French President Francois Hollande will Friday praise Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras's “attachment to Europe” in an address to the Greek parliament on a visit to show support for Athens during tough talks with EU-IMF auditors.
Hollande will become the third French president to speak before the Greek parliament, after General Charles de Gaulle in 1963 and Nicolas Sarkozy in 2008.
At a time when “secessionist moves” and “populist temptations” threaten European cohesion, the French leader will, according to his entourage, welcome the message delivered by Tsipras on avoiding a Greek exit from the eurozone.
The socialist French president is one of the few European leaders to have unabashedly lent support to young leftist Tsipras during months of fraught creditor talks earlier this year.
On his arrival Thursday, Hollande recalled the “bold decisions” taken by Tsipras, who in July agreed to more public spending cuts in return for a three-year, 86-billion-euro ($96-billion) EU bailout to prevent Greece crashing out of the eurozone.
“We did everything, France and Greece… for Greece to remain in Europe and that Europe show solidarity with Greece.
“And today, that is the message that I will continue to carry.” He also pleaded for a renegotiation via an interest deferral of Greek debt, which is around 200 percent of GDP. Hollande said he supported a Greek request to the European Union for a credit extension of 330 million euros in 2016 to cope with the influx of migrants, with more than 500,000 people arriving in Greece since January.
Hollande and Tsipras talked for nearly two hours at an official dinner Thursday night, said Jean-Christophe Cambadelis, one of the members of parliament accompanying the French president.
Before going to parliament Friday, Hollande will start the day with a breakfast with business leaders.
After a meeting with President Prokopis Pavlopoulos, Hollande and Tsipras will sign a strategic partnership that includes cooperation in the field of administrative reform, taxation, and management of state assets.
The deal in particular aims to provide French expertise to Athens in its fight against tax evasion. Hollande will also stress his message encouraging the French to invest in Greece.
France “is already the fourth largest foreign investor in Greece, more than a hundred companies are present there”, Hollande said Thursday.
“We want them to invest more.” Hollande is on his second visit to Greece since 2013.