France to be link between Athens and eurozone, says Sapin

France sees itself as a link between Greece and its eurozone peers, Finance Minister Michel Sapin told an Austrian paper, reiterating his call for economic policies that can foster growth and boost ultra-low inflation in Europe.

“Paris wants to be the link between Athens and the eurozone. We cannot act as if nothing changed in Greece with the last elections,” he was quoted as saying by Der Standard in an interview published in German on Thursday.

The French government promised on Thursday to eke out new savings to show the European Commission it could hit its deficit-cutting targets, a day after the EU executive gave it a guarded reprieve on broken fiscal promises.

Sapin stressed that everyone had to play by the rules in the currency union but said eurozone finance ministers had done the right thing by extending a rescue plan by four months to give Athens more time to come up with a sustainable plan.

“The Greek government and its partners are working seriously to find a way to let Greece find sustainable growth and work,” he said in the interview before he visits Vienna on Thursday.

Sapin said he advised domestic critics of austerity to visit Greece to see the real meaning of the word, saying Paris was not striving for austerity but rather a serious budget.

“This is true for the entire eurozone. If we want sufficient growth and inflation in line with the European Central Bank’s definition then we have to pursue a less restrictive economic policy,” he said.

“We want to reduce budget deficits but in a rhythm that is adjusted for the growth target,” he said. “The absolute evil for the eurozone would be growth that is too weak while inflation is too low.”