Opposition to parts of defense deal with France

Opposition to parts of defense deal with France

Greece’s defense deal with France will be debated in Parliament this Thursday.

The main party of the opposition, a status which comes with major institutional weight, has raised two objections over the agreement.

The first concerns the extent to which the pact covers Greece’s continental shelf and exclusive economic zone (EEZ). It is not an implausible objection. After all, the issue has been pointed out by leading experts in the field, including Evangelos Venizelos, a former foreign and defense minister.

A second objection has to do with the “risk” of Greece being asked to send troops to an area of French interest.

The first objection deserves to be debated by lawmakers in Parliament. If no clear answer is given by the government, a reaction from the leftist opposition could actually be to the benefit the national endeavor.

Without wishing to draw parallels with socialist prime minister Andreas Papandreou’s call to “sink the Hora” oceanographic research vessel during the crisis with Turkey in 1987, it is certainly playing up an issue that has raised concerns across party lines in Greece. It could reinforce the country’s effort.

SYRIZA’s second objection is groundless. Because you cannot possibly expect support from your ally without being prepared to offer your own. I am not sure France would ever ask for Greek military help on the French Pacific island of New Caledonia; however, this is a two-way relationship. This aspect of the deal may not go down very well with Greek society. You can’t have your cake and eat it too.

As any sober observer would say, the defense deal with France is good for Greece on many levels: on a military level vis-a-vis Turkey, and geopolitically in terms of projecting power in the Eastern Mediterranean. 

The negotiation for the deal was initiated by the SYRIZA government and, in that sense, one would expect that it would back it in the House. It’s up to SYRIZA whether it will choose to limit criticism of the deal to specific aspects or if it will go as far as to vote against the deal altogether.

In any case, the government has every reason to back the deal, to speed up its ratification. If the opposition votes against the deal, the government ought to communicate to France the importance placed by parties – and Greek society as a whole – in safeguarding the country’s territorial sovereignty and maritime jurisdiction rights.

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