By Maria Spiliopoulou : –
ATHENS, (Xinhua) — French President Francois Hollande started a two-day official visit to Greece on Thursday, voicing a clear message of support to efforts to pull the country out of the six-year debt crisis and back on the path to economic growth.
In his second visit to Greece in two years, the French leader was accompanied by ministers, other officials and entrepreneurs who were due to explore investment opportunities.
During a first meeting with his Greek counterpart Prokopis Pavlopoulos at the presidential mansion Hollande called for foreign investments in Greece to boost development, more reforms and the launch of the dialogue on debt relief.
“More efforts should be made on Greece’s part. Reforms must continue. The next step will be the talks on debt relief which should start,” he said in response to Pavlopoulos’ first remarks.
The Greek head of state assured that “Greece will fully meet its obligations” and stressed that debt relief was necessary to ensure the sustainability of the Greek debt burden.
Hollande’s Greek hosts counted on France’s support in the forthcoming negotiations on the debt relief that are expected to start after the conclusion of the review of the Greek program in November.
Hollande and France held a decisive role in the negotiations that led to Greece’s third bailout this summer to stave off a looming default and Grexit.
During the talks at the presidential mansion, both leaders also referred to the ongoing refugee crisis that tests Greece and Europe, and the Syrian conflict which has driven millions of people away seeking refuge in Europe and the Cyprus issue.
“The refugee issue must be resolved on terms of solidarity and cooperation,” Pavlopoulos said.
On his part, Hollande called for more support to Greece and other countries at the frontline of the crisis.
“EU must support Greece, because its borders are Europe’s borders,” he said.
Both leaders called for more efforts to put an end to the Syrian conflict and the resolution of the Cyprus issue.
Hollande’s first day in Athens closed with his presentation with Greece’s highest decoration, the Grand Cross of the Order of the Redeemer medal, and a formal dinner.
On his part Hollande also presented Pavlopoulos with the medal of the Grand Cross of the Legion of Honor.
On Friday, the French head of state was to hold talks with Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, co-sign a declaration on the upgrade of bilateral cooperation in several sectors and address the Greek parliament.