Greece to buy three warships from France
France and Greece yesterday signed a multi-billion-euro deal for Athens to buy three French warships, in an accord hailed by President Emmanuel Macron as a major boost for the EU's defense ambitions.
The memorandum of understanding for the purchase of the Belharra frigates was inked less than two weeks after France was left reeling by the cancelation by Australia of a contract to buy French submarines as part of a new defense pact with Britain and the US.
Macron said after meeting Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis at the Elysee Palace that Greece would buy the three frigates from France as part of a deeper "strategic partnership" between the two countries to defend their shared interests in the Mediterranean.
The deal marks "an audacious first step towards European strategic autonomy," Macron said.
He called Athens' decision to buy the Belharra ships "a sign of confidence" in France's defence industry, against competition notably from the American group Lockheed Martin.
Australia reneged on deal
The deal also sent a clear signal from Paris after its stinging loss this month of a multi-billion-euro contract for submarines with Australia, which announced it would instead buy nuclear-powered subs from the US.
"It contributes to European security and the reinforcement of Europe's strategic autonomy and sovereignty, and therefore to international peace and security," Macron said.
The French leader has long insisted that Europe needs to develop its own defence capabilities and no longer be so reliant on the United States, even warning that NATO was undergoing "brain death."
"Today is a historic day for Greece and France. We have decided to upgrade our bilateral defensive cooperation," Mitsotakis said.
He said the agreement involves "mutual support" and "joint action at all levels," as well as an option to purchase a fourth frigate.
No financial details were provided on the value of the deal, but the ships are set to be delivered starting in 2024.
Mitsotakis said the French deal would not affect talks on extending a longstanding defense cooperation agreement between Greece and Washington, despite the tensions sparked between the EU and Washington after the Australia submarines row.