By Geoff Campbell
An interview held with ANEL (Independent Greeks) Party Leader and former Defence Minister Panos Kammenos and his subsequent perspective ahead of Greece-critical EU Parliamentary elections.
Please provide insight as to the state of Greece at present and in the geopolitical context of upcoming European parliamentary elections…
Greece finds itself at a critical juncture in its recent history. The way in which we manage this current phase will determine our future.
There are two notional elements that are important to consider.
One is related to the internal politics of Greece and the other is related to the European Union.
In terms of the former, the apathy of the post-junta governments, from 1974 until 2015, has highlighted the ineptitude of the Greek political leadership in responding to the aspirations of the people. As a result, the structure of our national institutions is under constant challenge and citizens have lost faith in the ruling political classes.
In terms of the latter, the German hegemony of the European Union has had a severe negative impact on Greece, and has resulted in the unprecedented crisis that we have been facing for the past eleven years.
Thanks to the Independent Greeks (ANEL) however, Greece remained in the Eurozone and the European Union, despite the offer of 80 billion euros from the then finance Minister of Germany to exit both.
Ahead of potentially pivotal European Parliamentary elections, we must pursue a course of action which will help to ensure that all EU member states are treated equally. For me, this is synonymous with maintaining national identity and dignity, resisting the pressures that have transformed the EU into a deeply unequal partnership. This is an impediment to our autonomy and would continue to be a roadblock to the slow, yet progressive steps that have been accomplished in the past four and a half years. Greece still faces structural issues and we could very easily find ourselves back to square one.
The party that I have the honour to lead is in favour of the EU. We believe in the EU, a partnership which must reflect the fundamental principles and values upon which it has been created. We are for the Union and not for the submission to the leadership of a single state.
I also believe that we must not deprive the country of other alternative alliances which can bear economic fruit.
Under a proper strategic vision, Greece’s leadership of the Mediterranean can serve as a new pole of power and an alternative conduit to European energy. But this would be impossible if we continue down the road of EU financial dependency.
Immigration is indeed a critical issue facing nations across the world and is a matter of great significance in securing the economic integrity of Greece – How do you see immigration control being managed with efficacy and in support of the national goals of the country?
I believe that Greece must stand firm and halt the flow of illegal immigration. The penal offenses of human trafficking committed by the Turkish in the Aegean, in the hope of destabilizing Greece and its European partners, must stop. Also, Greece has a certain capacity in terms of absorbing migrants, and a nation that has been made to kneel cannot take on the burden of others. It is as simple as that.
It is under my initiative that NATO developed operation SNMGII to control the flow of migration from Turkey. It has been proven to be a very successful operation despite the problems and restrictions that Turkey has imposed on the deployment of this NATO unit.
Greece is one of the preeminent points of entry for migrants and refugees from Syria, the Middle East and Africa. These circumstances are both a challenge and an opportunity for our nation. Though difficult for us to absorb the burden, we strive to face the issue with humanity and we have shown that despite the numerous impediments produced by Turkey, the values of humanity, democracy and human rights, have been upheld.
I have, since the onset of the migration crisis, publicly held the firm position that we need a unified and common approach to the European issue of migration and that we need biometric identification in order to distinguish between refugees and terrorists. Unfortunately, the EU decided not to adopt these proposals and instead has worked on an inefficient approach which has yielded negative results across the member states and seen the rise of populist parties across the EU.
At this point, I would also like to commend our partners in the United States, specifically the Trump Administration including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the respective Secretaries of Defense, for sharing these sentiments and further, for their commitment to Greece’s economic vitality and security through diplomatic and innovative avenues, such as exploring energy alternative inroads.
Young people play a perhaps critical role in upcoming national elections. How does the ANEL Party (Independent Greeks) seek to garner support at the polls; perhaps, through the youth movement?
A large part of young Greek people have migrated abroad as a consequence of the financial crisis and the impossibility to find work in Greece.
I believe that we must give young people the possibility to stay and work in Greece. In order to do that, the political rhetoric towards them needs to reflect their reality but also serve as a commitment highlighting that we, as politicians, care for them and their future.
I think it is important to convince the younger generation that they represent the next class of leaders and that their interaction with the country’s issues is important from a young age.
I encourage Greece’s youth to join our party, our ideas, societal and national goals.
I implore these young people to read through the lines and reject the heavily politicized ‘fake news’ (and even fake polls) which have permeated and distorted information made available to the public; to take note of the added-value behind working together in restoring faith in our country and putting its priorities on the frontlines of our social consciousness.
In fact, I am not addressing youth movements, but all the young men and women that share our ideals and values; join us and build the future together.
Geoff Campbell is an anti corruption activist and geopolitical media contributor.