France: Greek proposals ‘balanced’ and ‘positive’

French prime minister Manuel Valls said Wednesday fresh proposals made by Athens in exchange for a new European bailout were a step in the right direction.

France: Greek proposals 'balanced' and 'positive'
Photo: AFP

Speaking to parliament, Valls said: “This request… is balanced, positive. It shows a real willingness to move forward and reform.”

The PM praised an “important step which will allow for negotiations.”

Valls, who has repeatedly shown a conciliatory tone towards Athens, said once again that “everything must be done to keep Greece in the euro”. 

In his speech to MPs, Valls said a vote would take place in parliament in the event that a deal was reached between Greece's creditors and the government in Athens.

Valls said that keeping Greece in the eurozone was a “geopolitical issue of the highest importance”.

“An exit would definitely cause a drop in revenues, exploding import costs, including for basic goods, social and political consequences that none of us are able to predict. Is that what we want for the Greek people?

“Is that the image of Europe we want to give to the world?”

Earlier it emerged that France's exposure to a Greek debt default would total €65 billion (about $72 billion), according to a report by the Senate's finance commission.

“Our country's total exposure to a possible Greek default represents around €65 billion, well above the €40 billion usually cited,” Senator Alberic de Montgolfier said in a statement accompanying a report he delivered to France's upper house of parliament.

The estimate was disclosed as members of the French government, including finance minister Michel Sapin, have expressed a willingness to consider reducing Greece's crushing debt load of over 320 billion euros as part of a new rescue programme seeking to avert a Greek default and probable exit from the eurozone.

Last week Sapin noted that “the debt question isn't taboo” in seeking a last-minute bailout accord with Athens.

Eurozone leaders have ordered Greece to submit detailed reform proposals towards a new deal by Thursday following the Greek rejection of terms of the previous bailout accord in a referendum Sunday.

Greece on Wednesday pledged to make “credible” reforms including measures related to tax and pensions in return for a three-year eurozone loan. All 28 European Union leaders will examine the plans on Sunday in a make-or-break summit.

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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.
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.