Greek lawmakers approved the 2021 state budget, which includes a doubling of defense expenditures, after a five-day-long debate on Thursday night.
Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said the government aims to increase spending on military capacity by 57% compared to that of 2019.
Greece’s defense budget is projected to reach around 5.5 billion euros (US$6.6 billion), more than double last year’s spending.
This year’s economic contraction is expected to reach 10.5%, according to a government projection in the country’s 2021 budget.
Despite the hardship, Greece will purchase eighteen French Rafale fighter jets, which will cost 1.5 billion euros next year from a total of 2.5 billion.
“Within a few days, the deal on the acquisition of eighteen Rafale type jets from France will be signed here in Athens,” PM Kyriakos Mitsotakis told lawmakers during the debate on the 2021 budget.
“Never before has such a complex and important military program been carried out so quickly and efficiently,” he said, adding the government also wants to acquire new frigates, helicopters, and drones, upgrade its F-16 fleet and recruit an additional 15,000 personnel to its ranks.
Lawmakers are expected to approve the deal in the coming days, while French Defense Minister Florence Parly will sign the contract in Athens next week.
Pilots will begin training in France in early 2021, while the first six planes — which have been previously used — will arrive in Greece by July, Defense Ministry officials said.