French parliament backs Greece bailout deal

The controversial bailout deal agreed for Greece won the backing of MPs in the French parliament on Wednesday, despite many lawmakers having spoken out against the harsh terms of the agreement.

French parliament backs Greece bailout deal
Pro-eurozone protesters in Greece take to the streets in Athens in a recent demonstration. Photo: AFP

French MPs overwhelmingly backed the new Greek bailout agreement on Wednesday, with Prime Minister Manuel Valls saying it was the only route out of the crisis.

The French lower house National Assembly backed the agreement by 412 votes to 69, shortly followed by the upper house Senate, which supported the bill by 260 votes to 23.

In a long, fist-pounding speech, Valls accused opponents of the agreement of trying to push Greece out of the eurozone.

“There can be no 'Grexit', nor 'temporary Grexit' — an old, absurd and dangerous idea,” Valls said.

“I hear talk about humiliation. But humiliation would have been for (Greece) to be driven out of the single currency — some perhaps wanted that — while the overwhelming majority of Greeks wanted to keep it.”

Several members of the French parliament criticised the deal for forcing further austerity and external control on Greece in exchange for a three-year bailout worth up to 86 billion euros ($95 billion).

But Valls said the conditions of the bailout were “normal”.

“If the reforms are demanding, that is because — it has to be said — they have never been carried out,” said Valls.

“This agreement is not a blank cheque precisely because we are demanding a lot of the Greeks, not just to punish it, but to accompany it through a vital economic recovery.”



In the run up to the vote most Socialist MPs agreed the deal was the only option to keep Greece in the euro.

“It was the only means by which help can continue to be given to Greece,” said head of the Socialist party MPs Bruno Le Roux.

“If there was no agreement, it was finished,” he told I Tele.

Another Socialist MP Yann Gulat indicated he would be backing the plan “without happiness in his heart but conscious of the role François Hollande played in supporting Greece and saving Europe”.

“It was an inescapable agreement, but that doesn’t make it a good agreement,” said Christian Paul, a leftist Socialist and leader of rebel group of left-wing MPS called Les Frondeurs.

However those on the far left in the Parti de Gauche indicated they would vote against the deal, which they see as being “disastrous for the future of Greece.”

MPs in the French Green party EELV and Nicolas Sarkozy’s opposition Republicans party, which has been hostile to Syriza and the Greek PM Alexis Tsipras, are divided over how to vote.

Some — but not all — of the 19 eurozone countries must approve the agreement through their domestic parliaments. The most crucial vote was due to take place in the Greek parliament later on Wednesday.

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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.