France sells three frigates to Greece, strengthening “European strategic autonomy” | European | D.W.

The French President, Emmanuel Macron, and the Greek Prime Minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, signed this Tuesday (28.09.2021) a contract for the purchase by Greece of three frigates, a strengthening of the “strategic association” between the two countries of the European Union (EU) and NATO.

After a meeting at the Elysée, seat of the French presidency, Mitsotakis clarified during a press conference that there is an option to purchase a fourth Belharra frigate in this agreement, which meets “the needs of the Greek Navy”.

Macron underlined, for his part, the “quality of the French offer”, as shown by the signing of this contract, weeks after Australia canceled the acquisition of French submarines for 55 billion euros (about $64 billion).

Canberra made this decision by joining a strategic alliance with the United States and United Kingdom in the Indo-Pacific, which sparked an unprecedented diplomatic crisis on both sides of the Atlantic. Paris has recalled its ambassador to Washington for consultations.

“No contradiction” with relations with the United States.

The French president, who spoke last week with his American counterpart Joe Biden to reduce tension, recalled that the French ambassador would return to Washington in the coming hours and reiterated his country’s attachment to the Indo-Pacific region.

This alliance called AUKUS “does not modify France’s Indo-Pacific strategy”, Macron said on Tuesday, recalling that they have “several partners in the region” such as India and with one million citizens and more than 8,000 soldiers. deployed.

The Belharra-type frigates will be manufactured by the French public company Naval Group in the shipyards of the port of Lorient, in Brittany. The amount of the contract, as advanced by the press, is in a range between 3,000 and 5,000 million euros.

For Naval Group it is a respite after the setback caused by the cancellation of a mega-contract of some 56 billion euros for the sale of conventional submarines to Australia, which finally decided to buy nuclear submarines in the United States.

This acquisition by Greece of three frigates also comes after the announcement at the beginning of the month of the acquisition by Athens of six French-made Rafale fighters, which is added to a previous millionaire contract to acquire 12 of these aircraft.

Greece’s burgeoning weapons program seeks to stem Turkey’s provocations in the eastern Mediterranean. France is one of the few EU countries to have raised its voice in recent months and even sent ships and fighters in 2020 to support Athens.

However, Mitsotakis was careful to point out that the acquisition of France’s frigates is not in contradiction with its relations with the United States, and that in practice it reinforces the Greek fleet “in NATO”.

“Towards a European strategic autonomy”

He assured that if they had opted for the French option, it was because it met the needs they had raised in their call for tenders, and also because France has committed to deliveries. anticipated.

Moreover, Mitsotakis recalled that “France supported us in difficult times”, an obvious allusion to the French naval deployment in the face of the challenge posed by Turkey last summer, around the jurisdictional waters of Greece.

Macron also referred to this episode and denied that the sale of these frigates to Greece contributes to an escalation of tension with Turkey in waters that Ankara disputes with Athens.

The French president said he did not think last year “it was Greece that was bellicose in the eastern Mediterranean”. He said that the French then showed “solidarity” and that “it is also legitimate” to help the country to equip itself militarily and to commit to protecting it.

“Europeans must stop being naive,” added Macron, who again defended “European strategic autonomy” in the face of the withdrawal he says he has seen for more than ten years from the United States towards Europe. Asia facing the challenge that China represents for its paper there.

According to the French Head of State, the agreement with Greece “contributes to protecting the security, sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of our two States while promoting security, stability and prosperity in the regions of common interest”.

rml (efe, afp)

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