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GREECE

Greeks have right to decide future: Hollande

French president François Hollande has backed Greece's decision to hold a referendum on whether to accept the EU's bailout plan as the country looks set to default on its debt.

Greeks have right to decide future: Hollande

French President Francois Hollande said Monday that a Greece referendum on EU's bailout proposals was a “sovereign choice” on whether or not to leave the euro zone.

“It is democracy, it is the right of the Greek people to decide what they want for their future. What is at stake is whether or not Greeks want to stay in the euro zone (or) take the risk of leaving.”

French President Francois Hollande was speaking after gathering key ministers together early Monday morning for a emergency meeting over the crisis in Greece, his office said.

Hollande held a “restricted cabinet” meeting on Monday at 9:00 am (0700 GMT).

The meeting came as Greece looks seto default on its debt after PM Alexis Tsipras decided to put the bail out deal offered to Greece to a referendum.

As months of tortuous negotiations have failed to produce an agreement on its bailout, Greece announced Sunday that Greek banks and the stock market will be closed on Monday.

Capital controls will also be introduced.

On Sunday French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said there is a “real risk” of Greece leaving the eurozone if the Greek people vote against the EU's bailout proposals in a referendum.

However, Valls urged the Greek authorities to “come back to the negotiating table” after Athens broke off deadlocked talks on trying to rescue Greece's debt-stricken economy.

The president of the European Commission will make his latest proposals later on Monday to try to avoid a Greek default, the EU commissioner of economic affairs said, adding that there was still room to negotiate over the crisis.

Jean-Claude Juncker “will indicate the route to follow, I hope everyone will commit themselves to a way of compromise,” Pierre Moscovici told French radio, adding there was still “room for negotiation” between Athens and its international creditors.

French Tourists seem unconcerned

Tourists who pour into Greece in the summer months have been told to take cash, but many show no sign of being put off by the crisis.

Holidaymakers leaving from Paris' Charles de Gaulle airport Sunday seemed mostly unconcerned.

“There is no reason not to go on vacation. Our only worry is whether it is going to be sunny,” said Jean-Pierre, on his way to the popular holiday island of Crete, although he had taken enough cash for his three weeks in Greece.

The German foreign ministry recommended that tourists “take sufficient amounts of cash” when visiting Greece, keep tabs on the evolving situation and check for any updates to its travel recommendations.

After talks between Athens' left-wing leaders and the rest of the eurozone broke down in acrimony Saturday, Greece appeared Sunday to slide closer to a default with its EU-IMF creditors.

The ECB refused Sunday to increase emergency cash available to Greek banks despite a bank run being underway. Within hours Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras confirmed banks would close Monday and capital controls would be introduced.

For some tourists, continuing to travel to Greece is a way of showing support for the economically struggling nation.

“We need to show solidarity with Greece,” said Frenchman Edouard Phillipe, who was flying to Crete with his wife for their third trip to the island.

“We really like the people there, we need to help them by continuing to go there on vacation,” said Phillip

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EUROPEAN UNION

Macron outlines plans to ‘rebuild’ Europe on Greece trip

French President Emmanuel Macron sketched a plan to "rebuild" the European Union through wider democracy and public accountability at the start of a two-day visit to Greece on Thursday.

Macron outlines plans to 'rebuild' Europe on Greece trip
Macron gives a speech on Pnyx Hill in Athens. AFP
Choosing a symbol of ancient Athenian democracy — Pnyx Hill — for his speech, Macron said he intended to present fellow European leaders with a “roadmap” to fix Europe for the next decade.
   
“Our generation can choose to (do this)… we must find the strength to rebuild Europe,” said the 39-year-old centrist, making his first visit to Greece as president.
   
“We share a history and a destiny… we must defend this heritage,” Macron said, with the brightly lit Acropolis as his backdrop.
   
The proposals, which formed part of Macron's election campaign platform earlier this year, would be submitted to European citizens early next year for a six-month debate.
 
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The Macrons listen to the speech of the Greek Prime Minister on the Pnyx hill. AFP   
 
They include cross-state candidate tickets for the next European Parliament elections, scheduled for 2019, and more democratic legitimacy for the eurozone.
   
“Let us put together a eurozone parliament which would enable the creation of democratic responsibility,” the French president said.
   
At present, economically weak states such as Greece decry the powers wielded by eurozone finance ministers to determine long-term fiscal policy.
 
Their body, the Eurogroup, is not elected.
   
The former economy minister and banker argued that losing the EU would be “a form of political and historic suicide,” especially at a time when only a united bloc can protect its citizens from cross-border threats such as climate change and terrorism.
   
But also, only Europe had a tradition of respecting human rights, equality and social justice, he claimed.
 
IMF must show 'good faith' to stay on
   
Earlier Thursday, with Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras at his side, Macron delighted his hosts by warning the International Monetary Fund to refrain from demanding cuts beyond those already agreed, in upcoming talks.
   
“The IMF's position should be in good faith and without added requirements,” Macron said as Greece prepares to reopen reform talks in return for another tranche of bailout cash.
   
Greece's third rescue programme, currently financially supported by EU states alone, runs to August 2018.
   
The IMF has said it will only contribute to the programme if EU creditors take further steps to lighten Greece's debt load, which has yet to happen over strenuous objections by Germany.
   
Macron on Wednesday bemoaned that the EU had to turn to outside assistance in the first place to rescue Greece in 2010, noting that this reflected a “lack of confidence” between European member states and institutions.
   
“I don't think that having the IMF supervise European programmes is a good method… the credibility and sovereignty of Europe justified doing things differently,” Macron said.
   
Macron said European rescues were not the IMF's “primary vocation” and that in Greece's case, European ministers spend an excessive amount of time agonising over growth forecasts 25 years into the future, at the global lender's behest.
   
“If you could tell me my own country's growth forecast in three years I'd be happy,” he quipped.
   
Greece, on the receiving end of two multi-billion euro rescues in which the IMF has been a part since 2010, has frequently complained of the Washington-based lender's demands for fiscal cuts and labour reform.
   
But Germany in particular has insisted on retaining the IMF, at least in a supervisory role.
 
Turkey 'essential' on migration, terror
 
Macron also had a word of caution to German Chancellor Angela Merkel, saying the EU had to avoid any sharp break with Turkey.
 
“I wish to avoid a rupture because (Turkey) is an essential partner in many crises we jointly face, specifically the migration challenge and the terrorist threat,” Macron told Kathimerini newspaper.
   
Merkel said over the weekend that she would ask the EU to call off membership talks with Turkey, adding “I don't see them ever joining”.
   
The EU and Turkey last year sealed an agreement which has helped to stem the flow of hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants into Greece.
   
Ankara has threatened to rescind the deal at times when tensions have flared with Brussels over human rights.