Date: 9 December, 2016


Location: Athens

25th Annual International Symposium


Hellenic Armed Forces Officer’s Club, Athens
Friday 9 December 2016
Organized by
Member of
Supported by
NATO Public Diplomacy Division



On the occasion of the 25th Anniversary of its activities and initiatives the Greek Association for Atlantic & European Cooperation (G.A.A.E.C.) organized the 25th Annual International Symposium in the context of “Contemporary Security Challenges in Europe, Mediterranean and Greece: the Role of NATO & EU”.

The event took place on the 9th of December 2016 at the Officer’s Club, Riggilis 1 Athens, with participants and Representatives from the Political, Business, Military and Civil Society, along with many interested young professionals and university students.

It is worth mentioning that a large number of the Greek Military hierarchy attended the Symposium. People such the Chief of Defense, Admiral Evangelos Apostolakis, the Chief of the Hellenic Navy vice Admiral Mr. Georgios Giakoumakis, the 1st Deputy Chief of HAGS Lieutenant General Mr. Dimitrios Thomaidis, along with more than forty (40) Top Military Officials. Moreover, the Symposium attended the Director of the Military Attache/Office of the President of the Hellenic Republic, Airforce General Mr. Grigorios Prezarakos, representing H.E. Mr.Prokopis Pavlopoulos and also the Director General of the Prime Minister’s Diplomatic Office Mr. Evangellos Kalpadakis. Furthermore, the General Director of Political and National Defense Ambassador Mr. Trifon Paraskeuopoulos, the General Director of the NATO division of
the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Ambassador Mr. Nikolaos Pleksidas, Mrs. Despoina Lourbakou and Panagiotis Stournaras, each Director General of the UN and OSCE division respectively, along with many other Ad Honorem Greek Ambassadors. Finally, many Foreign Ambassadors and Embassy Representatives from countries such as, Jordan, Turkey, Poland, Croatia, Australia, Montenegro, the United States, France, Romania, Estonia, Denmark, Netherlands, Russia, Tunisia, Nigeria, Iran, Iraq, Serbia, Spain and UAE also honored us with their presence.

Opening Session
The first to hold the floor, welcoming the audience and signifying the start of the Symposium was Mr. Theodossis Georgiou, President of G.A.A.E.C. Mr. Georgiou highlighted the necessity of a closer strategic cooperation between the EU and NATO in the light of Contemporary Security Challenges stemming from the continuing crisis in the Middle East and the decision of the British electorate to leave the European Union (Brexit). Moreover, he stressed the diminishing tendency, of many countries to be integrated in the Euro-Atlantic Institutions, after the initial optimism coming from the collapse of the Berlin Wall and the demise of the Iron Curtain. Nevertheless, one fact remains straight, even after this ray of skepticism: “The European Unity and the Euro-Atlantic Cooperation remains inseparable and resilient”. Furthermore, he mentioned that the increased weight of Civil Society and its increasingly important role in the decision making of every Democratic Regime has also an
impact in the Alliance, offering valuable democratic legitimacy, enhancing and promoting equal participation, open and free dialogue constituting a hub of intellectual interaction. This is what G.A.A.E.C. along with the respective Atlantic Associations in the NATO Member-States, as well as partnership countries strives to accomplice.

The contribution of the Civil Society and Non-Governmental Organization (NGOs) especially that of the Atlantic Treaty Association (ATA), underlined the Italian Professor and President of ATA Dr. Fabrizio Luciolli. Dr. Luciolli, also mentioned the privileged relationship between ATA and the NATO’s Public Diplomacy Division (PDD), which, for over 60 years with its programs, has significantly contributed to the Euro-Atlantic Security and Defense.

In the same spirit, Ms. Ino Afentouli, Member of the NATO’s PDD, underscored the prospects of a closer Cooperation between NATO and the EU, in a tense geopolitical environment. ‘’NATO today, is more important than ever’’, she stated. Moreover, Ms. Afentouli characteristically mentioned that there are signs of fragility of the peace and stability of the last 25 years in the Eastern and Southern front of the Alliance. Additionally, she raised awareness on groups, like the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL/DAESH), along with other Non-State Actors, raging havoc in our close neighborhood, even threating the security of European Citizens. Finally she focused on Greece and its central geostrategic role in this environment of uncertainty and instability. Greek citizens, although insufficiently informed in some degree about the Euro-Atlantic edifice, have endured hardships but stood tall to the occasion and their responsibilities to the Alliance, a major accomplishment of the Greek Political System.

Special Session
Mr. Andreas Lykourentzos, former Minister and a Founding Member of GAAEC presented the legacy and the contribution to the country of former Minister Mr. Ioannis Varvitsiotis. Also Mr. Lykourentzos stressed the necessity of cooperation between NATO and E.U, but with extreme attention to the probability of overlapping between the two organizations.

During the Special Session the Minister of National Defense 1990-1993, Mr. Ioannis Varvitsiotis, who had delivered the Inaugural Address at the 1st Symposium of GAAEC in May 1991, cited two new forms of conflict: a) the economic war and b) the terrorism, in which the NATO must pay close attention. Furthermore, taking stand in the major contradictions that feed rivalries and political upheavals between States but also within international organizations, he pointed out the danger of deep crisis and disintegration of European Union. In addition, he strongly upholded that there is «a lack of leadership», in order to make an assertive step towards the «european integration», but there are also leaders that «bend to nationalism and populism».

Commenting on the remarks of the former Minister of Defense Mr. Varvitsiotis, professor of History, Mr. Evanthis Hatzivasileiou, shared his insights. The professor supported the significant role NATO has assumed even after the end of the Cold war in an era of a wider security perception and not only the conventional military threat. NATO is an Alliance based on values of its Member-States; values such as democracy, human rights, and the rule of law are tested to the current historic context and in a large extent define the field of their action and decision making.

The American Perspective
Dr. Aliki Mitsakos, Founding Member of GAAEC and Dean of the International Center for Leading Studies coordinated this session. The Guest Speaker was His Excellency, the recently appointed Ambassador of the United States to Greece Mr. Geoffrey Pyatt in one of his very few public appearances, expressing the American Perspective. Mr. Pyatt, emphasized that both countries share a strong and enduring partnership based on mutual commitment to core democratic values, which are the foundation of peace and security and prosperity for Europe. President Obama’s recent visit here to Greece, as he mentioned, underscores the importance of our alliance and reflects the value that the United States places on Greece – as a pillar of strength and stability in this region, as a NATO ally, and as an EU Member State. He also stressed the importance of NATO as a cornerstone for regional security and a starting point of dealing with key security challenges like ISIL. On the issue of Migration Flows he commended Greece on its “humane approach”. Moreover, NATO’s Maritime Activity in the Aegean under the Standing NATO Maritime Group II – or SNMG II – plays a key, stabilizing role to prevent the smuggling of migrants to Greece.

Concerning Russia, he mentioned that “I hope we are very clear on the importance of the legal principle that international borders cannot be changed by force as Russia did when it invaded Crimea”. He furthermore expressed 3 billion dollar commitment of the United States in the area will continue through 2017.

He strongly “applauded Greece’s regional leadership, one of the handful of countries that despite the economic challenges it faces, fulfilled the commitment of 2% of GDP investment in defense”. Especially, he underlined the potential of the country developing into a key energy hub. Moreover, he commended the strong bilateral defense relationship with countries like Greece, illustrated in the strong American Presence in the Souda bay at the island of Crete. He also assured the audience, that the U.S. will continue to support the cooperation with its NATO allies, “who remain our closest friends and most capable partners”.
Greek Foreign & Defense Policy in a Changing International-Regional Environment: 
Challenges and Opportunities
The next session was moderated by the Senior Editor and Columnist of “Kathimerini”, Mr. Athanasios Ellis, who also offered his brief comments. In this session, the former Minister Mr. Evangelos Venizelos talked about the cohesive foreign security and defense policy conducted forty two (42) years of ‘metapolitefsis’ with pioneers Mr. Konstantinos Karamanlis and Mr. Andreas Papandreou and consistent orientation to cooperation with NATO and the E.U. Also he raised questions as to the priorities of Trump’s government, such as whether to continue the US to bear 75% of the NATO budget or to change stance on issues as confronting the authoritarian regimes and how the Members-States of EU will act. As regards Erdogan’s rhetoric against Greece, he characterized it as the outcome of anxiety about the impending/imminent/ turbulence in Syria and Iraq. Additionally on the Cyprus Question, Mr. Venizelos warned/gave warning/ that we should not in any case to accept that it is a bilateral issue, neither to risk the legal recognition of the Cyprus Republic.

In the same session, Mr. Georgios Koumoutsakos, Head of Foreign Affairs Department of “Nea Dimokratia”, alleged that the community solidarity recedes and the antagonisms escalate between the Member-states of EU. In addition to this he claimed/made the case/ that there is always the contingency/possibility/ to shift to the era of intra-family tensions and conflicts, nationalism and national ego and there may be other departures/withdrawal/ after Britain. In regard to the Cyprus Question, he warned that we must not go to a referendum without good preparation and a good deal. He also urged upon the good preparation in order to have a discussion with the Turkish leadership.
European Security – Defense Strategy – non Conventional Threats: Unstable Economies and Security, Cyberwarfare, European Energy Security, Refugee/Migration Flows in the Mediterranean, Environment and Climate Change
The next panel chaired Mrs. Marietta Giannakou, former Member of the European Parliament (MEP). Mrs. Giannakou defended the resilience of the European Edifice in times of widespread skepticism and concern about its future. First offered his remarks the President of the Political Party ‘’Union of Centrists’’ Mr. Vasilios Leventis. Mr. Leventis interpreted European Security, first and foremost as an issue of Justice, de jure equality and egalitarianism. He concluded, sharing his disappointment with many European Union enthusiasts in the past, about its policy decisions and shortsighted austerity measures. In the same panel, Mr. Spyros Danellis from the Political Party ‘’To Potami’’, introduced the context of human security in a changing environment, which unconventional challenges like Climate Change, Cyberwarfare and terrorism undermine and threaten to a great extent. To conclude, Mr. Georgios Kyrtsos, MEP, through a descriptive yet informative manner, listed some pressing European security challenges amplifying European insecurity, especially through the lens of Brexit, stemming from Islamic Terrorism, regional conflicts and the susceptibility of energy security, framing the field of action of each decision maker.

Can the European Union Achieve an Autonomous Defense Identity? The Role of National Defense Industries
Adding to the discussion, the next panel focused on showcasing the approach to European security from the perspective of European and International Defense Industries. The panel constituted Mr. Dennys Plessas, Representative of Development Initiatives for Lockheed Martin, the President of Greek Aerospace Industry (EAB) Mr. Ζαχαρίας Γκίκας, accompanied by Mr. Tasos Rozolis and Georgios Troullinos, President and CEO of SEKPY and Intracom Defense respectively, under the chairing of Aegen University Professor, and Chairman of the Center of Security Studies, Mr. Panagiotis Tsakonas. Every speaker highlighted the need of interoperability, compatibility and efficient use of the already scarce resources. After presenting the current institutional transparency context, they proclaimed enhanced competitiveness efficient utilization of Best Value Practices in order for the Greek and European Defense Industries to remain a credible choice in an era of rising powers.

European Union – NATO Partnership
Next to share his perspectives, was the General and Chairman of the European Union Military Committee, General Mikhail Kostarakos. The first point the General made was the Strategic Pivot of the United States from the Atlantic to the Pacific. That new strategic context applied further pressure to the European Member-States of NATO and especially the wales Atlantic Council of 2014, to increase their commitment to defense at the 2% of their Gross Domestic Product. He questioned whether European States can shoulder the political cost of an increased military presence in their area of interest and commented on the discourse of completion and NATO in issues of security and defense as non-valid and lacking significant empirical basis. Furthermore, he stressed that the European Union is a normative power with its assets lying in human rights diplomacy and democratic values. What EU needs he stated is not replace NATO with a “Euro-Army”, such notions are epistemologically incorrect. What need to be done is to efficiently use our reduced resources to maintain with credible command and control interoperability the 1.5 million soldiers of the European Union States. In the light of the contemporary security challenges, he suggested a Comprehensive approach for “doing more with less”. The discussion framed Dr. Thanos Dokos, General Director of ELIAMEP, submitting his point of view, along with Ms. Ino Afentouli from the NATO’S PDD.

The French Perspective
His remarks on European Security offered His Excellency, Mr. Christophe Chantepy Ambassador of the French Republic to Greece. Mr. Chantepy urged for further integration in the area European Defense and Security. ‘’Practices such as an enhanced cooperation in the field of Intelligence sharing and interaction between security officials will strengthen the European Security Architecture, preventing tragedies of the recent past from occurring again’’.

Quadranscentennial Session – Closing Address
The conclusive commemorative session marked the honorary tribute to Admiral Mr. Vasilios Mitsakos (rtd) H.N., Founding Member of G.A.A.E.C. and WWII veteran. During the WWII the young trainee Vasilios Mitsakos tried to escape to Alexadria, Egypt to conclude his Studies on Maritime Affairs, got arrested but managed to escape the Axis’ soldiers only to find himself sentenced to death. Finally after many adversaries he, along with some of his colleagues, managed to reach their destination from Allepo Syria by foot. Vice Admiral Mitsakos, was one of the few Greeks Officers in NATO’S Standing Group, Washington. He also represented the Ministry of National Defense on the Negotiation the United Nations Charter for the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) in New York and Geneva, Switzerland. He has graduated from the Elite of Military Affairs Colleges in Greece and abroad, having many times been awarded for his exceptional service. To conclude, he was in the crew of the destroyer ship “Georgios Averov”, which transported the exiled Greek Government back to Greece.

The awarding ceremony prefaced the Journalist/Political Scientist Mr. Theodoros Psalidopoulos. Mr. Psalidopoulos in a touching speech praised the virtues of the awardee and numbered three (3) fundamental reasons, why he believes that such a gesture is of particular importance. First of all for his contribution as one of the Founding Members of G.A.A.E.C., a Non-Governmental Organization true to its purpose for unbiased and democratic dialogue. Second, praising the virtues of Bravery and selfless Patriotism that led him to escape Greece and aid the fight against the German Occupation. And last but not least, such an award also symbolizes the contribution of the Hellenic Navy into the Historical Resilience, leading to the victory against the Nazism threat.

Keynote Speaker: Dimitrios Vitsas, Deputy Minister of National Defense
The award to the Admiral Mr. Mitsakos delivered the Deputy Minister of National Defense, Mr. Dimitrios Vitsas, sealing with his remarks the end of the 25th Annual International Symposium of G.A.A.E.C. Mr. Vitsas, offered his critique on the European Institutional context, which according to him is lacking the sufficient crisis resolution mechanisms. Moreover he underscored the paradox of increased military challenges into an era of deep economic recession and austerity policies. To conclude he proposed further “investment” into military Education, stratification, availability and logistical support in order Greece to maintain its significant military quality, highlighting the important role of the Council of Defense Research Technology in industry into shaping the Greek Defense Industrial Strategy. Finally, reflecting on the values of patriotism and bravery upon the awardee, he expressed his appreciation to the servicemen and servicewomen for their contribution towards safer and secure citizens of the Hellenic Republic.


Kristo Doni, University of Piraeus
Konstantina Psomodoti, University of Peloponnese