Our country signed a strategic landmark agreement that creates a new environment in terms of protecting the integrity and sovereignty of Greece, and strengthens its geopolitical footprint in the Aegean, the wider Eastern Mediterranean region and Europe, as well as its deterrent capabilities. last Tuesday with the EU’s largest military force, France.
With the historic agreement for mutual defense assistance, the purchase of three + 1 Belharra type frigates and the cooperation in defense and foreign policy, following the purchase of the 24 Rafale fighters, the slogan “Greece France Alliance” now takes on substantial content and the historical ties of the two countries, while a defensive “umbrella” is provided in Greece.
The importance of the agreement was highlighted in statements immediately after its signing in Paris on September 28, by Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and French President Emanuel Macron. “The signing of the agreement on the establishment of a strategic partnership for cooperation in defense and security not only reflects but reinforces a reality, which is known to all, that our two countries, Greece and France, have already developed a very strong an alliance that essentially exceeds each other’s obligations within the EU and NATO “was the first statement of Kyriakos Mitsotakis. Accordingly, Emanuel Macron sent the message that “we want to protect the integrity of both our states, promoting security and stability in our common areas”, identifying the Mediterranean and the Balkans. In addition, he noted that “we help Greece to equip itself to safeguard its interests and we work together to protect it in the event of an attack and hostile action.”
In the same vein, immediately after the signing of the agreement, Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias stressed that “Greece’s geopolitical footprint is being upgraded, while security and stability in the wider region are being strengthened.”
By radiographing the Agreement, its foundation is undoubtedly Article 2, a mutual assistance clause in the event of an armed attack, which includes the use of military means. In other words, the cornerstone of the agreement provides for French military assistance to Greece and vice versa, in the event of a third country attack, even if that country is within their alliances (such as Turkey). which is a member of NATO).
This is the first time that such a clause is contained in a bilateral agreement between Greece and a European partner or ally in NATO, while a similar clause was signed by our country a year ago with the United Arab Emirates.
Is it the model for European strategic autonomy?
At the same time, the Greek-French agreement can be a prelude to the EU’s strategic autonomy, ie the consolidation of defense policy, especially after the EU presidency by France next January, so that Europe can align its geopolitical power. with its financial strength.
Characteristically, the compass of the agreement “shows” that the EU’s Common Security and Defense Policy should include the progressive formulation of a Union Defense Policy, with NATO remaining the foundation of their collective defense.
“The agreement paves the way for an autonomous and strong Europe of the future. A Europe that can defend its interests in its wider neighborhood, in the Eastern Mediterranean, in the Middle East, in the Sahel. A Europe that has the means, the will and the influence to guarantee peace and progress at a global level “, said Kyriakos Mitsotakis. For his part, the French President stressed that Europeans must leave their innocence behind and noted: “When we are under pressure, when foreign powers harden their stance, we must react, show that we have the strength and ability to defend ourselves. ».
Unfolding the grid of the agreement a few days later, Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexandros Papaioannou stressed that Greece was and will always be in favor of deepening the process of European integration, including in the field of defense, and expressed the belief that the European Union should develop the military capabilities that will allow it to act autonomously and be able to deal with crises that threaten its security and territorial integrity, without necessarily having to seek the assistance of others. He also clarified that this position is not incompatible with the commitments undertaken by Greece in the framework of NATO and the EU.
Reprint on other important articles of the agreement
Mapping other important areas of the “Strategic Partnership for Defense and Security Cooperation”, which is structured in 31 articles, special mention is made of the two countries’ cooperation on energy issues in the Mediterranean, but also within the framework of the UN.
Another important piece of the agreement is the regular consultations of the Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Defense of the two countries. In particular, for the better coordination of the two countries, the agreement provides in Article 5 that the political Directorates of the competent ministries will conduct annual strategic dialogues, in addition to the meetings of the Staffs, the armaments committees or any other technical committees that are considered necessary. The scope of the consultations is expected to cover a wide agenda of common interest, such as the global strategic environment, regional issues, especially in the Mediterranean, the Middle East, Africa and the Balkans, energy challenges, migration, maritime safety, misinformation.
Special mention is made of the cooperation between Greece and France in the fields of armaments and the defense and security industries. Specifically, it is stated that the two countries seek, as far as possible, to develop an industrial partnership that will include Greek and French defense companies. In this context, an armaments committee is set up to monitor the initiatives taken, which will meet on an annual basis.
In the same vein, Article 18 of the Agreement provides for “joint activities, training and military exercises, whether on the ground or on Greek or French state-owned ships or aircraft, in the context of France’s increased naval presence in the Mediterranean or joint participation in bilateral or multilateral exercises in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Aegean Sea “.
An equally important parameter is the pursuit of strengthening Europe’s role in the world, always taking into account the strategic relations with other allies of Greece, starting with the USA. In this spirit, the first reaction of the United States can be considered indicative, which welcomed the agreement with a statement from the State Department. In a similar vein, a European diplomatic source said on Friday night that “it is a strategic partnership that strengthens Greece-France ties in full respect of EU and NATO commitments” and that “it will enable further contribution to European defense. and Euro-Atlantic security “. He added that “no one has said that such a strategic partnership is incompatible with an alliance.” Accordingly, the German Foreign Ministry pointed out that the Greek-French agreement “contains clear references to the status of (the two countries) as EU and NATO member states and is not directed against other partners”.
It is noted that the agreement is illuminated in the preamble by the explicit reference to respect for international law, including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.
The term of the agreement is in principle five years and will be renewed by explicit agreement of the two countries for a further period to be determined by mutual agreement.
The draft law of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for the agreement was submitted to the Parliament on Friday night, it will be put for discussion in the competent Parliamentary Committee next Tuesday and on Thursday it will be put for discussion and vote in the Plenary.
The operational capabilities of the Belharra frigates
The operational capabilities of the three new Belharra frigates, with the possibility of adding one more, emboss the scope of their contribution to the country’s defense shield, catching the thread from the purchase of the 24 Rafale. With their high technology and long-range weapons systems, they will act as a power multiplier in the Aegean and the Eastern Mediterranean, as in addition to the increased capabilities they will be fully compatible to “work” with Rafale fighters.
More specifically, the Belharra frigates are warships equipped for high-intensity offshore collisions, fully equipped with air defense and anti-submarine warfare equipment and capable of shooting down air targets over very long distances. In terms of their anti-aircraft capabilities, they have capabilities for continuous control of air and sea space and autonomy of action to support defense and political objectives. They belong to the next generation of “digital” frigates and are equipped with the advanced SeaFire radar that makes them, according to the French Ministry of Defense, particularly effective in anti-aircraft warfare. SeaFire radars are combined with the latest version of the ASTER 30 anti-aircraft missiles. The SeaFire / ASTER 30 combination is estimated to offer area air defense to the Fleet Units, at distances exceeding 100 km, while at the same time it will have anti-ballistic capabilities. That is, as government sources noted after the signing of the agreement in Paris, the Navy acquires, for the first time in its history, ships that will be able to shoot down air targets at very long distances, while they can also offer protection against ballistic missiles. missiles. The armament is complemented by an advanced 76 mm cannon, but also by the RAM system of 21 missiles, for protection from air, land and sea.
In addition to sophisticated anti-aircraft capabilities, it also has some of the top anti-submarine capabilities, thanks to the pioneering sonar CAPTAS-4. The latter is expected to be combined with the state-of-the-art anti-submarine helicopters MH-60R that our country recently bought from the USA and will be delivered in early 2022. The anti-submarine armament is complemented by state-of-the-art anti-submarine torpedoes, as it became known.
Anti-ship weapons include the most advanced “digital” Exocet MM40 Block 3c, capable of hitting targets at long distances, while also being able to hit coastal targets. To deal with surface and submarine threats, it has a 76mm cannon, eight anti-ship missiles, and the frigate is equipped with sonar systems and four torpedo tubes.
The equipment of the new “digital” frigates, as announced, is complemented by state-of-the-art electronic systems, which are completed on the world-leading French Combat Information Center SETIS.
According to the construction company Naval Group, the digital infrastructure of the frigate “guarantees future development possibilities”, in order to deal with threats during the life of the ship, such as ballistic missiles, multi-sounding missiles, Stealth threats and cyber-attacks. He further notes that the frigate combines a variety of state-of-the-art technologies provided by Naval Group’s partnerships with Thales and MBDA.
“We got the best ships at the best possible price. “Essentially, making a choice that will modernize our fleet for many decades and give us very important operational capabilities in the theater of the Eastern Mediterranean, but not only”, the Prime Minister clarified after the meeting with the President of the Republic Katerina Sakellaropoulou, during which informed about the agreement.
It is noted that the development of Belharra-type defense and intervention frigates began in 2015, they have a tonnage of 4.500 tons, a length of 122 meters and a 120-member crew. In addition, they can carry a helicopter and an unmanned aircraft, as well as commandos with their light speedboats.
The first state-of-the-art “digital” frigate, whose cyber protection is already integrated from its design, is expected to be delivered in 2025 and the last in 2026.
In addition, on the table is the provision of 3 state-of-the-art Gowind corvettes (with option for another one) with full equipment. More specifically, the Minister of National Defense Nikos Panagiotopoulos stated that “a negotiation will start” and pointed out that “there will be good news soon”.