European Union/economic issues/Greece
Paris, February 4, 2015
I was very pleased to welcome Mr Tsipras, the new Greek Prime Minister, here to Paris. It was the first time. I think we’ll have opportunities to meet again here often, because relations between our two countries are long-standing and deep-rooted, because there’s friendship between Greece and France, and because we have shared values: democracy, freedom and also a commitment to Europe. We also have goals for Europe which are the same: to ensure it’s more mutually supportive, more political and also more geared to growth.
The Greek government which has just been formed will have to be tested in Parliament in the coming days. It’s arrived in a context where Europe has taken important decisions, particularly for supporting growth, with the Juncker plan, the decisions by the European Central Bank and flexibility in implementing the Stability Pact… Nevertheless, the Greek question, so to speak, has been posed regularly for four years. Four years! It’s time to find a long-term solution for Greece in Europe. That’s what Mr Tsipras and I talked about.
Firstly, there are two principles. I laid them down as soon as the new government was elected and formed. The first principle is solidarity. We’re in the same monetary area, so we have the same interests, the same goals and the same obligations. The second principle is responsibility. We’re responsible for a currency. This currency doesn’t belong to one country, it belongs to the whole Euro Area. So efforts must be made on all sides to ensure this currency has the necessary stability to be respected. That’s the case today.
We also have the word that trips off the tongue, “respect”. Respect firstly for the Greek people’s vote: a clear, powerful vote which surely signified that austerity – as the sole prospect and the sole reality – was no longer tolerable. But the European rules governing us all – France too – also need to be respected, and it’s not always easy… And the commitments made, particularly in relation to debts affecting states today, need to be respected too. We must take all those factors into account in defining a method and goals.
The method is dialogue. Greece, through its Prime Minister, has reiterated on every occasion, as much as necessary, that it’s anchored within Europe, that it wants to remain in the Euro Area because that is its place, and also that it’s determined to give Europe the cohesion which is also necessary. So dialogue must take place, dialogue between Greece and the European and international partners. This dialogue must be strengthened, certainly; but it must be established transparently, calmly and with a desire to reach an agreement.
That’s the goal: to reach an agreement, i.e. a medium- and long-term mechanism – in addition to what we must do in the short term –, i.e. to define an economic, financial, contractual framework between Europe and Greece. On this, France has expressed its willingness. It’s already shown this in the days that have just gone by.
But obligations between Greece and France don’t just stem from our presence in the Euro Area; there’s a relationship of trust. I also reiterated to Prime Minister Tsipras that, in the framework of bilateral cooperation, we’re wholly prepared to bring our experience and expertise to a number of reforms which Greece wants to embark on, particularly tax reform – as everyone here knows, we’re experts where this is concerned! We’ve learned from others about tax authorities, how these are organized, administrative reform etc. We can lend our own experience too.
We’ve also called on French businesses – and they’re doing this – to invest in Greece, because there are opportunities. It’s a chance to create jobs and growth, and it benefits our two countries. We’ve also got to use all opportunities available under the Juncker plan. Greece and France can work together on projects to do with the environment (France is soon going to be hosting the Climate Conference), energy and transport.
Finally, I’ll end on this: there’s a friendship – which I was talking about – between France and Greece, there’s a shared concept of culture, learning and knowledge. So we’ve also got to work in that direction, increasing the number of agreements between university and research centres and cultural agreements.
Greek culture has considerably influenced the whole of Europe, and that’s the role of French culture too. France and Greece think that culture is an engine for progress, development and even growth. So it’s on those foundations that we’ve decided to establish the relationship between France and Greece, and between the Greek Prime Minister and the French President. Thank you./.