DM withdraws suprise F16-related off-sets amendment from Parliament debate
Controversial Greek Defense Minister Panos Kammenos on Wednesday hastily withdrew an amendment regarding off-set benefits included in a lucrative contract with US contractor Lockheed-Martin for the upgrading of Greece’s fleet of F-16s, after a firestorm of criticism by opposition MPs in Parliament.
Main opposition New Democracy (ND) initially demanded a roll-call vote for the draft amendment, while saying the embattled Kammenos tried to slip the amendment through Parliament amid a burgeoning crisis between the latter and the rest of the coalition government. Kammenos’ right-wing Independent Greeks (AN.EL) party props up the Tsipras coalition government with its seven MPs in parliament. Six AN.EL MPs and out-of-Parliament cadres currently hold Cabinet posts. Nevertheless, three to four of the MPs appear ready to ditch Kammenos and vote in favor of the provisional Prespa agreement, which the latter sharply opposes.
Kammenos later said the contract will be tabled before a relevant Parliament committee.
A meeting of AN.EL’s Parliament group, set for Wednesday, was also cancelled.
Speaking from parliament’s podium, Kammenos said the amendment refers to Greece’s obligation to conclude a relevant agreement dating to 2005. He tossed out a figure of 230 million euros to be re-funneled back to Greece-based firms as part of off-set benefits emanating from the contract. The opposition, however, charged that the firms to benefit are close to Kammenos.
Several ND deputies charged that the current defense minister and long-time politician was bringing the amendment through the “back door”, reminding that the entire defense-related off-sets framework has been abolished in Greece by a 2011 law and that the populist minister, as well as his leftist government partners, previously vilified such bilateral agreements as “dens of corruption”.
Speculation over Kammenos’ fate as a continuing coalition partner and even his own party’s continued existence was rife in the Greek capital this week.
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