European Union/Greece/restricted meeting
This morning I held a restricted meeting [of the Council of Ministers] devoted to Greece. Greece has decided to interrupt the negotiations that have been under way for weeks, which focused on a comprehensive, sustainable plan and concerned the European institutions and the International Monetary Fund but especially all the Euro Area countries.
I regret this decision, because we were very close to an agreement.
Greece has also decided to consult the people in a referendum. That is its sovereign choice. It’s democracy and the Greek people’s right to say what they want for their future.
The challenge will be crucial: it’s about whether the Greeks want to remain in the Euro Area. That’s their place, in my eyes, but it’s up to them to decide, or to take the risk of leaving it.
We know there are still a few hours before the negotiations on extending what’s called the Greek support programme are definitely closed. If the Greeks decide on it, I’d like these negotiations to resume, but it’s up to them – and them alone – to say so.
France – this was the purpose of this morning’s meeting – is ready and willing, always ready and willing for the dialogue to resume, to resume today, to resume tomorrow. Today there’s still the chance of an agreement; tomorrow it will depend on the Greeks’ response to the referendum they’re being offered.
France is in favour of Greece staying in the Euro Area. France is always ready to act, but it can do so only if there’s a common desire to achieve a solution.
A great deal of time has gone by. I, the French government and [Finance] Minister Michel Sapin in particular played France’s proper role to the full. I did so completely coherently with our partners – Germany in particular – and with all the Euro Area institutions and countries, because it was always France’s responsibility to encourage a solution.
Today there are uncertainties, particularly in Greece, even though the European Central Bank has made sure to provide the liquidity essential for the functioning [of the banks] up to the time of the referendum. There are also uncertainties which may exist on the markets, but I want to be clear on this here: very important measures were already taken several months ago to consolidate the Euro Area – resulting in banking union –, to ensure more cohesion in the Euro Area and more resources to cope with any speculation.
Finally, the French economy is no longer in the same situation as it was four years ago. Four years ago, there was the Greece crisis, the fear of substantial chaos.
There was already substantial chaos on the financial markets. Today, the French economy is robust, much more robust than four years ago, and has nothing to fear from what could happen. France isn’t acting out of fear or concern. It is acting because it is its responsibility to do so. Because we must ensure that the Euro Area, that the Europe we instigated, can continue on the basis of responsibility and solidarity.
Solidarity is always possible when there is responsibility. France will continue to give prominence to this idea of Europe in the coming days.