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French president on Greek trip stresses financial solidarity with bloc’s weaker members
Emmanuel Macron has made the case for an overhaul of the eurozone during a two-day state visit to Greece, calling for reforms that showed “maximum ambition”. The French president and his wife travelled to Athens with about 40 French executives on a visit designed to mark Greece’s relative return to normality after the eurozone crisis. Mr Macron, who wants more investment and a common budget to help prevent renewed existential crises in the bloc, emphasised the need for more financial solidarity with weaker members of the eurozone, saying the Greek people had “paid a very high cost”. The eurozone needed to “become more integrated” and “get out of this sort of internal civil war whereby everyone looks at their little differences”, he said. “Everyone needs to reform but that implies solidarity.” Mr Macron also urged the EU to “ease the burden” of Greece’s sovereign debt, a longtime demand of Athens that has been resisted by Germany. The French president is pushing for the EU to adopt tighter labour rules, more protective trade tools and more stimulus, in exchange for more budget discipline at home and deregulation in the French jobs market — a bargain that Germany is showing signs it might consider. Mr Macron has said he would like each country’s contribution to the future eurozone budget to amount to “several” gross domestic product percentage points. The bloc had to “get its independence back” by setting up its own European monetary fund to help prevent crises, he said in Athens — lashing out at the role of the International Monetary Fund in tackling the eurozone debt crisis. “As far as I am concerned, the IMF had no place in EU affairs,” Mr Macron said. Mr Macron’s arrival in Greece comes after Athens’ €3bn bond offering, which was more than twice subscribed. Alexis Tsipras, the Greek prime minister, hailed the sale on July 28 as “the most significant step towards ending this unpleasant adventure of the memorandum [bailout]”. The leader of the ruling leftwing Syriza party, who is battling criticism at home over increases in tax and social security contributions imposed by its bailout creditors, is counting on Mr Macron’s visit to boost his popularity and highlight the changing mood among EU partners. The economic outlook in Greece is brightening. Growth of 1.8 per cent is expected this year, after seven years of recession that saw a 25 per cent decline in national output. However, unemployment, which has declined marginally this year, remains the highest in the eurozone at 21.7 per cent. The government has failed to meet privatisation targets set in its bailout programme and struggled to attract substantive private investment from abroad. The opposition centre-right New Democracy party — whose leader, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, will also meet Mr Macron — holds a double-digit lead over Syriza in opinion polls.“The [Greek] government sees this as the moment when Mr Macron should reaffirm support for Greece in Europe and for French investors to step in to balance the German and Chinese presence,” said Costas Iordanidis, a writer and political commentator.
Posted in: Financial Times
By Xie Jun Source: Global Times Published: 2017/8/29
The investment by China COSCO Shipping Corp (COSCO) in Greece’s Piraeus port has created 2,600 direct jobs and 8,000 indirect jobs and increased the Greek government’s fiscal revenue, a source familiar with the project told the Global Times on Tuesday. COSCO plans to pour another 500 million euros ($600 million) in the port on top of the 350 million euros it has already invested, and that new investment is likely to create another 31,000 jobs in Greece and enhance the country’s logistics output value to 2.5 billion euros from the current 400 million euros, the person said, speaking on condition of anonymity. COSCO acquired 51 percent of the Piraeus port in August 2016. Data provided by the source also showed that the Piraeus port’s increased efficiency and the stimulus given by COSCO’s investment to ancillary industries will generate about 5.1 billion euros of extra income for the Greek government each year for a long time. The data serves as a rebuttal of doubts raised by overseas media as to the actual benefits Chinese investors have brought to Greece. A New York Times report on Saturday questioned the economic benefits COSCO has brought to the local community, as it noted that the company has used subcontractors to hire workers mostly on short-term contracts at wages far below the standard of what unionized Greek dockworkers are paid. Bai Ming, a research fellow at the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation, said that China’s investment has helped the Greek economy, which has been mired in a crisis since about 2008, but it is hard to quantify the benefits. “Without COSCO’s investment, the Piraeus port might still be idle today, not to mention the jobs created because of the investment,” he told the Global Times on Tuesday. Apart from COSCO, Chinese conglomerate Fosun Group is also reportedly investing in reconstructing an airport in Athens, according to media reports. Fosun declined to comment when contacted by the Global Times on Tuesday. According to Bai, as China’s economic conditions have stabilized a bit, it is a good time to carry out economic cooperation with Greece. Zhao Junjie, a research fellow at the Institute of European Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said that Greece can act as a hub for China’s cooperation with European countries and resolve some of China’s capacity glut. “But I don’t think the Chinese government is very concerned about the economic benefits Greece can have for China. It’s more a sense of responsibility that Chinese companies bring capital to the country,” he told the Global Times on Tuesday. Bilateral trade rose 7.7 percent year-on-year to $2.69 billion in the first seven months in 2017, according to customs data.
Posted in: ECONOMY