French PM voices confidence in Greece’s future

European Union – Greece – Statements by M. Bernard Cazeneuve, Prime Minister, at his joint press conference with his Greek counterpart, Mr Alexis Tsipras

Athens, 3 March 2017

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First of all I wanted to come to Athens to underline the very clear message of confidence the French authorities have already sent our Greek friends several times. France has confidence in Greece’s future, confidence in its ability to continue the brave reforms that will enable it to return to growth, and confidence in its recovery and its ability to continue making a decisive, useful contribution to the European project.

At a time when Greece has had to face up to the most difficult situations, it has also been able – and therein lies its strength – to take important decisions courageously, to improve citizens’ lives. And today its efforts are bearing fruit. The economy is picking up again, growth prospects are good, investment is resuming – this morning I was with French investors, who are expressing their confidence in the future – and reforms are making headway too, and for all these reasons we’d like to reiterate our confidence in Greece, which has so much to offer the European Union thanks to the potential of its young people, its culture and its potential for innovation, modernization and growth.

In the summer of 2015, a difficult time for Europe and Greece when the integrity of the Euro Area was in danger, France categorically rejected the notion that we couldn’t show the solidarity we owed our Greek partner. And I’ve said this again to Alexis Tsipras: France will always stand by Greece, in the long term, through our bilateral cooperation but also through Europe’s assistance programme.

That’s what we’re doing again at the moment, by encouraging the adoption of what is technically called the “second review”, which should enable Greece to continue benefiting from Europe’s financial assistance programme, and I’m very hopeful, because the political will is there on the part of Greece and also its partners, and I’m convinced that this political will, once again, will be translated into good results, into good compromises in the near future; and beyond that, I want to remind you that we’ll have to look at the issue of the Greek debt with the utmost seriousness. In May 2016 the Eurogroup made commitments on this, and of course those commitments are set to be honoured.

Moreover, France will continue lending its technical assistance as part of the support service for the European Commission’s structural reforms, but support for Greece in its economic recovery will also require active efforts by our French economic players, and I was saying earlier to the economy and finance ministers and Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras that – on the priming of start-ups, on such issues as strategic as future methods of transport, the ecological transition, energy policies, technological innovation and the networking of our research centres – we have a huge number of initiatives to take that will enable Europe to return to the path of growth, and Greece to benefit from it especially. And from this point of view, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker’s ambition, through the €300-billion plan which is being implemented, which is set to receive extra funding and which aims to support our cutting-edge industries, must be an ambition for more growth and employment that is upheld by our two countries.

We also discussed issues of migration, and I want to be extremely clear on this point. France also wanted to stand by Greece in the difficult time which Greece has been through, which migrants fleeing persecution have been through and which led us to advocate the utmost solidarity within the European Union. In August 2014, Prime Minister, I began a tour of European capitals and then, in a second phase, an initiative with my colleague Thomas de Maizière aimed at ensuring there would be solidarity mechanisms enabling a relocation and resettlement process to be implemented, putting into practice the European Union’s determination, amid the migration crisis, not to leave countries of first entry alone amid the challenges they faced. This led to the implementation of this process of relocation from the hot spots in Greece and Italy.

You kindly said that France is the leading contributor to this process, to this relocation and resettlement policy; that’s true; it’s thought that last year we relocated nearly 300 migrants from Greece – i.e. 30% of the migrants relocated from hot spots in Greece.

For 2017, we’re making 360 French civil servants available in Greece – from the internal security forces, intelligence services and French asylum authorities – who will support your authorities when it comes to the registration of migrants and access to asylum for those eligible for refugee status in Europe.

And we’d obviously like to ensure, on this issue, that the ambition for solidarity which has led to these proposals, and their implementation in Europe, is translated into increased cooperation between our two countries over the coming months, for reasons stemming from our humanist values – we share them, they go way back and have linked our two countries for a long time and through mankind’s long history; but we’d like to do so also, cher Alexis, because together we want to provide proof that Europe affords protection, that it affords protection including when it comes to tackling the migration issue, and that if we didn’t have Frontex to control the European Union’s external borders, if we didn’t have solidarity to ensure refugees are protected, if we didn’t have mechanisms to organize returns through holding centres in the Sahel strip, then immigration would be less controlled, mass disasters would be on a bigger scale, there would be fewer efforts to combat people trafficking and populism could then take even greater advantage of the situation.

And I’d like to say very clearly, here in Greece, that what we want to do through the European project is also a way to protect Europe against another risk, that of populism and the far right, which, through the solutions proposed by these movements, would destroy the opportunity for Europe to protect its citizens, on all issues, in the face of the major threat resulting from global unrest. (…)./.

Published on 10/03/2017

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