Defence Minister Nikolaos Panagiotopoulos appeared on Friday, the Day of Distinguished Visitors of the multinational exercise “DEFENDER Europe 21” held in Alexandroupolis Port, after accepting an invitation from the U.S. Ambassador to Greece Geoffrey Pyatt.
The event was attended by not only Panagiotopoulos, but also the Chief of General Staff, General Konstantinos Floros, the Chief of General Staff, Lieutenant General Charalambos Lalousis, as well as the American Lieutenant General Christofer Mohan.
Members of parliament, representatives of the Regional and Local Government, local businessmen and representatives of social organizations were also present.
After touring the multinational exercise site, which will be conducted from May 17 to June 2 under the leadership of the U.S. Army with the Objective of preventing aggression and building NATO operational readiness with the Allies, Panagiotopoulos made a speech.
It is with great pleasure that I am here today on the day of distinguished visitors of the exercise for “Defender Europe 21”, an exercise in which forces from 26 countries participate, confirming the excellent level of cooperation but at the same time the strategic character of the Port of Alexandroupolis.
I am particularly pleased with the positive results, after the upgrade of the functionality of the Port of Alexandroupolis and the ability to moor large ships, which is evidenced by the key role it played in transporting forces and materials for the Exercise.
It is also obvious that Alexandroupolis can attract, due to its geostrategic position, large investments that include new infrastructure projects at the piers, refueling terminal facilities (FSRU), the connection with the railway network but also with the National Highway and the planned expansion in the area of the NATO Fuel Pipeline. These investments will contribute to the stimulation of economic activity, creating new jobs, thus multiplying the benefits for our country.
As I have had the opportunity to point out in the past, the transport infrastructure and the road network of the wider area create the conditions for the port of Alexandroupolis to become a strategic hub on a vertical axis to the north to express transport people and goods, also of particular importance for Europe ‘s energy security.
Exercise “Defender Europe 21” is added to a wide range of activities in the field of defence cooperation between Greece and the United States, a strategic and mutually beneficial cooperation, which is inspired by the desire of both countries to contribute, in essence, to its security, stability and prosperity. of our wider area.
We have the common will to further strengthen our strategic defence relationship in order to ensure the maintenance of a strong, efficient and interoperable armed forces and, at the same time, to promote the economic development and prosperity of our Homeland.
Today, I would like to express my satisfaction with the excellent level of the Greek-US strategic cooperation in the defense sector, on the one hand, to highlight the significant contribution, commitment and tireless efforts of the US Embassy and Ambassador Pyatt, and on the other our intention to further strengthen it by extending and deepening the Mutual Defense Cooperation Agreement (MDCA).
You all know that the Eastern Mediterranean is a region of great strategic importance which offers increased prospects and opportunities for stability, growth and prosperity. At the same time, however, it is accompanied by common security challenges, threats and other factors that we must address together.
Greece is a credible, strong and consistent ally and remains a pillar of stability throughout the Eastern Mediterranean, the Middle East and North Africa. We always seek cooperation and relations based on international law and the principles of good neighborliness. Today, with our presence in an important military activity, we emphasise, from the remote Alexandroupolis, in every direction, that Greece is always ready to defend its sovereign rights, and will do so decisively and effectively if required.
Thank you for your attention and once again closing to express my great satisfaction for all the effort in this project here to upgrade the Port of Alexandroupolis, by all involved, by our American friends, by the executives of the Organization Limenas, from the local community at the level of Local Government that embraced the project, because they saw as we all saw, as I personally see the huge perspective for the place. Initiatives like this will put the Eastern Macedonian region on the map even more, even more dynamically and strategically.
When there is a possibility to move this volume of troops, these systems, helicopters, heavy vehicles, tanks from the arrival of ships in the port of Alexandroupolis, loading and unloading, -mast effort, huge task, great demands- by connection with the railway to be advanced either to the road axis, or to the north with the possibility of interconnection, because it is not only the Egnatia that connects east and west, but also the vertical axes that connect the south with our Balkan north, the Balkan hinterland and even more far away. All this is of great strategic importance. The Region of Eastern Macedonia and Thrace, but especially Alexandroupolis, enter the map very dynamically as a central strategic reference point in the wider region with all that entails.
Congratulations to all involved. There is still a lot of work to be done and will be done because the beginning showed very optimistic results and the strategic relationship between Greece and the USA is expanding and our work, our task is to do what we can to deepen it, to strengthen it even more so through such activities there is the practical proof that all this is no longer theory but is proven and evolving dynamically in practice.
Thank you again.”