Greek parliament approves major arms deals with France | Economic news

By DEREK GATOPOULOS, Associated Press

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Greece’s parliament on Tuesday approved a 3 billion euro ($3.4 billion) deal for three new French-made frigates that defense officials say are key to coping persistent tensions with neighboring Turkey.

Lawmakers also voted to add six new Rafale fighter jets to an existing order of 18 planes, including six newly built and 12 that were previously in service with the French Air Force.

NATO members Greece and Turkey remain at odds over maritime borders and mining rights in the Aegean and eastern Mediterranean. A Turkish oil and gas investigation in 2020 resulted in a tense naval standoff between the two countries.

Defense Minister Nikos Panagiotopoulos said Greece’s military needed to modernize following repeated budget cuts during the country’s acute financial crisis of 2010-18.

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“There is no armament program that is ‘slightly necessary’ or ‘somewhat necessary’,” Panagiotopoulos told lawmakers Monday during a committee debate in parliament.

“All the weapons programs that we have submitted for approval, in one way or another, are absolutely necessary for the armed forces – extremely necessary, urgent.”

The purchases were approved by all 157 lawmakers in the centre-right government in the 300-seat parliament, with backing from two opposition parties. The left-wing opposition party opposed the additional purchase of French fighter jets.

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and French President Emmanuel Macron finalized the frigates deal as well as an enhanced defense cooperation agreement between their countries last year.

Mitsotakis denied claims by political opponents that the purchases could rattle Greece’s economy, which is already struggling with high deficits due to pandemic spending and a huge national debt worth more than double the country’s annual output. .

“The program responds to the needs of the armed forces, it helps keep our alliances strong, it is implemented at a rapid pace and it mobilizes the forces of our national economy, but it will not upset the necessary fiscal balance,” he said. he told lawmakers.

Manufactured by the French naval group, two warships are due for delivery in 2025 and the third the following year, with an option to add a fourth frigate which will be ready in 2027. ___ Follow Gatopoulos on dgatopoulos

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