Reports that the Greek government was heavily leaning towards a French proposal for procurement of new frigates and corvettes for the Hellenic Navy were widely circulating in Athens on Monday, a day ahead of a formal meeting in Paris between the two countries’ leaders.
Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis was already in Paris on Monday, with an evening reception hosted by French President Emmanuel Macros on the official itinerary.
Diplomatic and media sources on Monday claimed that the Greek government intends to announce a bilateral defense pact with France that includes the purchase of three cutting-edge Belh@rra frigates – with the inaugural unit now being constructed – and an option for another vessel, along with three Gowind corvettes.
The reports are accompanied by an estimated price tag of five billion euros, with still unconfirmed details claiming the frigates will be built at Naval Group’s shipyard in Lorient, whereas the corvettes will be launched by Greek shipyards.
Adding veracity to the reports is the fact that Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias and DM Nikos Panagiotopoulos will be in the French capital on Tuesday.
By all accounts, the current French proposal is significantly improved from a previous offer made last year.
Asked about the reports on Monday, a government spokesman in Athens merely recommended a “little more patience”.
Greece has signaled that it will boost its defense capabilities in the face of official Turkey’s continuing belligerence and saber-rattling in the Aegean and eastern Mediterranean, with provocations by the now unabashedly authoritarian Erdogan government far exceeding Turkish military incitements in the region over the past two decades.
The first “big ticket” item in terms of weapons systems was the purchase of 18 Dassault-made Rafale warplanes, a mix of used and new fighter planes. Athens then exercised an option to acquire another six.
According to the same reports, the recently unveiled pact by the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia to boost defense cooperation and joint initiatives, known as “AUKUS”, tilted the scale in favor of the French warships.
One ostensible factor cites the Macron government’s improved offer in order to “close the deal” with Athens, given that Australia’s cancellation of an agreement to purchase 12 French-made submarines cost French companies some 90 billion Australian dollars.
Another factor “making the rounds” in the Greek capital claims an attempt by Washington to “soothe” French anger over the cancellation of the submarine contact by quietly scrapping an offer to sell the US-made MMSC frigates.