France's Macron backs debt relief for Greece in call to PM
Before his election on May 7 French President Emmanuel Macron had spoken in favour of cancelling part of Greece's debt mountain AFP/Thomas SAMSON
Paris - French President Emmanuel Macron told Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras in a call on Monday that he backed debt relief for Greece, a statement from the presidency said.
Macron said he was in favour of "finding a deal soon to alleviate the weight of Greece's debt over time," adding that French Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire would argue for this at a meeting of eurozone ministers in Brussels on Monday.
Before his election on May 7, Macron had spoken in favour of cancelling part of Greece's debt mountain, equivalent to 180 percent of annual output, to give the country a chance to recover from its economic depression.
The 39-year-old also argued for debt relief in 2015 when he was economy minster under then president Francois Hollande -- the only minister who did "everything possible" for this, according to former Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis.
But Macron's position puts him at odds with Germany where Greek debt relief -- following three different bailouts with public money for the country since 2010 -- is seen as a vote loser ahead of general elections in September.
Macron explained his thinking about Greece in an interview to the Mediapart website two days before his election.
"I am in principle in favour of a concerted restructuring of Greek debt and in keeping Greece in the eurozone. Why? Because the current system is unsustainable.
"We'll need to put in place safety conditions, security measures, and find a collective agreement, but we all know that we'll need to do this in any case," he added.
He said he would "lead the fight" for debt relief because "there's no chance (for Greece) of returning to a stable economy and society in the eurozone with the current level of debt."
He added that forcing Greece to leave the eurozone posed a danger which could lead to the "unravelling" of the 19-country area which uses the common European currency.