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France to provide Greece with warships, urging EU to 'stop being naive'

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
French President Emmanuel Macron (R) and Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis gesture at The Elysee Palace in Paris, on September 28, 2021. (Photo by AFP)

France has signed a mega military deal with Greece to supply the country with three warships, as it is still reeling from the loss of a multibillion-dollar contract for submarines with Australia.

After meeting Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis at the Elysee Palace, French President Emmanuel Macron said Athens would buy three Belharra frigates from France as part of a deeper "strategic partnership.”

The $3.51 billion deal is aimed at defending Paris and Athens’ shared interests in the Mediterranean, Macron said.

The deal marks "an audacious first step towards European strategic autonomy,” he added.

"It contributes to European security and the reinforcement of Europe's strategic autonomy and sovereignty, and therefore to international peace and security," Macron claimed.

Mitsotakis also hailed the agreement, saying it involves "mutual support" and "joint action at all levels," as well as an option to purchase a fourth frigate. 

The deal was reached after Australia’s sudden cancelation of a 2016 contract to buy French submarines.

Canberra, instead opted for US nuclear-powered submarines as part of the AUKUS trilateral alliance, with Washington and London, that was also announced this month.

Macron also seized the opportunity to urge more European autonomy as Washington increasingly reorientates its interests towards China and the Indo-Pacific.

The French president said, "The Europeans must stop being naive."

"When we are under pressure from powers, which at times harden (their stance), we need to react and show that we have the power and capacity to defend ourselves. Not escalating things, but protecting ourselves,” he added.

"As Europeans it is our duty to show solidarity with member states. It is legitimate that we commit to equipping it so it can ensure its territorial integrity is respected and that we commit to cooperating to protect it in case of intrusions, attacks or aggressions," Macron noted.

The European Union (EU) rallied behind Paris in the submarine row, accusing the trio of breaching trust and lack of transparency about the alliance.

The French president has long insisted that Europe needs to develop its own defense capabilities and no longer be so reliant on the United States.

He had also warned last year that the US-led military alliance, NATO, was undergoing "brain death.”

French Secretary of Foreign Affairs Clement Beaune said last week that Europe needs to “strengthen [its] capacities for reflection, strategic autonomy, and defense.”

“Why would the Americans ensure our defense in [the] matter? It's up to us to do it,” he said.

For France — a NATO member and the US’s oldest ally — the trilateral alliance represents direct economic loss and dashes hopes about renewed diplomatic closeness with Washington, which was deteriorated during the administration of former US president Donald Trump.


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