France backs Greece in its efforts to improve economy
European Union – Greece/Hurricane Irma – Statements by M. Emmanuel Macron, President of the Republic, at his press conference with Mr Alexis Tsipras, Prime Minister of Greece (excerpts)
Athens, 7 September 2017
In fact we discussed at length the situation in Greece and what, for several years, has generally been called the Greek crisis. I also wanted to say that, in my view, this has always been a European crisis above all. (…) I want to say here how conscious I am of the efforts Greece has made in recent years – and in particular your efforts, Prime Minister – to successfully complete the first two reviews of the European Stability Mechanism programme, and all the reforms decided on as part of it.
And after years of shrinking economic activity we’re really seeing positive figures emerging this year; they’re still fragile and so they must be backed up, but they mark a significant turning point in Greece’s contemporary history, with this ability to return to growth and investment.
In this context, precisely to put Greece back sustainably on the path of growth, I hope we can rebuild confidence and manage, as you’ve said, to honour all the commitments by next summer, enabling Greece to return fully to a normal situation. Your return to the markets a few weeks ago was a foretaste of this. So I hope that Greece can strengthen its commitment – your commitment – to consolidating the reforms, that the IMF can strengthen its commitment to participating in the programme in good faith and without demanding new and ever tougher conditions, and finally, as far as the Eurogroup is concerned, that we can confirm the commitment to supporting this transition, this emergence from the programme, and to taking debt reduction measures, as France has been proposing for several months.
The discussions on the issue must start at the beginning of 2018, and I hope they can be concluded swiftly, to fully restore confidence.
And in this context, there’s also all the work to revitalize investment and the return to growth in your country.
And I’d like France to play its full role in this and be capable of helping you by every means.
You spoke of our administrative cooperation to help with the modernization of the state; tomorrow we’ll be organizing an initiative enabling you to build and consolidate your development bank, in which the French Public Investment Bank will play its full role in terms of cooperation and investment. And in fact I’m accompanied by many French businesses, large companies, SMEs and start-ups whose aim is to participate in Greece’s investment and development in the sectors of tourism, agrifood, digital, green energy and infrastructure. These are all essential sectors for enabling a return to growth, consolidating in the long term and enabling new business sectors to develop which are essential to employment in your country.
So we’ll be there for this return to growth, just as we showed solidarity in your country’s years of austerity. And it’s this continuity, this consistency of French action – for several years, I must say – which I believe also characterizes our relationship.
We then discussed short-term European issues. The first of them is the issue of the very programme I’ve just mentioned, but more broadly the agenda on which I believe we, Athens and Paris, really have similar views.
Indeed, the coming weeks will provide an opportunity for us to endorse significant steps forward on a protection agenda for Europe, which must accompany our essential ambition.
We discussed the reform of the posted workers directive, on which I’d like to work together with the Prime Minister. Our teams have already worked hard on this issue, and I hope [this] will enable us to achieve an in-depth revision of the directive before the end of the year, in line with the series of visits I paid to Central and Eastern Europe more than a fortnight ago.
The Europe that protects is also Defence Europe. In line with the European Council in June, which endorsed [Permanent] Structured Cooperation on defence, eight countries have already got together to build an enhanced offer, an ability to develop programmes and a shared ambition on defence, and I’d like us to continue the dialogue begun with Greece and strengthen this European defence, which is perfectly compatible with our ambitions and commitments within NATO.
The Europe that protects is also the Europe that protects our strategic investments, and I’d like Greece to remain attractive, open up to international investors, but I’d like Europe to fully help it maintain European sovereignty, and deliver on investment in your country in order to protect our strategic investments throughout Europe.
Finally, the Europe that protects is the Europe that protects in the face of large-scale migration. You had to experience it when the Balkans route was open. Europe hasn’t always shown solidarity on that issue either. So in the coming months I’d like us to speed up the reforms agenda of this Europe of asylum, migration and common security, which – on the basis of seven regulatory texts currently under discussion – will enable us to step up our border control capabilities on the one hand, and have clear and common asylum and solidarity rules within our European Union on the other.
Finally, we’re here in a place that will also enable us to talk about the future, and at a key moment for talking about the future. In fact, Europe is currently emerging – because we’re resolute, because we’ve speeded up [on] many issues in recent months – Europe is currently emerging from a period of crisis it got bogged down in. And more fundamentally, I think Europe must draw a line under a decade of wandering in the dark.
And in the coming weeks and months we must signal a radical step forward, a time when the European Union is put on a new footing; this is my very deep wish for or Europe, and it’s one of the commitments I made to the French people. (…)
You know France stands and will continue standing by you, both in the hard times and in times of joy, because we have a shared ambition, namely to be equal to our respective histories.