NEWS

Army pushes a 25-pct cut in active units

Greece’s standing army could be reduced to under 90,000 military personnel with over a quarter of current units being disbanded by 2005, under proposals tabled yesterday by the army chief of staff. If adopted by the Government Council on Foreign Policy and Defense (KYSEA) over the next few months, Lieutenant-General Georgios Antonakopoulos’s proposals will result in the most sweeping reforms of the army since the fall of the military dictatorship in 1974. Under the defense strategy revision, occasioned by a need to trim military spending in combination with a more focused approach to external threats, Antonakopoulos yesterday called for the standing army to be brought down to 89,000 men and women, from the current 116,000. Furthermore, he proposed that the army should be relieved of its frontier-guarding duties with the hiring of 3,500 border guards. In order to confront the «visible eastern threat» to Greece, as Antonakopoulos said, the army’s new dispositions will focus on the Turkish border. Active units in Epirus and western Macedonia will be cut down drastically, while all active army formations will be withdrawn from Crete. In all, 180 units will be disbanded, creating a new total of 570. The First Army Corps, based in the western Macedonia town of Kozani, will be abolished, while four active divisions and four active brigades will also be scrapped. In order to forestall reactions by locals in areas whose economies depended, to a large extent, on the presence of army units, the chief of staff proposed that all administrative units and training camps should remain in place. The army will still be based on conscription, but obligatory military service will be reduced from 18 to 12 months. And the current, nine-month stint in frontier units will be reduced to eight months. Antonakopoulos also outlined the army’s main priorities as far as new weapons procurements are concerned, which he defined as a new battle tank, as well as attack and transport helicopters.