ATHENS, Greece — Greece’s defense minister is appealing to his austerity-battered countryfolk for a crowdfunding effort to raise money for new warships, promising to donate part of his own salary.

Panos Kammenos says he will open a bank account on Jan. 1 where members of the public can make donations “for new frigates and a flagship.”

He addressed his appeal to Greece’s wealthy shipowning industry, as well as ordinary Greeks.

“I will be the first to deposit my salary in this effort,” he said, speaking to navy personnel on the occasion of Thursday’s feast day of St. Nicholas, patron saint of Greek seamen and the navy.

Kammenos said 2019 will see a general drive to upgrade the fleet, which faces strong competition from neighboring Turkey, a NATO ally and historic regional rival.