France’s Hollande ‘wants French firms to invest more in Greece’

France’s Hollande ‘wants French firms to invest more in Greece’

ATHENS - Reuters
France’s Hollande ‘wants French firms to invest more in Greece’


France’s President François Hollande said in a newspaper interview released hours before a visit to Athens on Oct. 22 that he will encourage French firms to build up their operations in Greece to help the country overcome its financial crisis.

Hollande said he will meet representatives of French companies in Greece on his official two-day visit to show his support for the left-wing government of Alexis Tsipras which is struggling to meet the terms of a new international bailout.

Hollande is trying to mend his relationship with the radical wing of his Socialist Party and with other left-wing political groups as he pursues pro-business reforms at home. A divided left would face heavy losses at the hands of the right and extreme right in regional elections due in December.

He has strongly supported Greece’s place in the euro and the dramatic efforts of its new left-wing government to seal a new bailout deal with its lenders despite acrimonious negotiations.

“I am coming to Athens to show France’s support and to give a message to everyone but more specifically to French businesses: come invest in Greece,” he said in the interview with Kathimerini newspaper.

Greece needs to enact a set of reforms to conclude its first bailout review and recapitalise its banks by the end of the year to start debt relief talks.

“The schedule is busy, the deadlines are tight but it’s time for Greece to overcome the crisis once and for all,” Hollande told the newspaper. “I’ll be there to help, as I have always done at the European Council’s table.”

Asked whether he could rule out a Greek exit from the euro, Hollande said: “Yes. This discussion belongs to the past.”

He said Greek people have already made big sacrifices but growth will return to the country if it sticks to reforms.

French companies have showed interest in Greek privatizations, a major part of the country’s strategy to meet the bailout terms.

A unit of France’s state railway, SNCF Participations, was shortlisted in a tender for the sale of Greek railways operator Trainose in 2013. Alstom has also expressed interest in buying Greece’s railways rolling stock operator.

Greece has set a December deadline for the submission of binding bids for both companies.