Hol­lande calls for growth, debt re­lief on ar­rival

French pres­i­dent praised for role in talks

Kathimerini English - - Front Page -

French Pres­i­dent Fran­cois Hol­lande called yes­ter­day for growth and debt re­lief to be­come part of the dis­cus­sion be­tween Greece and its lenders as he ar­rived in Athens for a two-day visit.

Hol­lande told jour­nal­ists he has come to Greece in a visit of “sup­port and friend­ship” shortly af­ter ar­riv­ing in Athens and lay­ing a wreath at the Tomb of the Un­known Soldier. Hol­lande was then wel­comed at the Pres­i­den­tial Man­sion by Pres­i­dent Prokopis Pavlopou­los. In fur­ther pub­lic com­ments, the French­man sug­gested that the eu­ro­zone should start dis­cussing debt re­lief with the gov­ern­ment.

“Greece showed that it wants to stay in the eu­ro­zone and we showed our sol­i­dar­ity,” he said. “We know the ef­forts Greek peo­ple have made and the re­forms that have been made, even over the last few months. The next step has to be on debt and this must start soon.”

The So­cial­ist leader also urged for­eign com­pa­nies to in­vest in Greece.

“The key is­sue is growth and job cre­ation, not just fis­cal dis­ci­pline,” he said. “If some­one loves Greece they don’t just come on hol­i­day to Greece, they also in­vest in Greece.”

Dur­ing the din­ner hosted by Pavlopou­los in Hol­lande’s honor, the Greek pres­i­dent praised the French leader for the con­struc­tive role he played dur­ing the pre­vi­ous gov­ern­ment’s tense bailout talks with the eu­ro­zone in the sum­mer.

“At a dif­fi­cult time for my coun­try, France – and you per­son­ally – con­trib­uted greatly to Greece re­main­ing in the Euro­pean Union and the eu­ro­zone,” said Pavlopou­los. “We will rec­og­nize this for ever more.”

De­spite high ex­pec­ta­tions on the part of Greek author­i­ties, it ap­pears the visit is rather sym­bolic. The po­lit­i­cal del­e­ga­tion ac­com­pa­ny­ing Hol­lande on his visit is smaller than ex­pected, though Fi­nance Min­is­ter Michel Sapin is with him.

Also, de­spite re­ports that Hol­lande would be flanked by dozens of French en­trepreneurs, the ac­tual num­ber of busi­ness­peo­ple trav­el­ing with the French leader is ex­actly five, Kathimerini un­der­stands.

Al­though Hol­lande in­di­cated, in an in­ter­view with Kathimerini, that he aimed to urge French com­pa­nies to in­vest in Greece, it ap­pears that busi­nesses are more in­clined to await fur­ther signs of sta­bil­ity be­fore com­mit­ting. For in­stance, the French na­tional rail­way com­pany (SNCF) re­buffed re­ports that it was in­ter­ested in Greece’s rail­way ser­vice op­er­a­tor Train­ose.

Hol­lande’s com­ments fol­low­ing his talks with Tsipras and his speech to Par­lia­ment will not be aired by the Greek me­dia fol­low­ing yes­ter­day’s de­ci­sion by the Athens Jour­nal­ists’ Union (ESIEA) to call a 24- hour strike, start­ing at 6 a.m. to­day, to protest a planned over­haul of the Greek pen­sion sys­tem and a bill paving the way for the is­su­ing of ten­ders for broadcasting li­censes.

The strike will re­sult in a black­out of all Greek pri­vate and state tele­vi­sion chan­nels, in­clud­ing Par­lia­ment’s Vouli chan­nel, which usu­ally airs the pro­ceed­ings but is not ex­pected to broad­cast a sched­uled speech to the House to­day by Hol­lande.

French Pres­i­dent Fran­cois Hol­lande looks back af­ter in­spect­ing the pres­i­den­tial guard, or Ev­zones, with Pres­i­dent Prokopis Pavlopou­los shortly af­ter his ar­rival in Athens yes­ter­day af­ter­noon.

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