A recent military deal with France does not serve Greek interests, the leader of Greece's main opposition party SYRIZA has said.
Alexis Tsipras heavily criticized the ruling right-wing New Democracy (ND) government led by Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis on numerous domestic and international issues, including the government's handling of the coronavirus pandemic, skyrocketing energy prices, and the distribution of public funds to pro-government media outlets in an exclusive interview he gave on Greek TV channel Alpha on Tuesday evening.
Tsipras admitted that he backed the deal, signed on Sept. 28, in principle but voiced opposition to it on three major points.
First, he said, the deal is unbalanced, noting that it does not assure French aid if Greece is attacked by a third party.
Tsipras added as a second point that the construction of three FDI class frigates under the agreement would not involve Greece's defense industry.
Also, by signing the deal, Greece risks having to deploy troops in the Sahel region of West Africa alongside French forces battling regional insurgents, Tsipras said.
"I think the government is moving away from the (country's) doctrine of peace, security, and stability," he said.
Greece signed the agreement with France to purchase three warships and enhance security cooperation between the two countries, a move hailed by both sides as a step toward European strategic autonomy.
The agreement came less than two weeks after France was left fuming as it was excluded from a new Indo-Pacific defense pact between the US, UK, and Australia.
It also drew condemnation from Greece's neighbor Turkey, which blasted Athens's "claims on maximalist maritime jurisdiction and airspace" as being against international law and that its policy of armament and isolation of Turkey was "problematic" as it will harm both itself and the EU, and threaten regional peace and stability.
Greek Defense Minister Nikolaos Panagiotopoulos had said earlier that the defense deal also covers the maritime jurisdiction.
Turkey, which has the longest continental coastline in the Eastern Mediterranean, has rejected the maritime boundary claims of Greece, stressing that the excessive claims violate the sovereign rights of both Turkey and the Turkish Cypriots.
Coronavirus pandemic, inflation
On the pandemic, the SYRIZA leader highlighted that Greece has the highest rate of coronavirus-related deaths per million people in Europe and that the number of unvaccinated people has remained high.
Drawing attention to the falling health budget despite these fatalities as the government ramps up defense spending, Tsipras said: "You can't create a climate of contentment in society while you reduce public health spending."
He also accused the government of funneling public funds to support pro-government media and business circles even as many in the country face financial difficulties.
"The government has not realized how the majority of Greek citizens live," said Tsipras, claiming that one in three households could not make ends meet due to record price rises, particularly in electricity.
"While all these are happening, the prime minister didn’t keep his promise of increasing the minimum wage," Tsipras remarked, concluding: "Mr. Mitsotakis is obsessed with policies that destroy social cohesion."