Istanbul '09 Workshop
Global Security in Times of Economic Uncertainty
His Excellency Evangelos Vassilios I. Meimarakis
Hellenic Minister of National Defence
It is a great pleasure and honour for me to be in this wonderful city on the banks of the Bosphorus on the occasion of the 26th International Workshop on Global Security, in response to the invitation of the Workshop Chairman and my Turkish counterpart Mr. Gönül. The visit to this city is always a pleasant experience. And the exchange of views on international security in today’s difficult global economic climate is a particularly interesting challenge.
Recent conditions formulated a new and highly uncertain international environment characterized by new threats. The classic concept of threat is now obsolete. What is predominant today is the new concept of asymmetric threat. Moreover, social conditions, the terms of international controversies and conditions for cooperation, as well as the ongoing global multi-level financial, credit and funding economic crisis, have come upon us like an avalanche. The international financial crisis that we know today, which is admittedly the greatest global crisis of the last 80 years, not only reflects the actual dimensions of the situation we are experiencing in the economy, but also in our society and civilization as well. Indeed, the ongoing international financial crisis is a parameter that feeds instability, which consequently affects global security.
CURRENT THREATS TO GLOBAL SECURITY
If someone wanted to record the threats facing the global security system of today, he should then refer to:
- Terrorism. The September 11th events in New York marked the conception of modern threats and the sense of security for all mankind. Since that tragedy, the international community has invested thousands of human lives and billions of euros to counter terrorism.
- Nuclear arms proliferation and armaments control. The unjustifiable insistence of some countries to acquire a nuclear arsenal clearly affects the current international security system; in the same context, the often uncontrolled proliferation of nuclear technology, materials and weapons, constitutes a substantial threat to international security.
- Energy security. The concentration of control regarding energy sources and their transportation nets also constitutes a potential threat to international security, which often intensifies the economic crisis and creates instability between nations. Greece supports the EU and NATO strategy to diversify energy sources and the demarcation, if possible, of the energy resources ownership from the transport management, thus aiming toward an unhindered movement of such energy resources.
- Threats in cyberspace. The evolution of technology and certainly the dependence of modern defence systems and governmental organization function on electronic technology offer an action environment to those who would want to plan a cyber attack on the defence systems and governmental organization operations.
- Piracy. Almost two centuries after its first appearance, the problem of international piracy has emerged again in an intense way-a contemporary modern threat to international trade and the global economy with political, legal, and social implications.
- Climate change. The problem of climate change, the consequences of which confront us more vividly every day, not only has economic and social impacts but also constitutes a threat to global security because the whole situation results in a forced population displacement. Today, we use the knowledge from our past experiences in having had to manage many times the consequences of forced population displacement between neighboring countries in Africa.
- Financial Immigrants. A particular parameter which influences international security is the wave of illegal financial immigrants; it must be addressed as such, particularly the high percentage of illegal immigrants deriving mainly from countries with prevailing instability, lack of democracy, and ongoing crisis. The wave of illegal immigrants is a potential threat to the more developed Western societies which has serious social, economic, and political impacts. As an indication, I will mention that Greece receives about 150,000 immigrants annually. The vast majority come from Pakistan, Iraq and Afghanistan, out of which we currently host 46,000 illegal economic immigrants.
It is easy to understand the potential risk of directed malevolent elements infiltrating into this impoverished population of illegal immigrants. The same illegal immigrants can easily become subject to recruitment from various groups for terrorist purposes.
ADDRESSING THE CHALLENGES: THE NEED TO WORK TOGETHER
Specifically in order to address this problem of illegal immigration, Greece and the European Union are looking to Turkey for further effective and efficient cooperation.
In light of the above, mankind as a whole-societies, governments and institutions and individuals as well-are all obliged to work collectively in a good cooperative spirit and with solidarity. Only with understanding and comprehension and the right effort can we overcome the crisis. Only by working together as communities, states, and institutions, can we achieve progress and consolidate security and development.
Among the means we have today to deal with the situation and the potential threats described above, NATO, which celebrates its 60th anniversary this year, holds the dominant position. It is undoubtedly a key factor of stability in an international environment which is characterized by fluidity and in which regional areas of tension and conflict pose potential risks to stability and security in the world. Six decades after its inception, the North Atlantic Alliance, which unites the two sides of the Atlantic, remains the primary force to guarantee peace and security worldwide. With the collaboration of Europe and America, we continue to defend our common values and principles and our common security.
Over time, the Alliance has proven able to adapt to changing conditions in the field of global security. In recent years and in order to respond as efficiently as possible to the challenges of the post-Cold War era, especially after September 11, the Alliance has inaugurated among other measures a process of political and defence transformation. This transformation constitutes the basis for improving the operational readiness and effectiveness of NATO forces and for NATO’s evolution from an Alliance in the strict sense into an international security Organization.
Toward this goal, moreover, the enlargement of NATO with countries that share common principles and values with the Member States and respect the rules of good neighborliness and the peaceful settlement of disputes is particularly important. In this framework, Greece has consistently supported the Euro-Atlantic prospect of the Western Balkan countries, which relates to stability and development in the broader area.
Greece has been a NATO member for more than half a century and its contribution to the Alliance is known and proven, for example, our participation in Operation Active Endeavour in the Mediterranean and the ongoing peace efforts of KFOR in Kosovo and ISAF in Afghanistan. ISAF is the primary mission of the Alliance. Its success depends on the continuation of coordinated and intensive efforts to establish a secure and democratic state with the goal that the Afghan people will assume the management of the affairs of their country (Afghan ownership).
In this respect, Greece is among those supporting a comprehensive approach, believing firmly that there can be no exclusive military solution to the complex challenges we confront in that country.
Furthermore, being a maritime country, Greece participates in the international developments on combating the piracy problem, supporting and participating in NATO’s efforts, promoting the cooperation of all international bodies operating in the region, and avoiding duplication of activities.
In particular, I refer to Greece’s contribution of one frigate to the EU-led international force in Operation ATALANTA to fight piracy in Somalia, and the recent contribution of one more frigate to the NATO-led operation under the code name Ocean Shield with the same objective.
Along with the international activation of NATO in the security field, the EU activities in the same direction are of crucial importance. The presence of the EU in the Balkans, Afghanistan, and Congo and the international effort to tackle the problem of piracy make the EU one of the guarantors of global security.
Please allow me at this point to make a specific reference to the position of my country in the broader region where Greece leads in promoting cooperation on concrete initiatives, recognizing that modern concerns in geopolitical, geostrategic, and economic fields require commitment from all of us to deal with them effectively.
The security policy being implemented by Greece is based on the following principles:
- The security of one is the security of the other.
- Europe’s security is closely related to security and stability in the Balkans.
- To invest in a country’s development is equivalent to investing in the security of the country and of the broader region as well.
In recent years, Greece’s foreign policy has been playing a particular role in the region. We consistently monitor the developments in the Balkans and actively participate with adapted programming, planning and implementation, as required by the country’s geostrategic and geopolitical position in the broader region.
Our position coincides with our unwavering dedication to the values of democracy and peace and has been proven by our country’s significant contribution to international security and stability through its participation in peacekeeping operations.
The main axis of our policy is the development of equal bilateral relations and our country’s activation in the framework of international organizations, actively participating in both their political planning as well as in their activities. Being an old member of NATO and the EU, Greece is constantly seeking and working at all levels in order to achieve security, stability, development, and progress in the broader area.
SECURITY IN THE BALKANS AND IN THE MEDITERRANEAN
I must stress that Greece is now an important economic factor in the Balkans, contributing with investments and allocation of national resources to stability, development, and progress throughout the region. Indicatively, Greece has invested in the region of Southeastern Europe (the Balkans, including Turkey) 13.25 billion euros. For example, the banking sector alone employs 34,757 personnel from the local populations.
The security of Europe is closely linked to security and stability in the Mediterranean region. For this reason, Greece attaches particular importance to promoting cooperation between countries of the Mediterranean Dialogue. The overall objective of the Mediterranean Dialogue is to contribute to regional security and stability through stronger practical cooperation, interoperability, intelligence, defence reforms, counter-terrorism, natural disaster response and humanitarian aid, as well as through education and science. A review of the Mediterranean Dialogue from 1994 onwards demonstrates the significant efforts concerning confidence-building and mutual understanding and enhancement of cooperation, not only within the Alliance, but also between the Mediterranean partners.
We do not desire and cannot tolerate any new situations that might create obstacles again in the path towards a better future. We aspire to play an essential role in a difficult but necessary venture, namely the transformation of the broader area into a neighborhood of peace, stability, and development. For this reason, we are working systematically to establish an environment of trust, mutual understanding, and cooperation aimed at fostering progress and prosperity for our countries and peoples.
The promotion of democracy and the consolidation of peace and stability in Southeastern Europe is a primary goal for Greece, especially given the fact that national conflicts and financial losses in some parts of the developing world result in the creation of migratory flows towards Europe. Up to a certain point, the absorption of financial immigrants may not be problematic; however, the E.U.’s willingness to accept them is not unlimited.
The international environment and the potential resulting risks and security requirements I have described require large investments in the fields of security and defence.
Unfortunately, these demands do not coincide with the current economic crisis management requirements at the national and international level. The economy ministers and the communities themselves demand cuts in defence funding in order to cover other social needs. Therefore, the equation to be solved by the defence ministers is very difficult. In other words, this means that with fewer funds we have to cover broader and more expensive requirements of defence and security.
THE WAY AHEAD: RESTRUCTURING, RE-PRIORITIZATION, RATIONALIZATION
In order to manage the situation, three courses of action must be implemented by defence ministers at the national level or by international security organizations (e.g. NATO) at the international level:
- Restructuring of the defence mechanism organization
- Rationalization of defence expenditure and military investment.
Especially in the case of multinational peace operations, we can save significant amounts at the national level so that through multilateral cooperation we can address the costs of joint multinational operations.
However, as far as the financing of international humanitarian and development projects is concerned, Greece is seeking to maintain the rate of funding without being influenced by the economic crisis. Our decision follows the principles of our foreign policy according to which investments in the economic development of a region constitute investments in the stability and security of this region and the international environment in general.
In this context, Greece has invested 62 million euros in Afghanistan since 2002, specifically for development aid. We intend to continue at the same pace with the anticipation that stability and development in the country will help prevent a considerable percentage of the country’s population from immigrating in search of new, safer places of living. I believe that if we adopt this policy, it will help my country save the costs currently paid for 46,000 illegal immigrants from Afghanistan due to the lack of security and stability in their country.
THE CORE ISSUE FOR INTERNATIONAL SECURITY:
BILATERAL RELATIONS WITH NEIGHBORING COUNTRIES
From all of the above, it is clear to what extent the current international economic situation affects or could affect international security. It would be a mistake to only depend on the amount of available defence funds to secure world peace and security. Governments are required to invest large political capital in order to confront the crisis. Concerning the problem in the Middle East, I believe that the investment of political capital by the interested parties could lead to a solution which would create the conditions for economic growth in the common region, while part of the defence funds currently available might also be invested in economic and social development.
In this spirit-meaning the need to politically invest in the relations between countries-the development of friendly relations, good neighborliness, and cooperation between neighboring countries, does not only work well for them. It also works positively to build stability, security, and economic prosperity in the broader neighborhood and region and, thus, to consolidate world peace and security.
In my opinion the core of the problem of international security lies in bilateral relations between neighboring countries. Therefore, I believe that the cultivation of good neighborly relations is the primary duty of every government. From my position I make every effort possible in this direction and I assure you that this is a fundamental principle of Greek policy towards its neighbors.
I would like to stress that Greece will continue to function as a useful and reliable source and strategic partner of the international community, actively participating in efforts to achieve peace and stability in our broader region and worldwide and assuming important roles for the restoration of peaceful living conditions in countries that have been tested by conflict.
We are deeply concerned by any development that could create instability and insecurity in our immediate and broader surroundings. On our end, our policy is to moderately and prudently confront any crisis through dialogue and peaceful means, especially in view of the increased responsibilities we have undertaken since January 1, 2009 when we assumed the OSCE presidency.
To the extent of our capabilities and despite the increased pressures and necessities at the national level, we will continue to contribute to the efforts of international organizations to progressively establish a stable and secure international environment, free from threats of destabilization.
It is my belief that regular dialogue and the exchange of views at all levels and on a broad spectrum of issues contribute to strengthening and improving the effectiveness of bilateral cooperation as well as the mutual understanding and perception of military issues of high interest for each country.
Having expressed these thoughts, I am sure that fruitful conclusions will emerge from our proposals and discussions, leading to further creative cooperation in order to ensure peace and security in the world, without cutting back on the level of prosperity we have achieved.