Greece buoyed by Hol­lande visit

French leader’s vow to push for in­vest­ment, ex­pres­sion of in­ter­est in Aegean hy­dro­car­bons search cheers gov’t

Kathimerini English - - Front Page -

The mood in the government, and the out­look for a boost to the econ­omy, were sig­nif­i­cantly brighter yes­ter­day, sources said, fol­low­ing Tues­day’s light­ning visit to Athens by French Pres­i­dent Fran­cois Hol­lande, who pledged to push French firms to in­vest in Greece and ex­pressed an in­ter­est in work­ing with Athens to ex­ploit oil and gas re­serves in the Aegean.

Government sources said Hol­lande’s ex­pres­sion of sol­i­dar­ity for Greece’s con­tin­ued pres­ence in the eu­ro­zone and his in­sis­tence on avoid­ing the im­po­si­tion of fur­ther aus­ter­ity “on a peo­ple that have been tested like no other Euro­pean na­tion” had lifted the rather gloomy mood in the Max­i­mos Man­sion.

Although there were no indi­ca­tions of spe­cific com­mit­ments by Hol­lande, the French leader told re­porters that he would speak to rep­re­sen­ta­tives of French firms on his re­turn to Paris and press them to join ten­ders for the pri­va­ti­za­tion of Greek state as­sets in­clud­ing the state-owned Athens and Thes­sa­loniki water com­pa­nies, the DEPA and DESPA gas com­pa­nies and the na­tional rail­way. It is also widely ex­pected that French firm EDF will bid for a stake in the Pub­lic Power Cor­po­ra­tion when that ten­der is an­nounced.

The only ac­tual agree­ment signed dur­ing Hol­lande’s six­hour visit was a deal aimed at boost­ing Greece’s cru­cial tourism sec­tor. But more sig­nif­i­cance was at­tached to the French leader’s in­sis­tence on the need for boost­ing growth in Greece, and his pledge to urge French firms to join a pri­va­ti­za­tion drive aimed at achiev­ing this. The sug­ges­tion that France would join Greece in ex­ploit­ing min­eral re­serves in the Aegean, and the in­sis­tence on the need for Turkey to re­spect the laws of the sea, were also well re­ceived, ac­cord­ing to sources. In the first in­stance, France is ex­pected to lease two FREMM-type frigates and four air­craft to Greece at a heav­ily dis­counted rate.

Dur­ing his short stay in the cap­i­tal, Hol­lande also met with Greek and French en­trepreneurs and pressed the lat­ter to per­se­vere with their ac­tiv­ity in Greece. The French leader, a So­cial­ist elected last spring, also met with PASOK leader Evan­ge­los Venize­los for talks that touched on the rise of the ul­tra­right Golden Dawn and what PASOK sources re­ferred to as “the bla­tantly pro-Nazi state­ments and ac­tiv­i­ties” of the party’s leader.

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