The French President signed a defence deal with Greece on Tuesday for French frigates worth about €3billion. The move was sold by both Macron and Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis as a pact that would boost EU defence autonomy.
But some in the EU were sceptical of the deal and are concerned it would only serve to flare up tensions between Greece and Turkey in the Mediterranean.
One EU diplomat told Politico: “It is a bit bizarre to say the pact contributes to European sovereignty.
“By all accounts, this is a traditional 19th-century defence pact between two European powers.
“It has definitely more to do with the pursuit of narrow national interests than with Europe.”
Tensions between Greece and Turkey have been rising over disputed waters in the Mediterranean that contain fossil fuel reserves.
When asked whether this deal risked raising tensions in the eastern Mediterranean, Macron said the accord did not target a country specifically, but Greece, as the outer border of the European Union needed to be protected.
“I don’t get the feeling that in the summer of 2020 it was Greece that was bellicose in the eastern Mediterranean,” Macron said, alluding to Turkish actions in the region.
“As Europeans it is our duty to show solidarity with members states. It is legitimate that we commit to equipping it so it can ensure its territorial integrity is respected and that we commit to cooperating to protect it in case of intrusions, attacks or aggressions,” he said.
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Under the agreement Athens agreed to buy three frigates with an option to buy a fourth.
The accord, part of a broader strategic military and defence cooperation pact, comes after Athens had already ordered some 24 Dassault-made Rafale fighter jets this year, making it the first European Union country to buy the fighter jet.
“This will tie us for decades,” Mitsotakis said.
“This opens the door to the Europe of tomorrow that is strong and autonomous, capable of defending its interests.”