France and Greece on Tuesday sealed a deal for the latter’s acquisition of three defense and intervention frigates (FDIs) for the Hellenic Navy for €2.9 billion with an option for a fourth.
The agreement is significant for both countries: For Greece, it represents a balancing of forces with nominal NATO ally Turkey as well an unprecedented commitment, for such an agreement, by France to provide assistance to Greece, leading some Greek officials to speak of a “French umbrella.”
For France, the agreement is a rebound from its humiliation over the recently announced AUKUS agreement, which led to great tension with Australia, the UK and the US, although the size of the FDI contract cannot compete with the lost submarines commission from Australia.
French President Emmanuel Macron, speaking after the signature of the agreement, said that Europe needs to stop being naive when it comes to defending its interests and building its own military capacity.
“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,” Macron told a news conference with Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis.
“This isn’t an alternative to the United States alliance. It’s not a substitute, but to take responsibility for the European pillar within NATO and draw the conclusions that we are asked to take care of our own protection,” Macron said.
Greek officials said that, even if the option for a fourth frigate is exercised, the acquisition will cost far less than the €5 billion the government had budgeted.
“This will bind us for decades,” Mitsotakis said. “This opens the door to the Europe of tomorrow that is strong and autonomous, capable of defending its interests.”
Neither leader mentioned Turkey specifically, but, asked whether the deal risked reviving regional tensions, Macron replied, “I don’t get the feeling that in the summer of 2020 it was Greece that was bellicose in the Eastern Mediterranean.”
France’s Naval Group will build the frigates at its Lorient shipyard and MBDA and Thales will provide the missile systems, the companies announced. The 4,200-ton and 121-meter-long frigates will be able to conduct anti-air, anti-surface, anti-submarine warfare or special forces support missions.