Greece ratifies updated US defense agreement

The agreement allows US forces to use Greek military facilities including Larissa and Stefanovikio air bases, and the port of Alexandroupolis

Greece’s parliament on Thursday, January 30 approved an updated defense agreement with the U.S. allowing the use of Greek military facilities as hundreds protested outside.

A majority of lawmakers ratified the Mutual Defence Cooperation Agreement (MDCA) as hundreds of Communist, left-wing and anti-war demonstrators protested on central Syntagma Square.

The agreement, which updates a deal originally signed in 1990 when Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis’ father was premier, enables the use by U.S. forces of Greek military facilities including the airbases of Larissa and Stefanovikio.

Permitted actions for U.S. forces at these facilities include training, refuelling, temporary maintenance, storage and emergency response.

The updated deal was originally signed in October during a visit by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

“This agreement is beneficial to national interests,” defence minister Nikos Panagiotopoulos told parliament.

The U.S. is also granted priority status for “unimpeded access and use” within 48 hours of the port of Alexandroupolis, a Balkans and Black Sea gateway of strategic value to the U.S. Navy and NATO.

The U.S. paid approximately $2.3 million to remove last year a sunken dredging barge that had blocked part of the harbour since 2010.

“This agreement upgrades (Greece’s) importance in U.S. planning and can help deterrence,” the defense minister said, adding that U.S. forces are expected to invest over €12 million ($13 million) on the Larissa base and around €6 million at Marathi, part of the U.S. base of Souda, Crete.

Greece has signed on to an F-16 upgrade programme worth $1.5 billion, and is also interested in U.S.-made Sikorsky MH-60R Seahawk multi-mission helicopters, drones and, eventually, F-35 warplanes, Mitsotakis has said.

The defense agreement has been roundly condemned by left-wing opposition parties.

“Wherever they are, U.S. and NATO bases are targets for reprisals … NATO bases do not protect,” said Communist party chairman Dimitris Koutsoumbas, warning that the government was “deepening” its involvement in “adventurism.”

With reporting from AFP