NEWS

Submarine deal set to surface

Greece is close to agreeing to a deal with Germany that could lead to the resolution of a dispute over a batch of faulty submarines, which has put a severe strain on relations between the two countries, it was revealed yesterday. Vice Admiral Giorgos Karamalikis, the chief of the Hellenic Navy General Staff, said that the technical problems with the Type 214 diesel-electric submarine were being ironed out and Greece could soon be in a position to accept three of the four vessels that were ordered between 2001 and 2005. The first submarine, dubbed Papanikolis, was developed by Howaldtswerke-Deutsche Werft (HDW) in Kiel, Germany, and there was an agreement to build the remaining three at the Hellenic Shipyards, west of Athens. However, the Greek navy did not accept delivery of the submarine after discovering a number of technical faults, the most serious of which was excessive rolling in bad weather when the vessel surfaced. The Germans insist that they have since rectified the problems, but Greece has refused to accept the first submarine, which has been docked in Kiel since 2006. The ship's manufacturers have accused Greece of intentionally dragging out the problem so that they can renegotiate the price. Now it seems that the two sides have come to a tentative agreement that will see the Greek navy accept three of the four submarines that have been ordered, but not the Papanikolis. Although Greece accepts that the problems with the vessels have been fixed, the navy is unwilling to use a submarine that has been sitting idle for the past few years. It seems that the Germans are willing to keep the Papanikolis and try to sell it to another interested buyer, thereby removing the stumbling block to any possible agreement. The disagreement over the submarines, as well as a row about German-made Leopard tanks bought by Greece and Athens's decision to buy American F-16 jets rather than Eurofighters, which are manufactured by a consortium that includes Germany, has soured relations between Athens and Berlin over the last few years.

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