SC131 Regional Approaches and MD Field Study - Greece/Athens
For its second visit, SC 131 landed in Greece to learn about Hellenic security policy. In Athens, Course Members met in the General Staff Facilities and were briefed by representatives of several ministries.
The Chief of Staff of the Hellenic National Defence General Staff, LtGen Christopoulos, welcomed the delegation and in his opening remarks talked about the importance of the NATO Defense College for the Hellenic Armed Forces. The occasion was marked by an exchange of gifts with the Commandant of the NATO Defense College.
The first speaker, Navy Captain Karafotias, spoke about the Hellenic National Defence College (HNDC). Describing the role and the structure of the College, he gave some information about its academic programmes and the different courses taking place there.
The topics were very well prepared and organized and gave SC 131 an overview of all the challenges the country is facing. Mr Yennimatas, spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, spoke about Greek foreign policy. This presentation was very important for Course Members to understand the concept of Greece being the strategic centre of a triangle of instability, with Ukraine forming the apex in the north and Libya and Syria in the south. The speaker described the multinational diplomatic role of Greece in this regard, offering a platform for discussion between the European countries and the Arab world. BG Theodoros Lagios, Director of National Defence Policy Directorate, then took the floor to offer a reasoned explanation of Greece’s defence policy. He clearly explained the implementation of the military strategy based on EU and NATO membership, as well as national issues, and answered a number of questions at the end of his presentation. The Course Members were very interested in Greece’s relationship with the countries in North Africa for dealing with counter-terrorism and migration issues.
Another topic of interest was the Greek economy. Dr Kremmydas from the Ministry of Finance gave a historical introduction to the Greek economy and explained all the different hard reforms the Greek Government had to impose after the 2008 crisis in order to restructure public finance. He showed the very positive effects of the measures taken in the last few years and was very positive about the future. He discussed many different aspects openly and honestly with Course Members – for example, retirement age, the 2% GDP NATO defence spending commitment, and elements of economic strategy.
The last briefing of the day was also a very important one and of great interest for Course Members. Commodore Stournaras from the Hellenic Coastguard spoke about immigration trends at Greece’s sea borders. He began with an explanation about the structure and role of the Coastguard’s naval and air contingents. He then showed how many incidents occurred in 2017, in and around the different islands. He also described migration flows and the cooperation with Turkey in the region, and showed an impressive operational video.
These briefings were exactly what the Course Members needed to get a good overview of the situation of Greece and were fully complementary to the lectures, explanations and discussions they had received in Rome.