• France's news in English

Hollande visits Greece in show of solidarity

AFP · 19 Feb 2013, 09:20

Published: 18 Feb 2013 08:27 GMT+01:00
Updated: 19 Feb 2013 09:20 GMT+01:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

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 common currency zone.

European Union leaders agreed in December to give Greece 49.1 billion euros ($66 billion) in return for additional austerity measures, breaking a six-month stalemate.

Senior auditors from the European Union, the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank are returning to Greece later this month to gauge the progress of reforms.

Their report will determine whether Athens will have access to a scheduled slice of 2.8 billion euros from its international creditors due in February.

Greek 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 France's Le Figaro newspaper.

Greece's uneasy ruling coalition rests on the support of Socialist and moderate leftist parties who do not always see eye to eye with the conservatives of Prime Minister Antonis Samaras.

"Greece can be rescued only through a drastic improvement in its economic competitiveness," Avramopoulos said.

"We need to bear in mind that Greece lost 31 percent in terms of cost competitiveness between 2001 and 2009. This loss led to the problems that we are facing today.

"We have already been able to recover 75 percent of this loss through structural reforms. And we are just at the beginning," he said.

No similarity with Merkel's visit

A French diplomat said Hollande's visit would be of a completely different nature than the October trip of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, when 30,000 protestors gathered in downtown Athens with banners such as "Out with the Fourth Reich."

While Germany has contributed the most money to the Greek bailout, many Greeks hold Merkel responsible for demanding that Greece make swingeing cuts in exchange for the financing it has received.

Hollande meanwhile is seen to be more favourable toward the country for emphasising that austerity must be accompanied by measures that fuel sustained growth.

Story continues below…

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.

A number of French countries have a significant presence in Greece, including Bic, which had one of its main shaver factories in the country as well as its main research and development centre.

Cement maker Lafarge and transport infrastructure and power company Alstom also have a significant presence.

During his visit, Hollande will meet Samaras, President Karolos Papoulias and the heads of about 40 leading companies.

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
How life for expats in France has changed over the years
A market in Eymet, southwestern France. Photo: AFP

Foreigners in France explain how life has changed over the years.

London calling for Calais youths, but only a chosen few
Photo: AFP

Dozens of Calais minors are still hanging their hopes on help from the UK, but not all will be so lucky.

17 different ways to talk about sex in French
Photo: Helga Weber/Flickr

Fancy a quick run with the one-legged man?

Yikes! This is what a rat-infested French jail looks like
Photo: YouTube/France Bleu TV.

This video is not for sufferers of ratophobia (or musophobia as the condition is officially called).

France to allow Baby Jesus in Town Halls this Christmas
Photo: AFP

Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus are safe to go on display again this year, it seems.

National Front posts locations of migrants in French town
The National Front courts controversy. Photo: AFP

"Local tax payers have a right to know," says local far-right party chief.

Paris thieves use tear gas to steal €500,000 of watches
Photo: AFP

The thieves pretended to be couriers then threatened staff with tear gas to get the watches.

Bataclan survivor recounts attack in chilling drawings
Photo: BFMTV screengrab

One survivor has recounted the horrific night through illustrations.

Anger among French police grows as Hollande vows talks
French police demonstrate on the Champs Elysées. Photo: AFP

A fourth night of protests shows government efforts to ease anger among French police have been fruitless.

UK border must move back, says 'next French president'
Photo: AFP

If favourite Alain Juppé is elected, Britain and France are in for some difficult negotiations.

Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
Why Toulouse is THE place to be in France right now
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
Video: New homage to Paris shows the 'real side' of city
The 'most dangerous' animals you can find in France
Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
Swap London fogs for Paris frogs: France woos the Brits
Anger after presenter kisses woman's breasts on live TV
Is France finally set for a cold winter this year?
IN PICS: The story of the 'ghost Metro stations' of Paris
How to make France's 'most-loved' dish: Magret de Canard
Welcome to the flipside: 'I'm not living the dream in France'
Do the French really still eat frogs' legs?
French 'delicacies' foreigners really find hard to stomach
French are the 'world's most pessimistic' about the future
Why the French should not be gloomy about the future
This is the most useful French lesson you will ever have. How to get angry
Why is there a giant clitoris in a field in southern France?
French pastry wars: Pain au chocolat versus chocolatine
Countdown: The ten dishes the French love the most
Expats or immigrants in France: Is there a difference?
How the French reinvented dozens of English words
The ups and downs of being both French and English
How Brexit vote has changed life for expats in France
Twelve French insults we'd love to have in English
What's on in France: Ten of the best events in October
jobs available