Macron Visit to Greece: Symbolism, realism and (a few) numbers

http://www.greeknewsagenda.gr/index.php/topics/politics-polity/6526-macron-visit-to-greece-symbolism,-realism-and-a-few-numbers

Athenians brace themselves for two days of heavy traffic, while over 2,000 police officers will be mobilized for the beefed-up security measures in the city during the two day visit of French President Emmanuel Macron, who arrives on today (07/09). Greek police are on high alert ahead of the visit, while they have been collaborating closely with police authorities in France for several days, AMNA reports.

The Symbolism

On the first day of his visit the French President will meet the President of the Hellenic Republic Prokopis Pavlopoulos and afterwards the Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras. At 7pm Macron and Tsipras will go to ancient site Pnyx, the Athens hill that is considered to be the birthplace of democracy, where Macron is expected to urge fellow Europeans to deal with the democratic crisis he believes the continent faces, according to his aides. As was the case with the ex President of the USA Barrack Obama – who chose to address the world with the farewell speech of his career from the Acropolis – the symbolism of ancient monuments of the country were democracy was born is heavy. Only this time the message is about opening a new chapter. “It’s a symbol of a new chapter for Europe,” a French presidency official said of the speech Macron plans to give on Thursday evening on the hill of Pnyx, where ancient Greeks gathered to host popular assemblies. Greek PM Tsipras’ speech in Pnyx is expected to be a radical intervention to support the social profile of the EU and stress the need to steer economic policy towards growth.

Realism

Apart from its symbolic character, this visit is intended to send a message of confidence, according to Elysee sources. As the French President noted in his interview to the Athens daily Kathimerini, his visit constitutes a vote of trust in Greece’s future and a message of confidence in Greece as a place of investments and growth. Macron will thus be accompanied by around 40 French business leaders, including from blue-chip firms Total, L‘Oreal, Sanofi, Engie and Vinci. After a German-French consortium won a majority stake in Thessaloniki Port last June, France is keen to push its companies to invest in Greek infrastructure, energy and the agri-food business.  The acquisition of the majority stake in the port of Piraeus by the China Ocean Shipping Company (COSCO), a Chinese state-owned enterprise, in 2016 is a form of European failure regretted by the French side.

Since the beginning of the crisis, major French companies such as Societe Generale, Credit Agricole and Carrefour have left Greece. Others like Total remained and want to increase their investments. “We are very interested in exploring the potential of hydrocarbons in the Mediterranean Sea,” says Patrick Pouyanné, Total’s CEO, who will be part of the presidential delegation that will participate in a working round-table meeting with Greek business leaders at Stavros Niarchos Cultural Centre, which will be presided Tsipras and Macron.