Hol­lande vows to stand by Greece in re­form drive

Athens urged to per­sist to se­cure debt talks

Kathimerini English - - Front Page -

In a land­mark speech in Par­lia­ment yes­ter­day, French Pres­i­dent Fran­cois Hol­lande vowed that France would stand by Greece as it seeks to im­ple­ment re­forms and urged author­i­ties to stay the course in or­der to pave the way for talks on debt re­lief.

Ad­dress­ing a packed House un­der tight se­cu­rity, Hol­lande re­peat­edly praised Greek author­i­ties, and MPs, for pass­ing a tough bailout into law and tak­ing a “brave de­ci­sion” to stay in the eu­ro­zone.

But, as talks con­tin­ued be­tween gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials and en­voys rep­re­sent­ing the coun­try’s in­ter­na­tional cred­i­tors, Hol­lande also em­pha­sized the need for Greece to honor its com­mit­ments. “I know the re­forms are very de­mand­ing, I know they are hard,” he said, re­fer­ring in par­tic­u­lar to ac­tions de­manded by lenders re­gard­ing Greece’s tax ad­min­is­tra­tion, pen­sion sys­tem and the mod­ern­iza­tion of state mech­a­nisms. “But all th­ese are nec­es­sary for Greece’s fu­ture,” he said.

Echo­ing the cred­i­tors’ stance on debt, he said that talks on re­lief could be­gin once all com­mit­ments have been met.

“We sup­port Greece,” he said, not­ing that the coun­try has suf­fered “an un­prece­dented cri­sis” over the past six years. “What I am ex­press­ing is not em­pa­thy, it is sup­port for a strong co­op­er­a­tion,” he said, adding that France is “a great friend of Greece.”

Hol­lande in­di­cated that Greece should be cut some slack in some ar­eas, no­tably propos­ing more dis­cus­sion on the thorny is­sue re­gard­ing the thresh­old for fore­clo­sures in­volv­ing pri­mary res­i­dences.

In a joint press con­fer­ence with Hol­lande be­fore the French leader’s speech in Par­lia­ment, Prime Min­is­ter Alexis Tsipras also broached the is­sue of fore­clo­sures, us­ing much stronger lan­guage. “Turn­ing Greece into an arena for fore­clo­sures is un­ac­cept­able,” Tsipras said, and hit out at “ab- surd and ex­treme neo-lib­eral in­ter­ven­tions” that, he said, threat­ened to un­der­mine Greece’s pro­gram.

Tsipras said Greece would meet its com­mit­ments and re­spects Euro­pean rules but de­manded re­spect. “We are not con­victs serv­ing a sen­tence, we are equal part­ners,” he said.

Both lead­ers re­ferred to the night of July 12, when Tsipras even­tu­ally signed a com­pro­mise with his Eu- ro­pean peers. Tsipras ac­knowl­edged that Hol­lande was “among those” who per­suaded him to ac­cept the deal. “That night was about our com­mon ex­is­tence in the euro,” Hol­lande said.

The French pres­i­dent also ad­dressed the refugee cri­sis, stress­ing the im­por­tance of sup­port­ing Greece fi­nan­cially but also with equip­ment and ad­di­tional bor­der guards through the Euro­pean Union agency Fron­tex.

Dur­ing their talks at the Max­i­mos Man­sion, Hol­lande pledged to serve as a bridge be­tween Greece and its cred­i­tors so that pend­ing is­sues can be re­solved, sources said.

The two lead­ers also signed a strate­gic part­ner­ship agree­ment, fore­see­ing France sup­ply­ing know-how for pub­lic ad­min­is­tra­tion and for crack­ing down on tax eva­sion. Co­op­er­a­tion in var­i­ous busi­ness sec­tors was also dis­cussed.

Greek Prime Min­is­ter Alexis Tsipras (right) and French Pres­i­dent Fran­cois Hol­lande walk with their arms around each other’s backs as they head to Tsipras’s of­fice for their talks in Athens, yes­ter­day.

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