ATHENS — Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis met with President of the Hellenic Republic Katerina Sakellaropoulou at the Presidential Mansion on Wednesday for the president's regular monthly briefing.
During their dialogue at the beginning of their meeting, the prime minister pointed out that this month's meeting "coincides with a very important moment for the foreign and defence policy of the country. We signed a very strong defence cooperation agreement yesterday with French President Emmanuel Macron. I single out three important elements from yesterday's announcements."
The prime minister analysed these three elements, saying: "First, the fact that we have an agreement with a very strong mutual defence assistance clause, which goes beyond the commitments of collective support that exist in both NATO and the treaties of the European Union.
"The second element is that the armed forces are acquiring state-of-the-art French frigates and our choice was greatly influenced by the suggestions of the Hellenic Navy. We got, I believe, the best ships at the best possible price. Essentially, making a choice that will modernise our fleet for many decades and give us very significant operational potential in the Eastern Mediterranean, but not only there.
"And the third dimension of this agreement is that, in my view, it is a model for more systematic cooperation between European states in order to put into practice the issue of European strategic autonomy, at a time when Europe must finally align its geopolitical power with its economic strength."
Mitsotakis also stressed that "France is the most militarily powerful country in the European Union, the only one that has a nuclear arsenal and with President Macron we share the same vision for a strong, but also autonomous Europe, which can to defend, if necessary, its own geopolitical interests."
He also informed the president that "this agreement should not in any way be interpreted as undermining Greece's position in the EuroAtlantic Alliance. The opposite, in fact. I believe that the more European countries strengthen their defence budgets, and the more Europe gains enhanced potential for better cooperation in the field of defence, the stronger NATO and the transatlantic link become. And, of course, one of the key issues we always face in our defence policy in Europe is the issue of interoperability. So the more countries buy common types of weapons, the more this issue is resolved. Let me mention indicatively that the frigates we are acquiring are practically the same frigates as those purchased by the French Navy, the Rafale we have acquired are practically the same Rafale as those used by France and which Croatia is adding to its own fleet."
On her part, the President of the Republic pointed out that "indeed this agreement, as we were informed, is very important for the defence of our country and the role it wants to play, and already plays, as a pillar of stability in the Southeastern Mediterranean. But also, more broadly, as you say, because it is good to have defensive shielding as a message – something that our country's position demands. However, I would say that I find the agreement particularly important, from the point of view you mentioned at the beginning, in strengthening Europe's role, which must raise a more important voice, as we discussed with the other Presidents at the Arraiolos group meeting in Rome not long ago. The strategic autonomy of the EU is something that we should be concerned about, and Europe needs to find its way slowly on this issue, without this, of course, meaning that it is challenging other cooperations, you are absolutely right. No one disputes the role of the North Atlantic Alliance and our participation in it, but other moves need to be made at the same time, which are very important. In this context, I also hope that things will go very well," Sakellaropoulou said.