Mr. Speaker of the Hellenic Parliament,
Messrs. Deputy Ministers,
Messrs. Chiefs of Staff,
Dear members of our Air Force.
Our Homeland welcomes today the new acquisitions of our Air Force – standing proudly here in Tanagra.
The first 6, out of a total of 24 state-of-the-art Rafales, are the first fighters to join its force, after more than a decade. A force multiplier that upgrades our country operationally, technologically, but also geopolitically. This is a new page for the blue and white wings, but also a clear demonstration of a country that is changing and prospering in all fields, economically and socially, but at the same time in Defence and diplomacy.
The new aircrafts are here, just 16 months after their order. They are armed and ready, as the crews and support staff have already completed a demanding training cycle, having learned many of their secrets.
Along with the aircrafts, comes their advanced equipment. So, the “gusts of wind” – as their name indicates – are ready to guard the Hellenic skies. Within 2022, the second part of the order with 6 more aircrafts will be delivered, and by the middle of 2023, the third one, directly followed by the six last ones of our overall armament plan.
The acquisition of the new fighters is certainly associated with the renewal of our Air Force equipment, which had become more than urgent. However, this acquisition also responds to the current needs of our defensive armor. It also responds to the conditions above the national territory and in the Aegean, while also carrying on, as it was said, the tradition of the Greek-French cooperation in the field of defense industry that essentially started with the Regime change. Entire generations of operators and technicians are now familiar with its features. A valuable experience that becomes an asset for the smooth integration of Rafale in the Greek weaponry.
This is also a front-line geostrategic development, as these new warplanes make our airforce one of the strongest in Europe and the Mediterranean, which adds to the flexibility of our national diplomacy and the country’s multifaceted alliances. And, of course, it seals the defensive alliance of Greece and France, giving new breath to the prospect of European strategic autonomy. In other words, the new Rafales that landed today are ready to take off for a better, more peaceful tomorrow for the entire region.
Let me remind you that these aircrafts will soon be operating next to new French frigates, with which they share not only weapon and electronic systems, but also a common operational philosophy.
The new International Flight Training Center will be inaugurated in Kalamata in the immediate future. Within the year, our Navy will receive the first two out of seven brand new anti-submarine helicopters, as well as the much needed torpedoes for our submarines. While the Army will be supplied with modern ammunition for the tanks.
But above all, investing in our Defense equals investing in the people who serve it. That is why today, from this place, Tanagra, I would like to announce a major requital of our country for the major duty they serve.
From now on, flight and diving allowances related to flights, parachute operations, our submarine operations, submarine disasters and minesweepers are exempt from any tax.
This measure applies primarily to the Armed Forces, but also to the Hellenic Police, the Fire Brigade and the Coast Guard. And it will also apply to compensations for executives who provide air medical assistance.
It is the minimum expression of the State’s gratitude to those who stay awake so that Greece can prosper in peace and security. The officers or non-commissioned officers hoplites of the three weapons and the security forces. But also the first-line health workers, the air rescue doctors and nurses. As well as the crews of the National Center for Emergency Assistance (EKAB) who engage in fights for health in every remote place.
A relief for themselves, always in line with the country’s budgetary potential. This, after all, permeates every choice of ours. All of the above is the implementation of a coherent program that I had described a year ago and is already being materialized. It has already been put into practice.
It is a proof not only of the government’s credibility but also of the country’s ability to carry out long-term and extremely complex plans and to implement each of their phases with speed, consistency and transparency. Responding to the demands of current circumstances but also anticipating the future ones. Therefore, dear Minister, it is worth congratulating the Ministry of Defense, the staff and the General Directorate of Armaments, who worked methodically to achieve this.
The defense policy is part of our national policy, as it has been a belief of this government that the economic and social development of Greece must be framed by shielding its security and through the uplift of its national dignity.
There can be no real prosperity for citizens without stability and freedom in the country. Nor is there any real progressive modernization, without responsible patriotism. I believe in this creative duo and I will continue to work on it.
Chief of the Air Force, I wish you all the best. Executives of our Air Force, ladies and gentlemen, any strengthening of Greece’s defense is a projection of peace. In the 21st century, there is no room for the blatant misrepresentation of history and geography nor for arbitrary and threatening fireworks. More so, when issued by neighboring countries. International law and our national vigilance respond to all these.
On the contrary, the message of our times must be truth and conciliation, always based on international law and – especially in our region – always based on the Law of the Sea.
This is the path on which Greece and Europe walk. This is what is protected by the new Rafales, for the acquisition of which we do not need anyone’s permission.
I will not stop repeating that with the same determination that the country closes the door to any threat, it also keeps open the windows of dialogue, confident in its principles that follow international rules and having the firepower, not only of its new weapons but mainly of its arguments, as the former will always prevent challenges while the latter will encourage convergences.
And in a symbolic game of history, the new fighters will join the “Falcon” Squadron, as one of the first four military planes that Greece received was called “Hierax” and it was christened by Eleftherios Venizelos. This one also came from France exactly 110 years ago. It was the moment that the fleet of our Air Force was born, which is now getting stronger than ever. The Greek-French alliance of the last decades was founded with this, and today this alliance is even more consolidated.
The landing of those first aircrafts was followed by years of prosperity and triumph for Greece and I am sure that this will happen with the arrival of their modern descendants in Tanagra.
Therefore, I welcome the pilots, who flew the planes from France, using the words of Eleftherios Venizelos: “Greece”, he had said 110 years ago, “will always monitor the progress of nations and I hope that through our planes our national idea will also lift”.
So, we wish our new Rafales and their worthy pilots and the technicians who support them “safe flights” so that they can protect Greece and Europe, spreading peace everywhere.
Safe travels to the new Rafales.