Photo: To Vima
The new administration of the Ministry of Defence is considering extending military service in Greece by three months, the new Minister Panos Panagiotopoulos said in a radio interview. Now the regular military service for young people is nine months. Circles from the Ministry of Defence have insisted for a long time that the military service of young people should be extended by three months and should again become a year. In times of crisis and financial restrictions, extending the military service is a controversial decision, but the political administration does not preclude its adoption.
"All options are being considered. I am neither positive nor negative about the issue of extending military service," Panagiotopoulos said on the air of Vima Fm, which has perplexed even more young people and families with boys who are about to do their military service . "We will have a special meeting on the issue, will examine the issue from all sides as well as the opinions of experts and then, we will make a decision," he said, but those familiar with the matter claim that the period of military service will most likely be extended.
The PASOK government with Minister Panos Beglitis was the first that tried to carry out the change, but youth organizations of political parties responded very strongly. Socialists are now the third not the first political force and their opinion does not have the same influence as before. The idea has a serious lobby in the ranks of the army and a significant opposition in the civilian world.
GRReporter contacted Kostas Isihos from the opposition party SYRIZA to understand how the radical left sees the future of the army and the need for extending the military service in Greece.
Do you support the government's intentions to extend military service?
Extending military service is an indirect way to "cover" the unemployment against which young people in Greece have been struggling. If young people stayed in the army for a longer period, , that would mean in terms of statistics fewer unemployed, discontented young people on the streets who want to change the vicious system. Youth unemployment in Greece is probably higher than in all other European countries, given that it has already reached 57% in the age group up to 35 years.
However, don’t you think that the Greek army needs reforms?
The position of SYRIZA on the issues related to military defence in general is that our system has been created entirely for the convenience of external forces - NATO and the largest military productive forces such as the U.S., Germany and France. Greece is one of the best clients and actually a victim of a corrupt system of production, trade and export of military equipment in the world. Therefore, you understand that it is not a coincidence that the traditionally governing parties in the country - PASOK and New Democracy - are embroiled in corruption scandals at an extremely high level, where "Tsochatzopoulos" case is just the tip of the iceberg.
We must first make a framework that will outline what army the country needs and what it will serve with that army. The army must be consistent with our national needs and it should be formed on the basis of a study of the human resources and the technical indicators. Beyond its normal activity to protect the borders and watch over the security of the Greek people, it should be a factor in the productive activities of the country. In such a framework, it is acceptable for us to consider the possibility of extending the military service. The army could contribute to social projects or social services, especially in times of a deep economic crisis, such as the one we are currently experiencing but we cannot support a self-serving and pointless extension of young people’s stay in the army.
So, you approve the extension of military service but under certain conditions.
We presented our positions also in our election campaign. If there is no constructive proposal for a reform of military defence, technical equipment and separation from the American interests, it makes no sense to speak of an extension of military service.
You have just said that the "Tsochatzopoulos" case is just the tip of the iceberg. Do you think that soon there will be other revelations similar to that regarding the former socialist minister of defence?
We requested before the elections and we continue to insist on reopening the case of Siemens’ bribes as well as all orders for supplies. The damage from them has not yet been fully estimated. It stands at two billion euro at present, but the investigation is still ongoing. The system of procurement and equipment of the armed forces is not yet transparent.
What do you think the Greek army should be?
In order for the Greek army to be able to protect the interests of the country and the people, it should be subordinated to the constitution and independent of external forces. The basis upon which the army is currently resting does not fit our national needs. SYRIZA supports not only the exit of Greece from NATO, but also its disintegration.