees.

Today the factory is undertaking serious defence projects exporting patriot launchers and battle tanks to countries in the Middle East through American and German Contractors. The number of technical employees is increasing and the prospects are very positive.

GDL: What are Metka’s major investment plans?

GE: Are new investment plans have to do with new machinery, equipment, special jigs and fixtures.

GDL: What initiatives has the company undertaken to achieve the greatest possible degree of self-reliance in equipment (Hellenisation)?

GE: The Company targets Hellenisation by supporting new design, developing the MDP (Manufacturing Data Procedures) and constructing special tooling (jigs and fixtures) to facilitate production and improve productivity.

Outstanding experience in the electronics sector – Miltech

 

GDL: We asked the Business Development Manager and BoD Member of Miltech Hellas, Stephen Kiosseoglou, how does Miltech compare with other defence companies in terms of range and technology?

SK: Miltech Hellas SA is one of the leading Hellenic companies in the defence sector specialising in design and manufacture of high quality cost effective electro-optic and electronic products for defence applications. The company was established in 1997 and since then, it has been able to develop and provide a wide range of products and services. Our vast experience in handling and successfully completing high demanding projects and our strategic alliances and seamless collaboration with world-wide leading defence companies is a key indicator for our global presence in the defence sector. We are proud of our award tracking record in both national and international tenders against very powerful, in terms of capabilities, competitors.

What is more, Miltech is active in research and innovation projects (Horizon2020, EDIDP, National Research Calls) and has close collaborations with universities and research institutes, both national and abroad. Technology plays a crucial role in defence, nowadays. Miltech, being aware of that, always invests in new technologies and high expertise personnel in order not to follow, but rather pace the way in technological achievements.

GDL: What is your marketing strategy?

SK: National and international exhibitions; and presence in defence related magazines.

Being confident about our products, we strongly believe in “living” marketing, i.e., the best commercial is the feedback from our customers. We put a serious effort to keep the performance to price ratio as high as possible.

GDL: What is the contribution of Miltech to the self-sufficiency of the Hellenic Armed Forces?

SK: Greece, due to both its particular terrain and geopolitical position, requires systems to respond to all potential threats. We strongly believe and promote the so-called “after-sales service” and we seek valuable feedback from all our customers. Thus, we continuously upgrade our systems and develop new ones, according to Hellenic Armed Forces’ requirements and needs. Miltech has succeeded in translating the requirements into reliable systems, especially suitable (and most of the times customised) for the Hellenic territory.

Miltech has provided a plethora of surveillance systems and devices to Hellenic Army, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard and Police Force. It is our strong will to continue and further develop our collaboration, being always on stand-by for the next challenging requirement that may arise.

Strengthening the competitiveness of Greek shipping

 

 

Greek seafaring is, over time, one of the healthiest and most extroverted sectors of the Greek economy and at the same time a key pillar for the country’s future economic development and employment. At European level, the European shipping industry contributes around €60 billion/year to European GDP while providing more than 600,000 direct and more than 500,000 indirect jobs in the EU Member States, of which 190,000 in Greece.

 

The Greek State, and in particular the Ministry of Martitime Affairs and Insular Policy, recognising the contribution of shipping to the economy, and at the level of social cohesion on a macroeconomic horizon, supports shipping activities on a steady basis, through a framework of positive measures aimed at improving the competitiveness of the shipping industry and its interconnection with other business and economic activities, seeking multiplier economic benefits. In addition, the attraction of ships in the national register, as well as shipping companies in the country, is a constant priority of the Greek shipping policy.

With coordinated efforts of the Greek Government, shipping entrepreneurs and the shipping labour force despite the highly competitive international environment and the long-term recession of the shipping markets, as well as the growing protectionist tendencies on the part of various countries, the sizes of Greek Merchant Marine demonstrate the continuation of its competitive position and the primacy of Piraeus as a global shipping centre, an assembly centre of companies with a significant global number of managed ships.

The Greek flag is classified as a ‘quality flag’, listed in the White List of the Paris MOU, with a significantly lower age profile than the average age of the world’s fleet. It is built by a dynamic fleet of traditional (mainly cargo, bulk and tankers), but also specialised ships of modern technology (LNG, LPG) offering special advantages and quality features that make it highly competitive in the international shipping arena.

An important role in the management and further development of this shipping capital is played by the shipping companies of Law 27/1975, which have established offices in Greece and manage ships of Greek or foreign flags over 500gt and so on, as well as the shipping companies of Law 959/1979, which own Greek-flagged ships and manage Greek or foreign-flagged ships.

At the beginning of last year, the total number of active companies of article 25 of Law 27/1975 was 1,401 companies compared to 1,387 companies the year before. Comparing the data, there is an increase in the total number of installed shipping companies of Law 27/75 by 1%, following the overall growth trend of recent years in terms of companies operating in Greece. Out of a total of 1,401 companies, 795 were active in the field of ship management and 606 were active in other shipping items (charter brokerage, purchase, sale, shipbuilding, etc).

Comparing the data between the last two to three years there is a significant increase in the number of managing, by the established companies, of the fleet by 2.37% and of its capacity by 3.42%. 2% of the management companies oversee more than 50 ships, while 8% more than 20 ships. This increase reflects the dynamics of Greek shipping, which continues to provide quality jobs while supporting employment.

The human resources (shipmasters, chief engineers, accountants, shipbuilders, electrical engineers, shipping lawyers, etc) are highly specialised and highly skilled in shipping. In this sense giving special weight to one of the main goals of creating a competitive shipping network and at the same time highlighting the country and especially the wider region of Piraeus as one of the largest centres of international maritime know-how (maritime cluster know-how), giving significant benefits to the Greek economy.

Q&A: Minister of Maritime Affairs & Insular Policy, Yiannis Plakiotakis

 

 

“We have developed a number of specific measures to support maritime work by recognising the specifics of the maritime profession.”

 

 

GDL: How has the Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Insular Policy confronted and participated in the battle against the Covid-19 pandemic?

YP: The first priority of all of us, in this difficult time, was the protection of public health, as well as the people around us. The Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Insular Policy took all the necessary measures in a timely manner to reduce the spread of the Pandemic. Measures are continuously examined and adapted daily.

From the first moment, we restricted maritime connections with Albania and Italy, restricted the arrival of private ships and yachts coming from abroad and prohibited the arrival of cruise ships in Greek ports. We then restricted the ability of ships to sail to the islands, allowing only permanent residents to travel there, for absolutely necessary reasons. We also banned swimming, amateur and underwater fishing, while suspending the operation of the country’s public Merchant Maritime Schools by establishing tele-education, so that the semester is not lost for students. At the same time, we implemented a repatriation programme for Greek citizens from abroad.

There is no doubt that we have taken difficult and unpopular measures to reduce the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic and in doing so we have managed to minimise the number of cases, ensuring the uninterrupted connection between islands and mainland Greece.

GDL: In the midst of the pandemic, Greece was also encountering an increased influx of refugees and migrants via the sea. How did you cope with this reality?

YP: It is true that just a few days before the Covid-19 pandemic passed through Europe, migration flows to our islands had increased. At that time we had taken drastic measures to reduce them and we had already achieved this to a significant extent before the spread of the pandemic and the protection measures.

In the midst of the pandemic, there was a significant downward to zero trend of immigration flows with just a few attempts of illegal passage. It is noteworthy that such a decrease in the migration phenomenon (in zero or double digits) had not been previously recorded since the first half of 2012. This is attributed, on the one hand, to the timely detection of the incidents by the Hellenic Coast Guard and to the deterrent action recorded by forcing the Turkish authorities to respond to our request and on the other hand to the escalation of the Covid-19 pandemic in Turkey and its own restrictions to control it.

GDL: With respect to the sustainability of coastal shipping and meeting the needs of the islands, what initiatives have you undertaken so far?

YP: Both in coastal shipping and island entrepreneurship, and within the context of initiatives taken to alleviate sectors affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, the Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Insular Policy has taken a number of specific and important measures covering critical parameters.

The connection of our islands with the mainland, the smooth operation of businesses, jobs, but also the further strengthening of the workers in the shipping industry were kept constant. We are strengthening the market with a liquidity of more than 33 million euros, while we are working with the relevant Ministries to develop a special programme to strengthen shipping companies affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, using European resources.

We supported island businesses with the institution of transport equivalent to resources of 11.2 million euros.

In cooperation with the Ministries of Finance and Development, an additional funding of 15 million euros was secured to ensure maritime transport services to the island areas, with the ultimate goal of leaving no island without a ferry connection. This funding was added to the 3.5 million euros with which maritime transport was strengthened since the beginning of the measures to limit the virus to the minimum due to the shipping service of the island regions of 29 connecting lines of the national and local shipping network.

The possibility of activating the procedure for additional assignments of public service contracts for a specific route or itineraries to the main and local ferry network has been provided for by an emergency legislative regulation.

In this way, the Ministry of Maritime Affairs And Insular Policy ensures the uninterrupted connection of the islands with the mainland and with each other, as well as the adequate and efficient transport of passengers and goods. Also, an advance payment of 50% for the leases for public service contracts in coastal shipping was granted for the months of February, March and April. According to the first calculations of the Directorate of Maritime Transport of the Ministry, it is estimated that this amount will amount to 7.5 million Euros.

We have developed a number of specific measures to support maritime work by recognising the specifics of the maritime profession. The provision of insurance capacity for unemployed sailors has already been provided for, the provision of emergency financial assistance to sailors as compensation for special purpose to sailors whose shipping contracts are suspended and to sailors whose shipping contract was terminated.

In the field of maritime education, we have made available to the teaching staff and students of the Merchant Navy’s public schools a modern telecommunications service using the digital platform Microsoft Teams in a free academic version, with the possibility of teleconferencing, simultaneous digital exchanges and digital archives, automatically create classes and classrooms based on the number of students attending each school.

5,313 students and 277 teachers are enrolled in the e-learning platform and e-learning. At the same time, procedures are underway to immediately implement the process of modern distance education using the digital platform Microsoft Teams (in a free academic version) and in public schools of postgraduate education, training and the training of merchant marine studies and naval officers in all categories and specialties.

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