The Delivery Acceptance Ceremony of the Ministry of Maritime Affairs & Insular Policy was held today at the building of the Hellenic Coast Guard of the Ministry of Maritime Affairs & Insular Policy. The new Minister of Maritime Affairs & Insular Policy, Mr. Miltiadis Varvitsiotis took office in the presence of the handing over Minister, Mr. Theodoros Kliaris, and the new Deputy Minister Ioannis Pappas.
The ceremony was also attended by the Metropolitan Seraphim of Piraeus, Commandant of the Hellenic Coast Guard Vice Admiral HCG Alexandrakis Georgios, Secretary General of the Aegean and Island Policy, Mr. Koutoulakis Manolis, Secretary General of Ports, Port Policy and Maritime Investments Mr. Kyriazopoulos Evangelos, Senior and Senior Officers of the Hellenic Coast Guard, civilian staff of the Ministry, representatives of the Greek Parliament, the Shipowners' Associations, the Maritime Labour Unions, the Military Authorities and the Security Corps.
The following are the speeches of the receiving and delivering Minister of Maritime Affairs & Insular Policy.
Mr.MiltiadisVarvitsiotis, the receiving Minister of Maritime Affairs & Insular Policy:
«Your Eminence, Metropolitan of Piraeus, Mr. outgoing Minister, dear Thodoros, Mr. Chief of the Coast Guard, General Secretaries, Representatives of the shipping industry, President of the Union of Greek Shipowners, Representatives of Maritime Labour, Mr. President of PNO, Gentlemen former Chiefs and Vice Chiefs and Officers of the Hellenic Coast Guard, Honourable guests, people of the shipping industry, dear friends, Ladies and Gentlemen. First, I would like to thank Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis for entrusting me with the Minister of Maritime Affairs & Insular Policy position. Following the result of Sunday's elections, we have taken on the responsibility to move forward with stability, determination, a high sense of duty, respect for the anxieties and expectations of the Greek citizens, and, above all, the responsibility to make Greek shipping one of the most productive sectors of our country. As I think Stratis Myrivilis has aptly written “All the seas of the world are Greece. All the waves know the keels of Greek ships. ”That is why it is a special thrill for me to return here in Piraeus, taking over the responsibility of the administrative body of Greek shipping with the goal and vision to facilitate as much as we can the Greek shipping, in all the world's seas and all the world's seas, to support the Greek seafarer, to upgrade the services provided by this Ministry to all those who are active in maritime activities and to make it easier for the Greek shipping industry to operate in all the world's seas.
We are committed to one goal: to make Greece run fast and we will do this by thoroughly modernizing the services that the Ministry provides and of course with respect to the needs of all those who need our services. We believe that the Ministry of Maritime Affairs & Insular Policy also plays a very important role in the interconnection of insular Greece, in the development of insular Greece and that is why I am particularly happy that with me, as Deputy Minister of Shipping, an elected representative of the Dodecanese, my old friend, Ioannis Pappas, is taking over and with whom I am sure that we will have excellent cooperation. "Ioannis, the applause goes to you for your good wishes for success". But it is a special pleasure and honor that my friend Thodoris Kliaris, with whom I worked in 2014, I met him as a port director in Volos, director of my staff office and today he wrote a brilliant career as a serving Minister in the Hellenic Coast Guard, hands me the responsibility of this Ministry.
“Thodori, thank you very much for your friendship, for your service to the Hellenic Coast Guard, for your service to Greek merchant shipping. Smooth sailing”.
For us, shipping can be the antidote and the answer to every crisis. I said the same thing in 2013 when I took on this responsibility and Greek shipping proved that despite the crises the world has gone through, the pandemic crisis, the war crisis, environmental crises, and energy crises, it stood upright, developed, and today shipping makes us even more powerful diplomatically, politically, nationally, if we consider that our ports are now becoming the maritime hub of Europe, that the Greek-built LNG carriers were the answer to the recent blackmail and instrumentalization of natural gas by Mr. Putin to Europe and, of course, the great challenge we have in defending the rights in the EEZ, in the Aegean and the South-Eastern Mediterranean.
We have an important role to play in defending national interests.
Above all, I want to thank from the bottom of my heart the women and men of the Hellenic Coast Guard.
They know that in me they see a man who has embraced their work. He has put his trust in their abilities and in a man who will support them in what they know how to do best, beyond the administration of the Ministry, above all saving human lives at sea.
And I want to express thanks to the Greek people and the Greek government for the efforts you have made. I want to say that protecting the maritime borders from any kind of encroachment is clearly a priority, along with ensuring that not a single person will be found to raise a negative finger pointing at the Hellenic Coast Guardofficers and casting any blame.
For us, it is a priority to support a very creative sector, also of the Greek economy, and that is the marine tourism sector.
Today millions of people choose our country to spend their holidays and they want to feel safe on land and at sea.
And we want them to receive high-quality services. And we must strive to provide these services by adhering to the letter of the law and of course above all by showing the spirit of Greek hospitality.
Because don't forget that every time someone sees a woman or a man wearing the national emblem, they see the entire Greek state in their face and we must behave similarly.
I want to assure the local communities of our islands that in this Ministry they will have their Ministry and we will be by their side to deal with all the living problems that the islanders have and I am sure that we will respond not only with adequacy but also with optimism since island Greece is perhaps the only place in our country where the population is growing and more and more needs are being created.
Finally, I would like to say that for us the whole development in both Continental and Island Greece is our ports.
A modern port policy that will meet the needs of the future, and will show exactly the developmental role that ports can play in the growth of the Greek economy and in serving the major goals that the Prime Minister has set for its growth, is also a very high priority for us.
I want to close by saying that in the coming days, in the coming weeks, we will have the opportunity with Ioannis to meet with all the representatives of the shipping world.
But I want to assure you that I have been, am, and will be a man of the sea and in whatever post I have sat, even in the duties of Deputy Foreign Minister, doing the crucial negotiations either on the Migration Pact, or the Recovery Fund, or the sanctions on Russia, or the status of Greek shipping in the EU, I have always had the sea and its people at my heart and in this spirit I am sure that we will have a fruitful, creative and hopefully successful course together.
I wish, Your Eminence, with your permission, that St Nicholas is at our bow and Virgin Mary by our side”.
Mr. Theodoros Kliaris, handing over Minister of Maritime Affairs Maritime Affairs & Insular Policy:
«Your Eminence, Mr. Minister, Mr. Deputy Minister, Ladies and Gentlemen of Parliament, Mr. Chief of the Hellenic Coast Guard, Mr. Secretaries General, Mr. Mayors - Deputy Mayor, Mr. Honorary Chiefs, and Deputy Chiefs, Representatives of the Armed Forces & Security Forces, Mr. President of the Hellenic Chamber of Shipping, Madam President of the Union of Greek Shipowners, Mr. President of the Union of Retired Officers of the Hellenic Navy, Mr. President of the Hellenic Navy, Mr. President of the Union of Retired Officers of the Hellenic Navy, Mr. President of the Naval Officers' Club,
Representatives of institutions and organizations, Dear officers of the Hellenic Coast Guard, Dear civilian employees of the Ministry of National Security, Distinguished guests, Ladies and Gentlemen. Thank you for being with us today at the handover ceremony of the political leadership of the Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Insular Policy.
Mr. Minister, Mr. Deputy Minister,
Congratulations!!!! We welcome you to Piraeus and the Ministry of Maritime Affairs & Insular Policy.
Dear Mr. Varvitsiotis,
Welcome back to your "home", as you have successfully held the helm of this Ministry for almost a year and a half. To be honest, even as a science fiction scenario, I would not have seen myself from the Director of your Office in 2014 to hand over the leadership of the Ministry of Maritime Affairs & Insular Policyto you today. But, after all, life writes the most successful scenarios! Having both had experience in this Ministry, we know that it has in its quiver one of the most effective diplomatic weapons of our country - Greek shipping, which at the same time acts as a strong blood donor of GDP, being an internationally recognizable feature of our national identity.
And of course, we do not forget that the Ministry has an equally powerful operational arm: the Hellenic Coast Guard.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
This month of the caretaker government may have seemed short in terms of the calendar, but it has undoubtedly been very dense in terms of events and situations that we have been called upon to manage in difficult and largely adverse and unpredictable circumstances, culminating in the tragic sinking of the fishing boat carrying migrants 47 miles southwest of Pylos. And from this platform, I would like to express my unreserved condolences to the families of the victims and the missing persons. Undoubtedly, the Hellenic Coast Guardwas called upon to manage one of its most difficult operations. At the same time, however, I would like to emphasize that the migration issue is a complex one, and its management should not be the exclusive concern of Greece or the Mediterranean countries, but it must be understood and accepted that it is the responsibility of Europe as a whole, which must manage it with unity, solidarity, and determination.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
After more than 36 years of service in the Hellenic Coast Guard, I can assure you that all operational actions of the Corps are carried out with absolute priority to the protection of human life and with full respect for international law and human rights. And let me make a personal reference: In fact, there are no words to describe the real working conditions of the Corps' officers, when they operate under physical and mental pressure 365 days a year, especially in border areas, when they put their souls on the line in adverse conditions, when they put their own lives at risk to safeguard the lives of civilians. There are no pictures to illustrate the feelings of these people: when they are called upon to defend the maritime borders of our country, and of the EU, with self-denial, a high sense of responsibility and solidarity. Hundreds of thousands of human lives have been saved in recent years in our seas and the gratitude in the eyes of these people when they step ashore is the real reward for the members of the Corps, but also the solid proof that they carry out with conscientiousness and selflessness the difficult task that the Greek State has entrusted to them.
And today, addressing the officers of the Corps for the last time in my capacity as Minister of Maritime Affairs & Insular Policy, I would like to publicly thank Commandant of the Hellenic Coast Guard Vice Admiral HCG Alexandrakis Georgios and all the men and women who serve in every corner of our country, and especially to the officers of the operational centers, the Submarine Expeditionary Unit and the Special Mission Squadrons, the captains and the crews of the vessels, who literally delimit the maritime borders of our country, defending our national interests, often exceeding the limits of human endurance. I assure you that every day my thoughts and my heart will continue to be close to you, listening to your agonies in the constant challenges, and feeling your passion in every operation and every circumstance.
In conclusion, I would like to emphasize that the Hellenic Coast Guard has been at the service of the citizen, the homeland, and Greek shipping for 104 consecutive years. From time to time, events occur which seem to criticize its work for a moment, but nothing can tarnish the glory of a century of service to the citizen and the homeland. After some such apparent ordeal, the Hellenic Coast Guard becomes even stronger and its officers personally undertake with even more dedication to demonstrate their loyalty and devotion to the oath and responsibility they took for life on the day they joined the Corps. I considered it my duty to dedicate the greater part of today's farewell speech to the family with whom I have shared almost 4 decades of my life in order to demonstrate what the political leadership of our Ministry also considers an undeniable reality: that the Hellenic Coast Guard is the pillar on which the Ministry of Maritime Affairs & Insular Policylargely bases its proper functioning. This does not mean, however, that I overlook the equally important work of our civil servants, and for this, I thank them from the bottom of my heart, as well as the Secretaries General of the Ministry,for their substantial contribution to the objective of the effective settlement of the matters within their competence.
Handing over the baton to the new Minister and friend MiltiadisVarvitsiotis and the new Deputy Minister Mr. Ioannis Pappas, I would like to wish them all the best in their new responsibilities. Thank you and good luck to all of you!»
The speeches were followed by an exchange of customary gifts.