"Greece is clearly on the right (path) and that's good news for everybody," Le Maire said after talks in Athens with his Greek counterpart, Christos Staikouras. Greece emerged from eight years of international bailouts in 2018 and is scrambling to rebuild public services, its military, and major infrastructure projects after years of funding cuts.
Le Maire, whose country is credited with helping keep Greece in the 19-country eurozone during the crisis years, said France and keen to invest. "There is cooperation and friendship — a friendship between the heads of state, at the level of ministers, and there is a friendship between out peoples," Le Maire said.
Greece wants to redirect returned bond profits from European central banks to public investment programs and wants to make 280 million euros ($305 million) in emergency spending on the migrant crisis exempt from calculations for budget targets set by bailout lenders. Le Maire said he backed both requests.
His visit came a day after France's minister of defense, Florence Parly, visited Athens and said the two countries were on track to finalizing a major defense cooperation agreement in June — involving an increased number of joint exercises in the Aegean Sea and assistance in upgrading French-made military equipment, including fighters, helicopters, and navy frigates.
Greece, wary of neighbor Turkey over oil-and-gas drilling rights in the region, recently concluded a similar agreement with the United States. In unusually blunt remarks, Parly accused Turkey of “calling the stability and security of the region into question.”
Derek Gatopoulos contributed in Athens. ___
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