- - Monday, July 8, 2019


In the aftermath of EU Parliamentary Elections, the political infrastructure of Greece, the birthplace of democracy, has been rattled to its foundations.

With our Parliament dissolved and as we prepare for snap general elections on July 7, our citizens are well aware that their nation has, for far too long, suffered from economic turmoil, with continued sacrifices being made within a broken political system.

In short, our country longs for change.

Greece demands the type of change that re-establishes our identity, breaks us free from the hegemony of others and puts its national priorities back on the frontlines of our leaders’ consciousness.

The type of change that places the priorities of country first. Stop me if you’ve heard this before.

Yes, throughout the Mediterranean, it is Greece that holds the strongest partnership with the United States, reinforced under a Trump administration which has placed the needs of its citizenry as paramount. Today, this is the country with which we must have the most politically in common.

Most recently, I adamantly supported the United States in their opposition to Turkey’s apparent acquisition of the S-400 missile defense system from Russia. However it’s clear that Athens has much more in common with our friends in Washington than shared regional security interests.

We too have suffered from a destabilizing economic crisis, save only for the fact that ours goes on. And we, in the spirit of the slogan used by President Trump, President Reagan and those before them, believe it’s high time we ‘Make Greece Great Again.’ And this can only be accomplished by assessing our geopolitical situation, comparing and contrasting it with the successful examples set by others and doing what is necessary to put Greece first.

Despite periodic criticisms on the home front, the United States has emphasized at every turn energy independence, reducing taxes, decreasing public spending, creating jobs and eliminating outdated bureaucratic ties and red tape restraining economic development.

I believe in this approach. And while Greece remains of course, a partner within the European Union (EU) and we admire the values for which it was formed, we are susceptible to the burdens of similar red tape and are engaging in what is presently an unequal and outdated bureaucratic partnership scenario.

With our economic priorities dictated by others, serving at the whim of Germany, our banking system steadily crumbled and we have been forced to make sweeping changes to pensions, labor and regulatory policies, our tax system, and other areas, which afflicted dramatically the quality of life for Greek citizens across the spectrum.

This includes its potential leaders of tomorrow — Compared to our other EU peers, Greece still holds the highest youth unemployment rate, at roughly 40 percent. This dilemma has forced many to leave our shores, a “brain drain” deterring our brightest and best from seeking a future at home.

Much like the United States, we must also prioritize fortifying our territorial integrity and shoring up our security interests. Our national airspace, our maritime borders, the East Mediterranean and the Aegean Sea themselves, fall under constant challenge (including illegal activity by Turkey within the economic zone of Cyprus challenging resource extraction operations, provocations perhaps guided by Iran).

While we cherish the value of human life and the contributions of all to our society, unlawful immigration so too poses a challenge to Greece, not only constraining our economy but, if not properly checked, threatening the safety within our city streets.

We must support routes to energy independence and regional strength, as the United States does — Indeed, Greece serves as a potential pole and alternative conduit of energy in to Europe. For instance, a recent agreement to create a natural gas bank in Alexandroupoli will dramatically enhance our country’s status as potential power-player in its production. Greece must take the steps necessary to unilaterally work for its people in leveraging these developments.

Our nation, given its vast potential, should continue to pursue closer political, economic and military ties to countries such as the United States, to accountable and mutual benefit. For 27 years, I served as an active member of parliament and government to achieve this. Today, while our political system continues to suffer from longstanding paralysis, it’s my view that more now can be accomplished from outside of the status quo.

However, I remain a concerned Greek citizen. The actions that we as a people take today will have severe ramifications to what will be the Greek identity tomorrow and for generations to come. I believe that I can contribute significantly to the defense and preservation of this identity, and vow to work for the interests of the Hellenic people, work with other progressive voices around the world in the process, and together forge a new movement of unshakeable, lasting change.

No matter the outcome of our general elections, we must follow suit with our American colleagues. We must put Greece first.

• Panos Kammenos is the former defense minister of Greece and leader of its Independent Greeks (ANEL) Party.

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