Upon conclusion of the works of the EU Defence Ministers’ Informal Meeting, the Minister of National Defence Mr. Nikolaos Panagiotopoulos and his French counterpart Mrs. Florance Parly visited the premises of the “Naval Group” shipyards in Lorient, France, where the FDI HN “Belharra” frigates will be constructed and supplied to the Hellenic Navy.
The President and CEO of the Group Mr. Pierre Éric Pommellet welcomed the Ministers, showed them the premises of the shipyards and informed them on their activities and capabilities.
In the context of the visit, the Minister of National Defence addressed the following:
“Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a special honor and pleasure to be here today, at the NAVAL GROUP premises, in Lorient, where the three “Belharra” frigates will be constructed and supplied to the Hellenic Navy, which has the possibility to obtain one more.
It is a major, and I would add historical, decision, which, as the Prime Minister Mr. Kyriakos Mitsotakis stated during the signing of the Agreement regarding the establishment of a Strategic Partnership Relation, for the cooperation concerning the defence and security of Greece and France in Paris last September, expands and deepens our bilateral defence cooperation, affecting at the same time the stance of our countries regarding solidarity, common views and mutual contribution to defend their sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity.
In addition, the acquisition of the French frigates reflects our determination to equip the Hellenic Fleet with state of the art frigates, armoring our Country. At the same time they reinforce, even more, the strategic defence relation between Greece and France, as EU and NATO partners, as well as the transatlantic alliance.
The negotiations for the Procurement and Follow on Support Contracts have been already concluded last December and the next stages, provided for in the Greek legislation, so that the Contracts will be signed the soonest possible, are about to follow.
I wish and encourage you, in the context of the frigates construction program, to pursue a cooperation with the Hellenic Defence Industry companies, a cooperation which is, for that matter, provided for in the Strategic Partnership Relation Agreement between Greece and France.
The procurement of the “Belharra” frigates will contribute to the important upgrade of the combat capability and deterrent power of the Hellenic Navy and the Armed Forces, the main mission of which is the defence of our Country’s territorial integrity and sovereign rights.
Through their acquisition, the Hellenic Navy’s fire power is multiplied. The developed characteristics of the “Belharra”, and especially the long range antiaircraft defence, the efficiency in antisubmarine warfare and the reinforced capability in surface warfare, provide the opportunity to perform multiple missions throughout the spectrum of naval warfare.
The procurement of the “Belharra” frigates complements the recent procurement of the eighteen “Rafale” aircraft and the imminent procurement of six more, turning the page for the Hellenic Armed Forces, which thus enter a new era, imposed by our times, as well as by the threats and challenges that our Country faces today.
The acquisition of these frigates also points out France’s full support to Greece and the determination of our two countries to further strengthen our cooperation, for the stability and welfare in the wider region of the Eastern Mediterranean.
Let me remind you at this point that the first six “Rafale” are about to land in the next few days in Tanagra Air Base, one year after the signing of the Agreement for their acquisition, for the achievement of which Minister Ms. Parly’s contribution was decisive.
Furthermore, the process for the selection of new corvettes for the Hellenic Navy is ongoing and the French corvette “Gowind” is a very strong candidate.
Through time, Greece and France, France and Greece have had ties and shared common values: faith to freedom, democracy, the rule of law and human rights; also, respect and protection of International Law and the United Nations Contract regarding the Law of the Seas.
The procurement of the “Belharra” frigates strengthens, upgrades and validates our common path and strategic vision of a partnership, while at the same time it is another daring step towards the European strategic autonomy.
I would like to extend my warmest congratulations to all agencies involved, since the procedures for such a complex armaments program proceed in an exemplary manner and at a quick pace, and I am certain that they will be concluded very soon.
I would also like to thank “Group Naval” and our host, the President and CEO Mr. Pommellet, for the organization of todays visit to Lorient and, of course, my dear colleague Minister Ms. Florance Parly.
I would also like to wish the Minister success, regarding the goals and pursuits of the French Presidency, especially regarding European Defence and Security of the European Union and the Member Nations.
I believe that the European Security imposes that France undertakes a leading role in this field, more than ever.