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Hollande criticises IMF chief's attacks on Greece

AFP · 30 May 2012, 07:53

Published: 30 May 2012 07:53 GMT+02:00

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President Francois Hollande said on Tuesday that he wanted Greek voters to "choose Europe" in upcoming polls and branded remarks by the IMF chief that Greeks dodged taxes as disrespectful.

"The Greeks must face their responsibilities -- be aware that what you decide on June 17 will have consequences, both for you and for us," Hollande said during a televised interview.

Greece is holding a parliamentary election on June 17 for the second time in six weeks, with voters facing a choice of parties that oppose an international austerity plan for the debt-wracked nation, or those that support it.

The prospect of victory by anti-austerity parties has sparked fears that Greece would be forced to leave the euro, as European leaders have warned that Athens would not get any more rescue funds if it failed to implement promised reforms.

In an uncompromising interview published by The Guardian newspaper on Friday, the head of the International Monetary Fund Christine Lagarde said she had little sympathy for the Greeks, preferring to concern herself with the plight of starving children in Africa.

"I also think about all those people who are trying to escape tax all the time," she said. "All these people in Greece who are trying to escape tax."

She said the Greeks could help themselves "by all paying their tax," remarks that incensed many Greeks and led to 10,000 messages, many obscene, being posted on Lagarde's Facebook page.

Hollande said he disapproved of the tone of her remarks.

"It's true that there are very rich Greeks who evade taxes and that must not be accepted," Hollande said. "But I don't think that this is the best way to address the Greeks -- 'you know, you have to look at your situation compared to Africans whose lives are harder than yours'."

"That is called respect," Hollande said.

Hollande's approach to the crisis has been that growth measures must accompany austerity and his election as head of the eurozone's second largest economy was widely greeted in Greece.

The new French president's stance on growth has put him at odds with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who as head of Europe's paymaster has championed austerity.

In his interview Hollande said he wanted "to find a good equilibrium between France and Germany that is at the same time respectful of our partners and European institutions."

"We have already fixed a certain number of goals with Mrs. Merkel. She accepts the principle of growth, I accept the principle of serious fiscal discipline.

"She is against eurobonds," which Hollande also supports. "She doesn't say 'never.' She says 'not now.' That can open the way to a certain number of compromises."

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