France and Greece on Tuesday announced a defense deal worth around 3 billion euros ($ 3.5 billion), including Athens’ decision to buy three French warships in the part of a strategy aimed at strengthening its defense capabilities in the Eastern Mediterranean in a context of recurring tensions with the long-standing enemy, Turkey.
French President Emmanuel Macron and Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis announced a strategic defense and security partnership at a joint press conference in Paris.
“This partnership expresses our desire to increase and intensify our cooperation in the defense and security sector on the basis of our mutual interests,” Macron said. It “will help protect the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of the two States”.
Greece will buy three French frigates to be built by defense contractor Naval Group in Lorient, western France. The agreement includes an option to acquire a fourth frigate.
The agreement also stipulates that one country will come to the aid of the other in the event of an attack.
READ MORE: France signs a defense deal with Greece after losing a subcontract with Australia.
Mitsotakis said it came from “a national motivation to protect our country”, but also had “a European motive because it strengthens our common defense industry”.
“Greece and France are today taking a daring first step towards European strategic autonomy”, he added, affirming that it paves the way for “a Europe which … will be able to defend (its interests) in the wider region, in the Eastern Mediterranean, in the Middle East. “
When asked if the deal risks increasing tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean, Macron said the deal was not aimed at one country in particular, but Greece, as the European Union’s external border needed to be protected. .
In response to the deal, Greece’s main opposition party, SYRIZA-Progressive Alliance, said on Tuesday that the deal “is strategically sound” but that the country “will pay dearly” due to the conservative government’s delays in letting it go. ‘completion of the talks that started in 2018..
“We ask ourselves, beyond the frigates necessary for the Navy and the modernization of the F-16 of the Air Force, if other defense choices are of such priority and if they exceed the spending capacities. of our economy, ”SYRIZA said.
“Stop being naive”:
During the press conference, Macron also said that Europe must stop being naïve when it comes to defending its interests and strengthening its own military capacity.
France was embroiled in an unprecedented diplomatic crisis with the United States, Australia and Britain earlier this month over a trilateral nuclear security deal that sank a submarine contract multibillion-dollar French design with Canberra.
READ MORE: AUKUS: Australia, US and UK announce historic new security pact.
This caused a lot of introspection in Paris on its traditional alliances. Speaking for the first time on the issue, Macron seized the opportunity on Tuesday to plead for greater European autonomy as Washington increasingly shifts its interests to China and the Indo-Pacific.
“Europeans must stop being naive. When we are under pressure from powers that sometimes harden (their position), we must react and show that we have the power and the capacity to defend ourselves. Don’t make things worse, but protect ourselves, ”Macron said.
“This is not an alternative to the United States alliance. This is not a substitution, but taking responsibility for the European pillar within NATO and drawing the conclusions that we are asked to ensure our own protection.
READ MORE: AUKUS: France criticizes Australia for dropping the $ 90 billion submarine deal.
Source: AP News.