HomeGreeceSpeech of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Nikos Dendias, in the Parliamentary...

Speech of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Nikos Dendias, in the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Defense and Foreign Affairs, regarding the new Statutes of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (19 February 2021)

Mr. Chairman, thank you. I will not prolong much the discussion, which has already gone on for over three hours. I would like to thank my colleagues for their observations and the usual calm and positive atmosphere in which we are discussing matters that concern the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. I would like to start by explaining why this legislation runs in so many pages. This draft law is the combination and modernization of five presidential decrees, three laws and one organisational statute set out in Law 3566/2007. This explains its length. I listened closely to the observations regarding the organizational section that could have stood as separate legislation and not be included in this piece of legislation. But I must say that the central legislative committee (KENE) does not share this view, and also that, for the future, there is article 20 of the law, the authorising decree, which, again in the opinion of KENE, will take the form of a presidential decree and not a ministerial decision. I agree with this view. So, the actual choice we had here is either that of a presidential decree for the statute or the option of a law. The choice of a law was adopted, first and foremost, because it allows for a detailed debate, which I value. It doesn’t introduce a piece of legislation ‘en-bloc’ as a governmental proposal, and I thank you for recognizing that it is not being introduced through the codification procedure, though it could have been. We are pursuing dialogue and debate, and no one at the Ministry claims to be infallible. Corrections, thoughts and discussion are, of course, accepted. However, I may explain the length and why in fact the statute was included in this law. This law was necessary, my dear Mr. Loverdos, because it incorporates economic diplomacy, which was not part of the Foreign Ministry’s portfolio.It incorporates public diplomacy, which was not part of the Foreign Ministry’s portfolio. And it also incorporates Greeks Abroad into the core of the Ministry. Which wasn’t the case. So there was no choice; this law was necessary. And neither does this law complete the reform of this particular sector. It is just the first stage, however many pages it runs to. The reform includes the digital transformation of the Ministry, which is under way and is absolutely necessary. The reorganization of the Diplomatic Academy is also absolutely necessary. There’s no point in reforming the Ministry by incorporating economic diplomacy if we don’t also reform the Diplomatic Academy. Both the syllabus and the way it is taught. The restructuring of the missions abroad is also of utmost importance and not contained herein. I think – at least certainly from the perspective of Elliniki Lisi, and I think also from KINAL – I heard the observation that the distribution of missions abroad is incorrect. But the missions abroad are not in this law. In fact, Mr. Mylonakis made an initial statement that he is reading the legislation. Where in the legislation did he read about the missions abroad and proportionality? That isn’t in the bill. We should read what’s in the law. Not what isn’t in the law. And the last thing is the reform of the Export Credit Insurance Organization. All of these have to comprise the new framework of the Ministry. Through this legislation, the Ministry is being organized on three pillars. International relations, economic relations and openness, and public diplomacy and Greeks abroad. I understand the argument for the creation of a separate Public Diplomacy secretariat in the future. But allow me to say that, with the human resources and capabilities we have at this stage, I think there are a lot of synergies that can be served. Like the basic thinking that Greeks Abroad – and by the way, I accept your observation, Mr. Chairman – but as for the term ‘Council’, it is in the Constitution. And therefore it can’t be changed by law.But diaspora Greeks are an important chapter in our public diplomacy. If we’re being honest, given our country’s financial situation, they may be the most important chapter in our public diplomacy. Two General Secretariats are being created. A General Secretariat for International and Economic Relations and the new General Secretariat for Greeks Abroad and Public Diplomacy, which is a merger. I think we all agree on the return to operation of the World Council of Hellenes Abroad. I think the reduction in individual organizational units is now necessary. I’ll come back to that later, because you were kind enough to make specific observations, and I’ll explain why. The new Strategic and Departmental Planning Directorate serves an obvious need. What criticism is always levelled at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in this hall? Even if, in my opinion, it is unfair and exaggerated. What does the opposition always say? You don’t have a strategy. But shouldn’t there be a specific Directorate tasked with drawing up a strategy inside the Ministry and distributing it to the individual departments of the Ministry? Moreover, the Foreign Policy planning centre, a think-tank inside the Ministry, is absolutely necessary. Just as it is absolutely necessary to create a new structure for development and humanitarian aid, because “YDAS” (Hellenic Aid)– due to past sins that don’t bear on our debate here today – has essentially stopped functioning. It’s just somewhere problems are stored. Nothing more.And a human resources training and development directorate is also being created. We have to have this at a Ministry where human resources are actually the greater part of our assets. It’s the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. It operates through its human resources. So there has to be a directorate that deals with training and development of human resources.The rationalisation of statutory positions is obvious. Thank you for noticing that the reduction is being made to positions that were never filled. We’re not cutting jobs when these positions were never filled. Hopefully we’ll be able to fill the 800 [diplomatic positions] we have here, my dear colleagues. And of course, there is the unanimous support of Parliament on the matter of increasing the Ministry’s budget, which is a view I share, and we’ll see how we can channel this unanimous support. There was criticism of the Ministry’s budget, of course. As you know, the Ministry’s budget is not addressed by the legislation we are discussing today. But I certainly agree that it is very limited. It has long been the favourite target of cuts, regardless of which government was in power. Regardless of the government or party, the budget of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was cut ruthlessly, resulting in today’s meagre budget. On the subject of directorates, I was criticised for doing away with the China directorate. It wasn’t a separate China directorate. It was China, North and South Korea and Mongolia, and it is being converted to Asia and Oceania. This logic governs the whole piece of legislation. I’m using it as an example. It holds true for the United States. Why? Because in the framework of globalization, a directorate has to see the broader relations in the context of a group of countries. And you can’t make those observations if there are separate directorates for individual countries. Beyond that, there is, of course, a smaller, individual unit that deals with China, but as we move up the chain, there has to be streamlined thinking. These are the current trends, which are served by this legislation. We’ll see if it works. There are no guarantees. I want to be frank. Nothing is guaranteed in life. It really is a new approach. It is better served by the reduced human resources we have. If it turns out it doesn’t work, we won’t go back to the previous model, but perhaps to smaller units.But there is an obvious link, for example, between the policy and economy of China, on one hand, and Oceania as a whole right now. This is very obvious. In other words, through which directorate do we address the problems that concern the South China Sea? You get my point. The matter of time for considering the law. I think there was adequate time. I think one or two colleagues who said there wasn’t enough time – we discussed it at the Council of Foreign Policy. The consultation was longer than usual. This law was circulated and everyone was strongly encouraged to bring ideas, including labour unions. The issue of the Patriot missiles. I say this because it is the clear stance of the government. The government will sign an agreement with Saudi Arabia on the Patriot missiles. But the Patriot missiles are not offensive weapons; they are defensive weapons. They are not directed against anyone. They defend one’s airspace. Just to be clear. Greece does not project aggressive power anywhere.As for insurance coverage, I agree completely. There is no issue there, I don’t disagree on this. It is something that has to do with the Finance Ministry. We’ll see if we can all come together to achieve something better. The problem is exactly as it was stated. I wholeheartedly agree with the need and the proposed solutions. If we can’t provide an overall solution, we’ll try to provide case-by-case solutions, but it is obvious that a diplomat serving in a country outside the European Union can’t be left without insurance coverage. There’s no doubt about that. Ladies and gentlemen, colleagues, thank you very much for taking part in the debate. We have time to discuss the articles in the second debate, and to improve the law in the plenary session. I reiterate, no one is claiming to be infallible, and we are always at your disposal to make improvements that will serve the common goal, which is to exercise an effective foreign policy for our homeland. Thank you very much. Source

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