Athens prepares for Macron visit

Athens prepares for Macron visit

French President Emmanuel Macron’s push last week to change labor laws in his country may cast a shadow, albeit a slight one, over his two-day visit to Athens this week as the measures announced in Paris are diametrically opposed to the positions of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras on the matter.

The French government has said it aims to transform France’s complex labor laws to tackle mass unemployment and to make the country more competitive in the global market.

The move, however, has drawn the reaction of the left in France, including French unions as it will make it easier for firms to hire and fire, and put an end to jobs for life in the public sector.

The changes are a stark contrast to the leftist ideas of Greece’s ruling SYRIZA party, and government aides have said that it would have been preferable, in terms of public relations, if Macron had announced his labor law changes after the visit to Greece.

However, aides were quick to acknowledge that Macron’s moves “are not determined based on what serves us.”

Nonetheless, expectations over the visit are high in Athens, as Tsipras seeks to strengthen relations with Paris as a counterbalance to the austerity emanating from Berlin.

French officials say that the purpose of the visit on Thursday and Friday is to send the message that the eurozone needs deep reforms, as demonstrated by the financial carnage in Greece in recent years.

The French leader was also among the European leaders in the summer who called for Greece’s mountain of debt to be made sustainable so that it can finally break the shackles of its protracted financial crisis.

Tsipras’s goal to create a united front with France marks a departure from the intermittent tensions he has experienced with Paris, not least due to his harsh words for Macron’s predecessor Francois Hollande in 2012, when he disparagingly described him as “Hollandreou” – a reference to former Greek PM George Papandreou, who has been widely denounced for signing Greece’s first bailout.

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