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Greece/Germany/European Union

Published on July 16, 2015
Interview given by M. François Hollande, President of the Republic, to TF1 and France 2 (excerpts)
Paris, July 14, 2015

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GREECE/DEBT CRISIS

Q. – So the Europeans are emerging from a long marathon on Greece. A lot of money is going to be committed for Athens; we’ll talk about that in a moment; a considerable effort of solidarity is being made with the Greeks, of course. But hasn’t Greece been, if not humiliated, at least patronized and forced into an austerity plan which is very harsh for it?

THE PRESIDENT – (…) What was France’s role in these negotiations on Greece? It was to ensure that Europe came out victorious, that Greece could of course obtain support, the essential solidarity, and remain in the Euro Area.
That’s what I had set as the goal, so that France could be fully useful, too: useful to Europe, useful to Greece but also in keeping with its role, which is to make possible an idea of Europe that is greater than us. And to enable us to build a political space even before we knew whether it was necessary to help Greece, and how to help it. And what’s been secured is that Greece will remain in the Euro Area.

I also wanted to be mindful of France’s interests and French people’s money, because, as you’ve said, €85 billion will be lent, not by France but by Europe. (…)

EURO AREA/INTEGRATION

Q. – What lesson do you learn from this for the Euro Area? Must the Euro Area take a new step, particularly in the area of integration? In other words, why not common taxation and other common rules? Do you have any proposals to make?

To complete the question, are there any taboos? Ultimately, is exit from the euro a taboo? A hard and fast rule?

THE PRESIDENT – When I see the stubbornness with which the Greeks – despite all the efforts demanded of them – have wanted to stay in the Euro Area, I wonder why there are people, including in our country, who would like to leave it, because the Euro Area is a safeguard, it’s protection, security.

Q. – Integration then?

THE PRESIDENT – For at least three years, there’s been stronger integration. I’ve talked to you about banking union and also budgetary discipline; we’ve conducted convergence programmes. I’ve learnt this lesson, too, from the crisis – which has lasted years – in the Euro Area, in Greece, which is experiencing these difficulties. We must move forward. So I’ll be proposing that we go further – consistently with Germany, of course – on economic government, because there must be an economic government of the Euro Area.

Q. – Will France take an initiative?

THE PRESIDENT – France with its partners. France is going to draw up a document – it will be shared with our German friends, of course – to say: this is what we can do with a view to economic government. In a second stage, we can also go further and have a Euro Area budget, so that we can act in terms of investment, including for those countries that are furthest behind.

Q. – Reordering Europe’s priorities, as you’ve been wanting to do since 2012?

THE PRESIDENT – Giving Europe more solid foundations, stronger means to act, but in the interests of the people – not to restrain them, not to bully. In order to ensure that this political space, which is tremendous, after all – 400 million inhabitants, the world’s leading economic power – can make itself heard and not be regarded by the whole planet as a space where there are difficulties.

Frankly, I have great esteem for President Obama, but when he telephones me and says to me, “So how’s the Euro Area doing?” I’d rather say to him, “How’s the dollar area doing?” We must be stronger, stronger in France and stronger with our European friends.

There’s economic government, there’s the Euro Area budget, and there’s also democracy, which must be better established. Look at what’s happened with Greece; there are still governments, that’s very legitimate, but people can sometimes be heard. There are referendums. There must also be a stronger presence of members of parliament, the people who represent nations. So in the long run, I’d also like there to be a Euro Area parliament.

Q. – Are those initiatives [due] in a few months’ time?

THE PRESIDENT – The initiatives will be taken, and there’s also fiscal convergence – as you mentioned – and social convergence. We must begin with our German friends on this. They’re sometimes regarded as an example, sometimes as a counter-example.

Q. – They’re imposing a Europe of stringency, after all.

THE PRESIDENT – It depends how we go about things. At the moment – we’ll talk about this – we’re reducing taxes, despite having increased them before. So what we want, with Germany, is to have convergence on fiscal policies and also social policies. But let’s ensure we can also do so in order to protect people more and not damage the necessary protection. (…)./.

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