The government is working hard to prepare for a scheduled visit to Greece on September 7 and 8 by French President Emmanuel Macron, seeking to boost the interest of French investors and encourage a large delegation of entrepreneurs to accompany him on his trip.
Diplomats meanwhile are examining pledges for economic cooperation made by Macron’s predecessor Francois Hollande during a visit to Athens last year and looking to pave the way for more concrete commitments during Macron’s visit to the Greek capital at the beginning of next month.
Sources close to Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras are hoping to elicit specific commitments from French companies that have already expressed an interest in investing in the Thessaloniki Port Authority as part of a privatization drive that Greece is under pressure from international creditors to intensify.
A statement of intent by a French company during Macron’s visit would be gold dust for Tsipras, who must face Greece’s political and business elite a few days later at the culmination of the Thessaloniki International Fair.
Traditionally the venue where Greek prime ministers set out their economic policy for the coming year, and offer handouts in pre-election periods, TIF will this year be little more than an opportunity for Tsipras to promote a new narrative according to which the battered Greek economy is turning a corner.
He is expected to focus on the better prospects for growth following an easing of the recession and a recent successful return to international bond markets.
Tsipras’s appearance at TIF is expected to spark a new round of political tensions with the main opposition New Democracy party, which has already started calling out leftist SYRIZA over its failure to honor promises Tsipras made at the 2014 TIF, when the leftists were in opposition, as part of the party’s so-called Thessaloniki Program.
The program had pledged to roll back years of austerity, revoke a hated property tax and restore the minimum wage, along with a series of other promises that SYRIZA found itself unable to deliver once faced by the country’s creditors when it came to power.
Tsipras is expected to keep the focus on the fact that the economy has improved in recent months while looking forward to an exit from the third bailout next summer.
A few days after Macron’s scheduled visit, Tsipras and his aides are set to receive another prominent European leader, Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni.
It is thought that talks will focus on Greece’s efforts to bolster its economy and draw much-needed investments as well as a resurging refugee crisis that has affected Italy and Spain as well as Greece.