EU accused of hypocrisy for £1 billion in arms sales to Greece
European Union countries have been accused of hypocrisy over imposing savage austerity measures on Greece while at the same time selling the highly indebted country over £1 billion of arms.
8:00AM GMT 08 Mar 2012
In 2010, as Greece was plunged into crisis and the EU began a scheduled £200 billion in aid payments, European countries continued to sell aircraft, tanks, artillery and submarines to the Greek military.
In the same year, France concluded a £662 million military aircraft deal with Greece, a lucrative deal for the French arms industry that will be underwritten by EU bail-out funds.
Official German trade figures showed that in 2010 Germany, which has demanded draconian cuts to Greek social welfare spending, sold weaponry, including a submarine, worth £336 million to the impoverished southern Mediterranean country.
In October 2011, as the EU negotiated a second bail-out for Greece, Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor and Nicolas Sarkozy, the French President told the Greek government that all existing arms contracts must be honoured.
"No one has explicitly tied the EU payments to arms deals but there is an understanding with Greece that support will be more palatable if present, and future, sales go ahead," said a European diplomat.
Greece is one of the biggest arms purchasers in the Mediterranean region due to the perceived threat from Turkey. The country's large army, 156,000 troops, aims to keep up military parity with Turkey, its hostile neighbour with seven times the population of Greece.
After EU demands for greater austerity, as Greece debt has deepened despite multi-billion bailouts, Greek social spending has been cut by nine per cent while military budgets have risen, by as much as 18 per cent.
Hilmar Linnenkamp, of the German Institute for International and Security Affairs, described the sales as "totally irresponsible" at a time when Greece is sinking into a toxic spiral of debt and recession.
"The latest arms export report reveals that in 2010 Greece imported exactly 223 howitzers and a submarine from Germany," he told the Die Zeit newspaper.
"The total value of the arms sales was 403 million euros, which contributed greatly to the explosion of Greece's public debt."
Martin Callanan, the leader of Conservatives MEPs in the European Parliament, accused Germany and France of not caring about the future of Greece.
"They are effectively subsidising their own defence industries via the bail-out funds," he said.
"They are making Greece pay for ships and planes they don't need – with money they don't have. The Greeks need a life-raft – not another U-boat."