Hollande’s trip is a “message of confidence and backing,” his office said, adding that since he took power nine months ago the Socialist leader has championed the idea that Athens remain within the euro zone.
Foreign Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos said the visit was a “strong gesture of understanding, solidarity and support for the Greek people. “This visit encourages the pro-European forces in Greece who are struggling against the fierce opposition of certain interest groups representing the dysfunctions of the past and proposing the country΄s entrenchment and isolation from the European process,” he told Le Figaro newspaper. “Greece can be rescued only through a drastic improvement in its economic competitiveness,” Avramopoulos said.
The French presidency said Greece “remained an important outlet for French companies,” stressing that the majority of firms with units there had not closed operations since the crisis unfolded. The visit aims at “concrete ideas to spur job creation, display our confidence and seek economic partnerships,” it said, Capital.gr writes.
In statements with newspaper Ta Nea daily, Hollande said “I am here to offer France’s support to Greece,” and expressed confidence that French businesses would invest in Greece. “Both countries enjoy a long history of friendship during which each supported one another,” France’s president noted. “The French people feel solidarity with the Greek people in the hardships they are experiencing. The meaning of my visit is to express France’s support so that Greece succeeds as part of Europe’s future.”
Greece’s sacrifices “have been more painful than those of any other country,” the French president said, and pointed out that although making the state budget healthier is necessary, it is not enough; what is needed is measures supporting development. “I am coming to Athens to express France’s availability in contributing to this through the cooperation of our administrative mechanism, the commitment of French businesses, and the mobilisation of European funds. I reject a Europe that would condemn countries to an austerity with no end in sight,” Hollande pointed out. He said France could contribute in the sectors it excelled in, such as energy and water resources.
Referring to Greece’s efforts to restore its credit abroad, Hollande said “Trust has returned,” adding, “I have no doubt that our large businesses will participate in future tenders” for projects (source: AMNA). Hollande is meeting with President Karolos Papoulias at 3:00 p.m., to be also attended by Prime Minister Antonis Samaras; Hollande will also attend a Greek-French business forum at the Hilton Hotel (3:45 p.m.).