Government gearing up for crucial week


French President Emmanuel Macron’s two-day visit to Athens, which starts on Thursday, will take place against the backdrop of Germany’s call, issued on Sunday, for an end to Turkey’s European Union membership talks.

The latest escalation in tensions between Berlin and Ankara could have a pivotal impact on the geostrategic balance in Southeastern Europe, and could trigger changes in a wide range of issues that affect Greece directly, such as the flow of migrants and refugees from Turkey into Europe, as well as energy routes.

Given the breakdown in relations between Germany and Turkey, as well as the demeanor and incendiary rhetoric of the latter’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Athens will be seeking again to highlight Greece’s importance as a bastion of stability in the region.

Moreover, aides to Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras view the visit by the French president as a first step in the discussion within the European Union about the lessons learnt from its financial crisis and the ways to avoid similar crises in the future.

The leftist-led coalition may be in disagreement with labor law changes in France announced by Macron last week, but aides have said it is not an obstacle to a common perspective on a wide range of other issues.

Apart from the future course of the EU, the PM’s aides believe that Macron’s visit will also be seen as vote of confidence in the government’s narrative that Greece has turned a corner after its years-long financial crisis. Tsipras is seeking to strengthen relations with Paris as a counterbalance to the austerity being demanded by Berlin.

More specifically, the Greek premier is hoping for some concrete decisions to be announced during the visit following interest expressed by French companies in investing in Greece.

Meanwhile, more than 2,000 police officers are to be deployed across Athens for the visit. The presence of Greek police will be particularly strong around the French Embassy and the French Institute, which Macron is scheduled to visit on Friday.

Police are taking additional precautions following a hand grenade attack on the French Embassy last November and two arson attacks in February on the French Institute.