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Greece leases 2 FREMM frigates from France, at least two more to follow

Greece is to acquire two frigates of multi-mission type FREMM from France among tension with neighbor Turkey. The plan is revealed just a few days after French President Emmanuel Macron expressed his support to Greece against threats in the East Mediterranean Sea. According to Greek media, the frigates will be on leasing contract for five years. The frigates will be fully equipped with air defense systems.  They are expected to have reached Greece by next August.

Anti-ship Exocet rockets will be provided upon request.

The leasing cost will burden debt-ridden Greece with €100 million per year, some media note.

According to a Spiegel report from 2011 (!), Greece would have the option to either pay the leasing amount at the end of the leasing period or return them to the French Navy.

The deal reportedly follows a verbal agreement between President Emmanuel Macron and Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras in last January. Negotiations reportedly stater a month later. Most likely Macron brought up the issue also during his visit to Athens in September 2017.

Right Timing

However, the plan is much older, one cannot help but mentioning the timing, politically and financially.

  • Given the ongoing Turkish aggression, debt-ridden Greeks will not object the lease. But what would have happened, had Turkey be a cooperative and peaceful neighbor?
  • The frigates will be sailing in the Aegean by August, when the country is expected to have successfully concluded its fiscal adjustment, the bailout program.

Hollande & Macron

It was Macron’s predecessor, Francois Hollande, who had apparently proposed the leasing of two FREMM frigates during his visit to Athens in 2013. At that time the French plan to lease two frigates “would end up in the sale of six frigates to Greece.”  However, the financial situation of Greece did not allow the plan to materialize so far.

“At the end of the five-year lease for the FREMM, Greece is to take delivery of its first Belh@rra frigate. Greece has been in talks with France for four months for the purchase of between two and four Belh@arra frigates,” daily kathimerini notes on Friday.

Speaking at the European Parliament on Tuesday, Macron said ““I want to stress that France is at any moment on the side of any member country whose sovereignty is being attacked. It is a clear position […] we always have towards Greece regarding the threats in the Eastern Mediterranean.”

Alternate Defense Minister confirms

Alternate Defense Minister, Fotis Kouvelis, confirmed the media report on Friday morning. Speaking of “strengthening the Greek Navy with two frigates,” Kouvelis revealed that Greece is considering to acquire two more frigates. Most likely one more FREMM and one of new technology type, digital frigate Belh@rra.

Greece cannot joint an armament race, the minister said, adding the country needs its deterrent power.

Kouvelis  forecast that  Turkey’s aggressive behavior in the Aegean will continue.

Saying that “it is the usual difficult two months” until the Turkish elections, Kouvelis stressed that  this climate of tension is fueling the formation of a particular climate and serves Tayyip Erdogan’s pre-election campaign.

He expressed “fear over a possibility of a hot pursuit” when Greek fighter jets intercept Turkish jets violating Greek air space.

PS I suppose, the French-Greek armament is also the reason behind the support of French finance ministers as well as the permanently benevolent attitude of EU Commissioner for Economic & Financial Affairs, Pierre Moscovici, in the last few years.


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