French President François Hollande begins a two-day visit to Athens on Thursday, bringing badly-needed support to Greece’s left-wing government amid tough talks with the country’s creditors.
It marks the first visit by a French president since 2008, when Hollande's predecessor Nicolas Sarkozy last travelled to the debt-saddled country.
Hollande will be accompanied by at least four members of his cabinet including Finance Minister Michel Sapin, and a number of business chiefs.
A French government source said the president was bringing "a message of confidence and optimism in Greece's future".
Greek government spokeswoman Olga Gerovassili said the French president's visit confirmed a "special relationship" forged during "difficult moments" in negotiations between Greece and its creditors, which include its EU partners and the International Monetary Front.
Hollande will first hold talks with Greek President Prokopis Pavlopoulos on Thursday, before seeing Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras the next day.
In a statement to AFP news agency, Gerovassili said the two leaders would discuss the ongoing evaluation of the Greek economy by EU-IMF experts, and the crucial recapitalisation of Greek banks that lost billions of euros in deposits this year amid tense negotiations over a new bailout.
Like Sarkozy before him, Hollande will then address the Greek parliament on Friday.
‘Non’ to Grexit
France’s Socialist president is one of the few European leaders to have lent support to Greece’s young leader during months of gruelling talks on the country's debt mountain.
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French officials campaigned vigorously against the so-called “Grexit”, though some critics remarked that France had been slow to react, allowing Germany to dictate the terms of crisis talks on Greece for months.
France has sought to put a positive spin on the latest bailout deal, which staved off Greek bankruptcy but failed to ease the punishing austerity measures imposed on Greece in return for bailout cash
When Tsipras returned to power in a snap election last month, Hollande welcomed the 41-year-old's victory as an "important success" for Greece and Europe.
Tsipras will again need all the help he can get from the French president to persuade his European peers to agree to debt relief measures for his floundering country.
The debt issue and investment initiatives will feature in his talks with the French presdient, Gerovassili said.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP)
Date created : 2015-10-22