French President Emmanuel Macron and Greek Premier Kyriakos Mitsotakis met at the Elysee Palace to sign a defence cooperation agreement. Macron said that Greece would buy the three frigates from France as part of a deeper "strategic partnership" between the two countries to defend their shared interests in the Mediterranean. The deal marks "an audacious first step towards European strategic autonomy", Macron said.
The accord did not include the sale of any French Gowind corvettes, a possibility that had been evoked in Greek media reports.
Two politicians were supposed to meet for the opening of an exhibition “Paris-Athens: Birth of Modern Greece ”at the Louvre Museum. At Elysee, they answered questions about the naval acquisition programme for the Hellenic Navy. As the Dutch and Italian competitors were competing, the effect of Australia’s decision was on the main question mark. This coincidence was asked to French President Macron. Mr Macron declined any relation with two contracts, said the contract with Australia was very important. However, the goal was for the submarines to serve the Australians so that Australia would have the biggest impact from the cancellation.
In a similar question, Greek Premier Mr Mitsotakis said that the new agreement “does not compete with the relationship between Greece and the United States.” As the strengthening of the Greek defence takes place within NATO frameworks, the signing of the Greek-American defence agreement will take place in a short time.
Mitsotakis also reminded how "France stood by us during difficult times in the summer of 2020", a reference to the challenge between Turkey and Greece for the territorial rights in the Aegean.
The Prime Minister also stressed that the choice of the French frigate was made because this was a suggestion of the Hellenic Navy and that France offers quick delivery. He also stated that the frigates would be built in France, and there would be significant added value from the Greek side.
Macron replied that the frigate sale was not meant to be seen as a threat against Ankara, but a means to jointly ensure security in the Mediterranean as well as in North Africa, the Middle East and the Balkans.
Greece had launched a call for tenders to acquire four frigates and the modernization of four other Meko 200 type frigates. And participants were asked to propose an interim solution to fill a capacity gap before the delivery of ships to the Greek navy. Initially, the French Naval Group was the favourite. In October 2019, Athens had signed a letter of intent for a possible order for two “Belh @ rra” frigates. However, the American Lockheed-Martin offered, at a “sacrificed” price, four MMSC [multi-mission surface combatants] type frigates, derived from the Freedom-class, developed as part of the “Littoral Combat Ship” [LCS] program. And, as a bonus, the Greek naval industry was offered the opportunity to participate in the FFG [X] project, which consisted of producing ten “Constellation” -type frigates for the US Navy. Naval Group, Lockheed-Martin, Damen [Netherlands], Fincantieri [Italy], Babcock [UK] and Blohm Voss [Germany] were initial participants.
Lockheed-Martin has also proposed the transfer of decommissioned Ticonderoga-type cruisers and/or Freedom-class ships.
France also offered Cassard-class anti-air frigate (FAA) Jean Bart, recently withdrawn from service, and the F70 type anti-submarine frigate [ASW] Latouche-Tréville, whose disarmament was planned for 2022.