Macron says Europe needs to strengthen defense and end its ‘naivety’ in first comments since Australia snub

Emmanuel Macron has said Europe must bolster its defenses and end its “naivety” in his first remarks since Australia rejected their submarine deal in favor of a new security pact with the US and the UK.

The French president was speaking as he announced a multibillion-euro deal to sell three of the country’s state-of-the-art Belharra frigates to Greece.

“Europeans must come out of their naivety,” Macron said at a press conference on Tuesday alongside Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis at the Elysee Palace.

“When we’re under pressure, … showing that we also have power and the ability to defend ourselves … is just respecting ourselves.”

As part of the Aukus alliance, Australia shredded a $65 billion deal to buy diesel-electric submarines from France, in favor of nuclear submarine technology supplied by Britain and America.

“Europeans must come out of their naivety,” Macron said at a press conference on Tuesday alongside Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis at the Elysee Palace.

Today is a historic day for Greece and France.  We have decided to enhance our bilateral defensive cooperation,

Today is a historic day for Greece and France. We have decided to enhance our bilateral defensive cooperation,” Mitsotakis said.

An artist's impression of France's new warship, the Belharra.  The first sample was cut in October 2019 and the lead vessel is expected to be laid down in November 2021

An artist’s impression of France’s new warship, the Belharra. The first sample was cut in October 2019 and the lead vessel is expected to be laid down in November 2021

A glowing Macron had his ambassadors recalled to both Canberra and Washington as a result of the news.

Ambassador Philippe Etienne will return to Washington on Wednesday with a “clear mandate,” Macron said.

He stressed that he and US President Joe Biden agreed in a phone call last week to open in-depth consultations to create the conditions for ensuring trust between the old allies.

Macron said he will speak with Biden again in mid-October, before a scheduled face-to-face meeting in Europe late next month.

The US is “great historical friends and allies in terms of values, but we have to see that for more than 10 years Americans have focused on themselves first and refocused their strategic interests on China and the Pacific,” Macron said.

“We, as Europeans, must do our part in protecting ourselves,” he added. “It is not an alternative to the alliance with the US, nor a replacement for it,” he emphasized, adding that European defense plans should come alongside NATO.

France’s deal with Greece came about less than two weeks after Macron was shaken by Aukus’ announcement.

He called Athens’ decision to buy the Belharra ships “a sign of confidence” in France’s defense industry against competition from US group Lockheed Martin in particular, according to press releases.

The deal marks “a bold first step towards European strategic autonomy,” Macron said.

“It contributes to European security and the strengthening of Europe’s strategic autonomy and sovereignty, and thus to international peace and security,” Macron said.

The French leader has long insisted that Europe should develop its own defense capabilities and stop being so dependent on the United States, even warning that NATO was undergoing ‘brain death’.

Macron stressed that he and US President Joe Biden agreed in a phone call last week to open in-depth consultations to create the conditions for ensuring trust between the old allies.

A glowing Macron had his ambassadors recalled to both Canberra and Washington as a result of the news.  Boris Johnson's blush was spared on that occasion

A glowing Macron had his ambassadors recalled to both Canberra and Washington (Biden left in photo) as a result of the news. Boris Johnson (right) was spared on that occasion

Today is a historic day for Greece and France. We have decided to enhance our bilateral defensive cooperation,” Mitsotakis said.

He said the agreement includes “mutual support” and “joint action at all levels”, as well as an option to buy a fourth frigate.

No financial details were given on the value of the deal, but the ships will be delivered from 2024.

An artist's impression of the new ultra-modern French frigate Belharra

An artist’s impression of the new ultra-modern French frigate Belharra

The deal did not include the sale of French Gowind corvettes, a possibility raised in Greek media reports.

“France’s construction of this state-of-the-art equipment contributes to an ambitious European defence,” said French Defense Minister Florence Parly.

Mitsotakis added that the French deal would not affect talks over the renewal of a long-standing defense cooperation agreement between Greece and Washington, despite tensions that had developed between the EU and Washington after the Australian submarines argued. .

The agreement is “not hostile” to the Greek-American relationship, he said, citing “France stood by us during difficult times in the summer of 2020,” a reference to Turkey’s challenge to Greek territorial rights in the Aegean Sea.

Macron added that the sale of the frigate was not intended as a threat to Ankara, but as a means of jointly ensuring security in the Mediterranean, North Africa, the Middle East and the Balkans.

Greece and France had already sparked Ankara’s ire in January when they signed a 2.5 billion euro ($3 billion) deal for 18 Rafale jets — 12 used and six new ones — as part of a burgeoning weapons program to target Turkey. counter ambitions.

A French Rafale fighter jet performs during an air show at Tanagra Air Base, north of Athens, on Saturday, September 4.

A French Rafale fighter jet performs during an air show at Tanagra Air Base, north of Athens, on Saturday, September 4.

A French Rafale fighter jet performs during an air show at Tanagra Air Base, north of Athens, on Saturday, September 4, 2021. The performance is part of an annual air show, known as Athens Flying Week, which showcases aerobatic teams from different countries. held

A French Rafale fighter jet performs during an air show at Tanagra Air Base, north of Athens, on Saturday, September 4, 2021. The performance is part of an annual air show, known as Athens Flying Week, which showcases aerobatic teams from different countries. held

Earlier this month, Mitsotakis surprised many observers with plans to buy another six Rafale jets, bringing the total number to 24.

“It’s not directed at anyone,” Macron said. “It enables more efficient and coordinated action for peace, cooperation and stability, in an international order based on the rule of law and in full compliance with obligations.”

Macron also promised that the US-Australia pact would not affect France’s strategy for the Indo-Pacific region, where China has made no secret of its desire to wield significant military power.

“We have a million fellow citizens living in this region and more than 8,000 soldiers have been deployed there,” Macron said, referring to France’s presence in several overseas territories in the region.

However, he added that “Europeans must stop being naive” regarding geopolitical competition, while confirming that the French ambassador to Washington, who was called home in the wake of the subs crisis, would return on Wednesday.

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