PARIS – France is set to sell 52 Caesar artillery guns to the Czech Republic in a deal worth 257 million euros ($301 million) as Paris pushes for greater European defence autonomy, an Armed Forces Ministry official said on Wednesday.
President Emmanuel Macron said on Tuesday that Europe needed to stop being naive when it comes to defending its interests and must build its own military capacity after sealing a 3 billion euros ($3.5 billion) frigate deal with Greece and penning a cooperation agreement.
Paris was plunged into a dispute with the United States, Australia and Britain earlier this month over a trilateral nuclear security deal which sank a multi-billion dollar French-designed submarine contract with Canberra.
“This (Czech deal) comes after a period of rapprochement with the Czech Republic that was marked on a strategic level, but also a vision that is closer to what European defence policy should be and should bring us,” the official told reporters ahead of a visit by Armed Forces Minister Florence Parly to Prague on Thursday to sign the contract.
Most of the guns will be assembled in the Czech Republic.
France has also sought to bring European allies into military operations in the Sahel region of Africa where it has some 5,000 counter-terrorism troops fighting Islamist militants as part of efforts to encourage a broader European military strategy.
The Czechs are one of nine countries that has contributed special forces to a European contingent.
($1 = 0.8537 euros)