France and Greece

Kathimerini English - - Front Page - BY COSTAS IORDANIDIS

French Pres­i­dent Fran­cois Hol­lande’s visit to Athens has taken on a par­tic­u­larly sym­bolic di­men­sion for the gov­ern­ment of Alexis Tsipras. From a cer­tain point of view this is jus­ti­fi­able. The prac­ti­cal re­sults of the visit – par­tic­u­larly with re­gard to the pos­si­bil­ity of an in­creased French pres­ence in the Greek econ­omy – will be ob­served later on. France played a piv­otal role in Greek af­fairs in the pe­riod that fol­lowed the fall of the 1967-74 mil­i­tary dic­ta­tor­ship. Greece’s Euro­pean Eco­nomic Com­mu­nity mem­ber­ship would have been un­think­able with­out the hands-on sup­port of French Pres­i­dent Valery Gis­card d’Es­taing, who per­suaded Ger­man Chan­cel­lor Hel­mut Kohl to get past his reser­va­tions about Greece be­ing un­pre­pared for en­try and al­low the coun­try to be­come a mem­ber of the ex­clu­sive Euro­pean club. Need­less to say, the sup­port for the Greek re­quest was the re­sult of the close per­sonal ties be­tween Gis­card d’Es­taing and Con­stan­tine Kara­man­lis. Nev­er­the­less, the will­ing­ness to work to­gether was not ex­hausted at the level of con­ser­va­tive po­lit­i­cal lead­ers. Dur­ing the seven-year junta, a large num­ber of Greeks in­tel­lec­tu­als fled to Paris, where an os­mo­sis of Greek and French left­ists took place. A cer­tain num­ber of th­ese per­son­al­i­ties – led by Melina Mer­couri – be­came the li­ai­son be­tween An­dreas Pa­pan­dreou and French So­cial­ist leader Fran­cois Mit­ter­rand. PA­SOK’s pre-elec­tion slo­gans such as “Change” and “Here and now” were but mere trans­la­tions of those de­vel­oped by the French So­cial­ist Party. The in­di­rect sup­port and silent en­cour­age­ment by Mit­ter­rand’s So­cial­ists of Jean-Marie Le Pen’s Front Na­tional, as a means of al­low­ing for the fur­ther frag­men­ta­tion of the French right, had its Greek equiv­a­lent dur­ing PA­SOK’s ten­ure through the rise of Pop­u­lar Ortho­dox Rally (LAOS). Po­lit­i­cal co­op­er­a­tion – in all its var­ied ex­pres­sion – re­in­forced bi­lat­eral eco­nomic ties, led by France’s en­try into the Greek mar­ket as a sup­plier of de­fense equip­ment. This cul­mi­nated in the pur­chase of Das­sault Mi­rage 2000 jet fight­ers, fol­low­ing a po­lit­i­cal de­ci­sion by then PM An­dreas Pa­pan­dreou, de­spite a dif­fer­ent pro­posal made by the Hel­lenic Air Force. Fol­low­ing the rise to power of Con­stan­tine Mit­so­takis, and, es­pe­cially dur­ing the ten­ure of Costas Simi­tis, due to France’s in­creas­ing weak­ness, Ger­many be­came more and more in­flu­en­tial. The clash be­tween the Tsipras gov­ern­ment and Ger­many, as well as US pres­sure on Ber­lin to avoid a Grexit, led to France’s re­sus­ci­ta­tion in Euro­pean af­fairs. Hol­lande’s visit to Athens is a step to­ward con­sol­i­dat­ing what­ever “spe­cial weight” France car­ries on the in­ter­na­tional stage at this point in time. What hap­pens next will no doubt be in­ter­est­ing.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Greece

© PressReader. All rights reserved.