COLOGNE, Germany – Greek defense minister Panos Kammenos has asked wealthy citizens to help fund new warships for the country’s navy.

“We now need the great donors and benefactors of our country,” Kammenos was quoted by local news outlet Ekathimerini.com as saying in a Dec. 6 speech at the Naval Academy in Piraeus. “I call on Greek ship owners and all Greek citizens to assist in the national effort as of January 1, 2019, when the bank account will open to support the Navy and purchase new frigates and a flagship.”

Kammenos said he would personally make a contribution to the fund.

His speech made reference to George Averoff, a 19th-century Greek businessman whose fortune helped fund a warship in 1910 that was named after him.

The call for crowdfunding donations came on Saint Nicholas Day, which marks the patron saint of the Greek navy.

“Greece is showing its strength through its martial and merchant navy, and due to instability with neighboring countries, such as Turkey, responsibility will grow,” the Australia-based website Greek City Times quotes Kammenos as saying.

Athens is still reeling from a national debt crisis so severe that it required significant intervention from the European Union through the prescription of harsh austerity measures.

Fotios Amanatides, a political scientist and regional expert at the University of Cologne, said the defense minister’s crowdfunding plea made headlines internationally, but less so in Greece.

“I consider the proposal as one of his typical, shrill rants with little substance,” Amanatides told Defense News, adding that he believes Kammenos' populist, right-of-center party may not make it back into parliament after the next election.

“If the message was intended for anyone outside the Greek navy, then it was aimed at the big Greek shipbuilder families, who have financially evaded the government for years,” Amanatides said.