Athens, October 23, 2015
Through you, I’d like to express France’s support for Greece. For the past six years, it’s been experiencing an unprecedented economic, social and necessarily moral crisis, a crisis which has destroyed more than a quarter of your wealth, a crisis which has hit the most fragile people first and which is continuing to make the future uncertain for young people.
The support I’m expressing to you is not compassion. You wouldn’t accept that, and you’d be right. It’s support for the solid cooperation France is ready to embark on with you, to implement reforms and bring back growth. I’m doing so as a Frenchman and a friend of Greece, I’m also doing so as a European, and finally I’m doing so as a progressive, because that’s what has driven me since I became involved in politics.
In recent months I’ve been campaigning for Greece to remain in the Euro Area, for one very simple reason: because without Greece, Europe would no longer be Europe, and the Euro Area would lose its legitimacy by losing its integrity. I know the reforms are stringent. We’re all conducting them, including in France, to protect the future. I
know they’re difficult: I’m thinking about the pensions that must be balanced, the taxation whose shortcomings and iniquities must be put right, the freeing-up of economic activity and the modernization of the state. But these reforms are necessary, not only to rebalance the books but to safeguard the future: the future of young people, the future of industry, the future of competitiveness and the future of public services.
On that long night of 12 to 13 July, the fate of not only Greece but an idea of Europe was played out. Sometimes you need hours to make people understand what’s at stake. The challenge wasn’t merely to reach an agreement on one measure rather than another. It was about whether we could still live together in the Euro Area, whether we supported a project bigger than ourselves which wasn’t limited to discipline, even though there could be discipline. It was about whether we shared a common destiny. (…)
The coming weeks will be decisive, because Greece must once again review its commitment. I assure you here that just as what has been written must be respected, it’s equally essential for social cohesion to be protected in Greece, as elsewhere. Every household, every family in Europe has a fundamental right that can’t be questioned: to have a safe roof over their heads that can’t be taken away without strict conditions having been set. There too, I’ve heard the message sent to me.
I said “the coming weeks will be decisive” because the situation will have to be clarified definitively – you’ve been in a situation of uncertainty for too long, and so have the Greek people; the budget will have to be financed, the banks recapitalized and capital controls removed so that the economy can pick up again and create jobs.
France stood alongside you in the negotiation; it will still be at your side for the implementation of the reforms awaiting you, because that was my choice, but it was also the choice the Europeans wanted to make with you, because there was a link, a link that unites our two countries, our two peoples. That link was forged by history, in which France has supported Greece whenever its independence or its democracy have been under threat. (…)
But let me come back to the friendship between France and Greece. It also has an economic dimension that I want to strengthen with this visit. France is the fourth-largest investor in Greece – 120 companies, 12,000 Greek employees – and I’d like France to have an even greater presence, if you take the decision, in major infrastructure projects but also in the areas of health, energy and new technologies. We can, if we take the decision, build an exceptional partnership.
Your prime minister has called on investors to return; I’ll reiterate his appeal in France. I came here to Greece with a delegation comprising ministers, the whole spectrum of members of parliament, elected representatives and also many business leaders, because I wanted those business leaders to have confidence in Greece and take decisions that can be useful to our two countries. (…)./.