President Hollande hails "historic" agreement on Greece
Greece – Press conference by M. François Hollande, President of the Republic, at his press conference following the Euro Area summit (excerpts)
Brussels, 13 July 2015
Ladies and gentlemen,
After more than 15 hours, I think, of discussions, negotiations and debates, an agreement has been reached. France was seeking this agreement, it wanted it, and this agreement is here. It enables Greece to remain in the Euro Area – that was the goal – while necessarily complying with the European rules.
The goal was to ensure that the Euro Area’s integrity, unity and solidarity could be protected. The goal was to ensure Europe could rise to the challenge it was presented with, be capable of resolving a crisis which for several years had been undermining the Euro Area. The goal was also to give Greece hope after so many years of suffering and austerity – even though it’s not over for Greece and it will still have to make efforts – at a time when it was convinced it was necessary to find a way of bringing the Greek people together again.
What I wanted, more than Greece’s interests, were Europe’s interests. And it was also France’s interests, because France’s interests can’t be dissociated from Europe’s interests.
France has a special role to play: to ensure that this process, this enterprise which began after the war can be continued – with ordeals of course, challenges, but at the same time always with the desire to embody a force, the Euro Area, a monetary area that must enable stability and growth. There’s no stability without growth, there’s no growth without stability.
France’s role throughout recent weeks has been to try to bring positions closer together, respect the Greek people but also respect the other nations that make up the Euro Area. France’s role has been not to seek balance but to find the right path for the Euro Area and for Europe.
The challenge was also to ensure the European rules are complied with, to ensure Greece can have access to the finance provided for in the very event of a country being in difficulty. That’s what Greece was asking for. It made a request to the institutions to benefit from what’s called an ESM procedure, a loan to support it in the framework of a third programme.
Complying with the rules also meant ensuring corrective measures could be taken for growth and stability, and it took a long time to arrive at this result.
The challenge was also to offer Greece long-term finance precisely to ensure it overcomes the crisis. Long-term finance but also immediate finance to end what Greece is currently experiencing, which will no doubt last a few more days: the closure of banks and the difficulty of finding liquidity. It will be necessary – this will be the finance ministers’ role this evening – to put finance mechanisms in place so there can be support throughout the negotiation of the new programme.
How did we achieve this result? Firstly, by taking time, the whole night – you’ll tell me I’m used to it now –, but we had to devote time to ensure everything was discussed, everything was looked at, everything was said by the Euro Area governments, by Greece, by those who were most reluctant – as we knew – and who were asking for safeguards.
So this Franco-German relationship had to be maintained, this relationship between Mrs Merkel and myself, which is necessary if we want to achieve a compromise. If there isn’t this solidity, this cohesion – which doesn’t prevent differences sometimes, it can happen – in seeking a compromise, there’s no agreement. And I spent many hours with Mrs Merkel, Alexis Tsipras and European officials to arrive at this result.
Alexis Tsipras, the Greek Prime Minister – who had already got his parliament to pass reforms – also had to be able to highlight his expectations and proposals. He made a brave choice, at the very time when other reforms were being demanded of him. At the same time, he knew this was the condition for benefiting from this finance – nearly €80 billion, to finance its projects in the coming years and meet its financial obligations. For the coming years, he was also provided with €35 billion, from the Juncker investment plan. There will also be the short-term finance I talked about, to ensure continuity.
Conversely, there was a long discussion about what the quid pro quos must be, and particularly the privatization fund, which could not, however, be a fund where the Greeks were asked to sell assets today. On the contrary, they had to be protected so that they could get the best return and ensure growth and the Greek debt’s sustainability.
That’s what was done throughout last night and the small hours.
What’s going to happen now? The Greek Parliament is going to meet in the next few hours to adopt new reforms, and the national parliaments are also going to meet. As far as the National Assembly is concerned, it will be done on Wednesday so that there can be a vote on the declaration that has emerged from the Euro Area summit.
And then there will be a negotiation period for this programme. What’s been started today is the negotiation enabling Greece to access a new support and assistance programme. And so during the coming days, perhaps the coming weeks, this negotiation is going to take place.
And during this negotiation – as I’ve told you – finance should be ensured. What’s the challenge? It’s to enable Greece to conduct reforms so that it can be more competitive. (…) It’s also to have more growth, because without growth the debt will never be sustainable. Finally, it was important to provide Greece with Europe’s solidarity, insofar as Greece was shouldering its responsibilities.
For a moment, ladies and gentlemen, we feared that the Euro Area could separate from one country, Greece. This question had been raised months, even years ago. Forgoing Greece doesn’t just mean forgoing a country, with its GNP and its people, it means forgoing a country, Greece, which is at the heart of our civilization, which isn’t just part of our history but part of our culture, our way of life.
Greece is a friend who wanted to join the European Union after years of dictatorship. Greece is a country which wanted to join the Euro Area even though there may have been discussions on its ability to ensure this transition and join the Euro Area. Only in the past few days, all the democratic parties have told us Greece wants to remain in the Euro Area. It could have made another choice; it wanted to make this choice, to be in the Euro Area, remain in the Euro Area. Our duty was to enable it to do so, whilst making sure to offer it a solution. Nothing would have been worse than keeping it in a monetary area without providing it with the conditions for it to develop.
This is why, today, there has been a long negotiation, but above all a decision which is historic in many respects.
If Greece had left the Euro Area, what would people have said? That the Euro Area was unable to ensure its integrity, its solidarity. What would people have said about the Greeks? That they were unable to shoulder their responsibilities. What would people have said about France and Germany, whose due role is to provide this impetus? That we didn’t deliver. The Euro Area would have gone into reverse at a time when Europe has to move forward and champion a project which can protect people, because the euro protects the countries which are stakeholders in this monetary area. What would people have said about this great idea being broken up?
We had to succeed.
And as far as I’m concerned, I wanted us to succeed in reaching an agreement, in giving Greece what it expected, in keeping the principles of the European enterprise, respect for its institutions and the friendship between France and Germany. Succeeding so that we could open up a new period in the European enterprise because we’ll clearly need to strengthen the monetary area, make it even more capable of being respected, protecting itself and also experiencing more growth. This will certainly be the task for the next few days and months. But today, even though it has taken a long time, I think it has been a good night and a good day for Europe. (…)./.