Hollande to explore outlook for French firms during visit to Athens

French President Francois Hollande is due in Athens on Tuesday for a lightning visit that is officially being presented as an expression of support for Greece remaining in the eurozone, though sources indicate that the promotion of French business interests is high on the agenda.

During the visit, which is expected to last just six hours, Hollande is to meet with Prime Minister Antonis Samaras and President Karolos Papoulias. According to sources, the French leader is interested in the outlook for French businesses in Greece as most have managed to achieve a trade surplus despite the repercussions of the debt crisis on the economy. Hollande is also expected to propose the leasing of two French FREMM-type frigates to be used in prospecting for oil and gas in the Aegean once Greece delineates its exclusive economic zone (EEZ). According to sources, such a development would pave the way for boosting French business involvement in Greece, with companies such as Total, the oil and gas multinational, believed to be interested in future projects.

Meanwhile in an interview with Sunday’s Kathimerini, former French President Valery Giscard d’Estaing stressed that ties between Athens and Paris remained close and said that Greece had two choices in how to tackle its debt crisis: to exit the eurozone “temporarily” or to remain in the bloc and under the dictates of foreign creditors such as the International Monetary Fund.

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