Greece’s Military Says Pension Cuts Eroding Morale

FILE - Preparations for the military parade in Athens for the Greek Independence Anniversary, Saturday, March 25, 2017. Photos: Eurokinissi/Giannis Panagopoulos

ATHENS – Cuts in army pensions of as much as 70 percent are cutting deeply into the morale of the Armed Forces, the Association of Hellenic Air Force Academy Graduates has warned.

While the military has been more protected from harsh austerity measures than others, former Social Security Minister Giorgos Katrougalos, who joined Prime Minister and Radical Left SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras in reneging on anti-austerity promises, whacked pensioners with more big cuts, including military retirees.

The highest benefits for some former officers of some 3000 euros ($3531) per month have now fallen to as low as 1420 euros ($1671), dispiriting those who served the country, the statement complained.

Retired officers told the newspaper Kathimerini they are anxious about more cuts as Tsipras agreed to additional reductions and taxes on low-income families in return for the release of more monies from a staggered, delayed third bailout, this one for 86 billion euros

($101.23 billion) he sought and accepted after saying he would do neither.

The former military members and officers said they are also worried about the signs being sent to active duty personnel, particularly fighter pilots who regularly engage violating Turkish jets in mock dogfights over the Aegean.

Greece’s military budget has largely been exempt from austerity with the country still spending about 2.6 percent of its Gross Domestic Product of 165.27 billion euros ($194.6 billion), second highest in NATO, and as the government this year planned another $10 billion ($8.49 billion) in arms spending, including new F-16 fighter jets.

The Greek military has 500 military bases and 17 training centers, many of which are under-used. But their mere presence means jobs for the locals as well as political influence and patronage for the army officers and regional politicians, Carnegie Europe said in a 2012, with politicians wary of closing them and losing jobs.

Of the 136,000 personnel then, 90,000 were soldiers, considered a huge army for a country of under 11 million people. Last year alone, with equipment expenses down, personnel costs accounted for 73.9 percent of the defense budget.