In a tête-a-tête meeting in Paris Monday, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and French President Emmanuel Macron are expected to discuss a new defense agreement between the two countries. They are also going to finalize a deal for Greece to buy Belharra frigates from France.
Monday’s meeting will be the third one between the two men in 2021, an indication of the close relations between Greece and France – an alliance with a long history, ever since the late Greek PM Konstantinos Karamanlis forged a strong personal friendship with the late President Valéry Giscard d’Estaing in the mid-1970s.
Mitsotakis flew from New York to Paris in order to be present at the opening of the “Paris – Athens: The birth of modern Greece, 1675 – 1919” exhibition in the Louvre, taking place as part of the bicentenary of the Greek War of Independence. After the opening, the Greek PM and Macron will hold talks at the Elysee presidential palace.
Mitsotakis, Macron to discuss new defense agreement
With the deal concerning the purchase of the Rafale fighter jets from France already in progress (the first ones being delivered to Greece now), the two leaders will be discussing a new defense agreement. According to reports, a potential deal for a number of Belharra frigates will be part of the talks.
The French frigates have reportedly been approved by the Greek Navy over US frigates, which were being considered earlier this year. Greek Defense Minister Nikos Panagiotopoulos and Foreign Affairs Minister Nikos Dendias will be flying to Paris in order to negotiate the buy with the French and potentially taking part in the Mitsotakis – Macron talks.
With the recent AUKUS defense deal between the US, the UK and Australia having upset France’s submarine deal with Australia and caused frustration to the French government, Macron is now looking for other defense agreements elsewhere.
A deal with Greece for an order of Belharra frigates would go a long way in compensating France for the cancelled purchase agreement with the Aussies.
Macron’s ambitions for becoming EU figurehead
Additionally, the French President may be trying to take advantage of a potential EU power vacuum caused by the retirement of German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Macron has never kept his ambitions of becoming the leading figure in European Union decision-making hidden. A series of defense deals with member states would be a first step in painting him as the emerging EU figurehead.
Macron’s popularity has achieved a much-needed boost after his strong reaction to the AUKUS agreement. Having pulled his ambassadors from the three countries, his combative diplomatic stance, particularly toward the US, is something the French people seem to strongly approve.
In addition, Mitsotakis needs Macron‘s ongoing support for Greek-Turkish issues, concerning both the Turkish claims in the Aegean and the Afghan migration flows expected to overwhelm the Greek islands.
In that spirit, Macron took part in the recent meeting of the southern EU countries in Athens, where he signed a communique with strong warnings against Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan concerning Turkey’s provocations in the southeastern Mediterranean.