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PM: Defense deal with France a ‘first step’ towards European strategic autonomy

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The defense deal signed between Greece and France last month is “a first effort towards the strategic autonomy for Europe,” Greek Prime Minister Mitsotakis told lawmakers during a parliamentary debate on a bill ratifying the agreement on Thursday. 

The deal, signed in Paris on September 28, states that Greece will buy three advanced frigates, with an option for a fourth, and a delivery date of between 2025 and 2026. The frigates will also be compatible with the jets Greece is also purchasing from France. It has already ordered some 24 Dassault-made Rafales this year.

The agreement also includes a clause of mutual assistance in case of armed attack against the territory of one of the two.

“This historic text is being brought to the attention of Parliament, making today’s debate historic, as its adoption means shielding the country, strengthening the southern European flank of the agreement, but is also the first effort towards the strategic autonomy for Europe,” he said.

“All citizens understand the importance of the Greek-French agreement, which provides for military assistance from the strongest military force in the EU, the only one with nuclear weapons in the Union,” he added.

Mitsotakis noted that this is the first time that “an explicit and unequivocal defense assistance clause” is included in an agreement in the event of an attack of either country by a third party. “And we all know who is issuing casus belli threats in our region,” he said, referring to a declaration by the Turkish Grand National Assembly in 1995 that if Greece unilaterally extended its territorial waters from 6 to 12 nautical miles it will be a cause for war for Ankara.

He also said he agreed with French President Emmanuel Macron who said that Europeans should stop being naive about the “tectonic changes” in the geopolitical arena that are taking place.

Mitsotakis also defended the deal from criticism from the main opposition that the language concerning France’s military engagement is vague. “You know that the term territory includes not only the land but also the sea and the air and the treaty is within the framework of international law and the law of the sea that fully cover Greece’s positions,” he said.

“The agreement includes a commitment to assist in the event of an attack regardless of location. The International Criminal Court has ruled that an attack means not only an invasion but also any incident. Hence, no agreement mentions the EEZ (exclusive economic zone) and the continental shelf.”

The first new frigate will arrive at the naval base of Salamina in 2025, he said.

Lawmakers will vote on the agreement via roll call later in the evening.