Friday, October 23, 2015

Greece, France sign declaration of strategic partnership

French President Francois Hollande expressed warm support to Greece's efforts to exit an acute six-year debt crisis and called for the development of a new political agenda to construct Europe's common future, during his official two-day visit to Athens that ends on Friday afternoon.

In his second visit to Greece in two years Hollande was welcomed as a friend and strategic ally by the Greeks who counted on France's support in past and future negotiations for the resolution of the economic crisis.

In meetings with Greece's political leadership and an address to the Greek parliament the French head of state sent a clear message of support to Greece's reform drive, praised the sacrifices of Greek people to stay in the euro and urged for the immediate start of talks on debt relief once Athens fulfils its bailout commitments.

"I came to Greece to express solidarity and support to change page," he said delivering a speech in the Greek assembly, becoming the third French president to speak before the Greek parliament after Charles de Gaulle in 1963 and Nicolas Sarkozy in 2008.

Hollande suggested that change should be embraced by the entire EU so that a stronger Europe can give hope to future generations.

"I propose that Europe develops a new political agenda," he said, calling for growth-boosting policies, and more collaboration among partners.

"From Greece we must start constructing our common future," he concluded.

In talks with his Greek counterpart Prokopis Pavlopoulos on Thursday evening and Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras earlier on Friday, Hollande underlined that France stood by Greece's side.

"France has always stood by Greece's side... I welcome the decision of Greek people and the Greek government to take a responsible stance to stay in the euro zone," he said in a joint press conference with Tsipras.

Stressing that Greece is an integral part of Europe, he called on both Athens and international creditors to honor their commitments so that after the conclusion of the first bailout review next month talks on debt relief start.

"More efforts should be made on Greece's part. Reforms must continue. The next step will be the talks on debt relief which should start," he said during the first meeting with Pavlopoulos.

Europe should show solidarity with Greece to address both the economic as well as the escalating refugee crises, the French head of state repeated several times during the visit.

He encouraged French companies to invest in Greece and urged for more support to countries at the forefront of refugee influx, for a European comprehensive solution to the escalating refugee crisis and a political resolution to the Syrian conflict.

"EU must support Greece, because its borders are Europe's borders," he said.

"The refugee issue must be resolved on terms of solidarity and cooperation," Pavlopoulos agreed.

Pavlopoulos on Athens' part assured that regarding the economic crisis Greece will meet its obligations to end talks on Grexit, but will not accept "excessive" demands.

"The message of our meeting should be that the silly debate over a possible Grexit and dissolution of the euro zone must be put off the table," Tsipras said.

"Greece signed a deal it will honor. It did not sign an agreement to give up its sovereignty," he added.

The two leaders expressed their condolences to the families of the more than 40 people who died in a road accident near Bordeaux in south-western France early Friday.

At the Greek Prime Minister's office the two sides also co-signed a declaration of strategic partnership which will be the basis of upgraded bilateral collaboration in several fields in the future.

The declaration foresees the further strengthening of trade ties and investment cooperation in areas such as new technologies, infrastructure, tourism, agriculture, education and culture and research.

In addition, France will provide know-how to Greece in the sectors of public administration, taxation, reforms and management of public assets.

 Xinhua -

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