Greece’s Army Chief of Staff Resigns On Grounds of “Return of Retired Army Officers”?

Posted by in Politics

Greece’s Army Chief of Staff Cosntantinos Ziazias dropped a “bomb” in the early morning hours of Wednesday. He resigned citing reasons of “ethics and dignity”. Ziazias’ resignation came hours before a government meeting (KYSEA) with top brass from the political and military leadership of the country on military and defence policy. But most important the KYSEA meeting was on promotions and retirements of army officers.

In a caldron of boiling rumors, confirmed and unconfirmed information, Greek media report this morning that general Ziazias resigned after an argument with deputy Defence Minister Panagiotis Karabelas, a retired landforces general. Ziazias allegedly resigned opposing political intervention in officers’ promotions and retirements.

According to Ziazias claims, Karabelas intervened in the lists of officers for promotion and retirement, apparently permanently changing the officers’ names on the list.

Furthermore, there are claims  that retired army officers who were suddenly replaced November 2011, just a couple of days before the Papandreou government resigned, were to return to the Army.

Defence Minister Panos Panagiotopoulos dismissed this claim saying “At no point there was talk for the retired army officers to return.” Panagiotopoulos announced the name of the new Army Chief of Staff: Constantinos Gkinis.

New Landforces Chief of Staff: General Constantinos Gkinis

Ziazias resignation background

Lieutenant General and Land Forces Chief of Staff Constantinos Ziazias submitted his resignation at 2 a.m. Wednesday. Ziazias stated in his resignation letter that it was for  “reasons that touch on ethics and dignity, both his own and of the army.”

An army statement on Ziazias resignation did not elaborate and first no government officials had any comment on the issue.

 According to defence news portal OnAlert, General Ziazias spoke to members of the Land Forces General Staff at 8:00 a.m. and explained the reasons for his resignation. It looks as if he did not agree with the promotion procedures of the military personnel and the political intervention.

Ziazias briefed the officers on what had happened previous to his resignation and pointed out  two main issues, expressing  his opposition to the procedures:

Lists with officers’s names:  “I was invited at 2 a.m. to retrieve the list of names of officers for promotions and retirements. I can not accept such interference in my work.”

 Interventions in the process of promotion in the Greek Armed Forces: He said he could accept this under any circumstances
•  Despite efforts by Defence Minister P. Panagiotopoulos general Ziazias would not reconsider his resignation. “I can not be instructed by anyone. I am military and I know my job well.”

• His resignation was submitted with respect to “the army staff, on grounds the army’s ethics and dignity and honour.”

Greek media report that the argument with deputy Defence Minister has been going on for days. And that last night’s conflict was the straw that led Ziazias to take the resignation decision.

The Politics, the Parties and The Army

General Ziazias was appointed nine months ago, just before the previous Socialist government stepped down on November 17, 2011. Then Defence Minister Panos Beglitis had caused reactions  in the Greek Armed Forces as he changed the four top military chiefs and 14 other high-ranking officers in a surprise move on 1. November 2011, five days beforePapandreou government resigned. Belgitis replaced them with top officers  “ideologically” close to socialist PASOK, even bypassing the army hierarchy. Nine army officers were sent to retirement so that Ziazias could get the post of the Army chief of staff.

Leakages to the press at that time claimed that Beglitis’ move was justified in order to “avoid a military coup.” But many thought it was more  – in fact: less – than this. It was a political game to justify the need for a referendum proposed by PM Papandreou and rejected by Merkel and Sarkozy in Cannes.

“Constantinos Ziazias was a product of Belgitis’ political coup. Ziazias is considered as especially close to the old PASOK of George Papandreou even though he is a good army offcier.

Papandreou ordered Beglitis to take the heads of 18 high-ranking officers so that he could claim in Cannes that he wanted a referendum in order to avoid a coup by the Greek armed Forces.”

This development [Ziazias resignation] justifies those who demanded the immediate removal of the whole or part of the military leadership what was chosen as a product of the Papandreou-Beglitis coup. When the promotions have “political party criteria” it is obvious that they would create problems on the first occasion.” (Defence Net)

Meanwhile the PASOK of  Papandreou has been practically dissolved. It looks as if PASOK-leader and Smaras’ government partner Evangelos Venizelos has other, most important issues to deal with than to get actively involved in the army promotions and retirements. Venizelos has broke his ties with Papandreou and he tries to bring up a new socialist party. 

Changes of government in Greece are routinely followed by new top military appointments, a “tradition” started in 2009 by Nea Dimocratia Defence Minister Evangelos Meimarakis. The logic behind this was “to create a party mechanism and control the Armed Forces even if the government falls”.  PASOK followed this practice and according to Defence reporters, ND wanted to do the same again. And allegedly to bring back to the Armed Forces, the top brasses who were replaced last November.

According to Zougla.gr, a military source told the news portal that “the resignation was not a surprise” and claimed that “more resignations are expected.”

Socialist Papandreou’s socialist government left stirring the Greek Armed Forces. Samaras’ conservative coalition government started with a new stirring of the Greek Armed Forces. Hm…

Meanwhile, there is a “war” against Ziazias with some sharply criticizing him for getting together army officers and talking to them in the plenary hall of the Army after his resignation.

PS I suppose, Ziazias did know indeed the procedure of the army promotions and retirements. Even my cat knows it…