NEWS

Arms spat spoils ties with Berlin

Greece’s relations with Germany have taken a turn for the worse, mainly due to disagreements over military procurement programs, prompting concerns in Athens that the country might lose a powerful ally, as Berlin looks to lead the way in helping the European Union recover from the economic crisis, diplomatic sources have told Sunday’s Kathimerini. German Chancellor Angela Merkel established a seemingly good working relationship with Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis after coming to power in 2006, but over recent months it appears that ties have become much cooler. The key problem between the two countries lies in three areas concerning Greece’s purchase of military equipment from Germany or from projects in which the Germans are involved. Germany had become used to being the second-largest provider of arms to Greece after the USA in recent years, but has seen a number of projects fail to progress since July 2007, when Merkel visited Athens and said that bilateral relations were «excellent» after discussing the issue with Karamanlis. There has been no movement on a dispute between the two countries over a contract for four Type 214 diesel-electric submarines – dubbed the Papanikolis class by the Greek Navy – which was initially signed in 2000. Problems with the first submarine delivered mean that the contract to build those remaining at the Hellenic Shipyards, west of Athens, has yet to be fulfilled. Greece’s intentions to buy 40 to 60 Eurofighter jets, which are manufactured by a consortium in which Germany is involved, have also stalled. The previous PASOK government agreed in 1999 to begin buying the fighter planes by 2005, in a deal valued at more than 5 billion euros. But the Karamanlis government decided in 2005 to buy 30 US-made F-16 jets and has yet move forward with the Eurofighter deal. According to sources, Germany is also upset that information questioning the quality and reliability of 170 German-made Leopard tanks bought by Greece has been made public. On a diplomatic level, sources indicate that there are also concerns in Berlin that Athens is pursuing much closer relations with France at a time when Germany is seeking to be the dominant voice in the EU.