By F. Zois and S. Zisimos
The third official visit to Athens by a different French president over the crisis years in Greece – set for Thursday – is viewed by the leftist-rightist coalition government as an opportunity to highlight the still bailout-dependent country as an investment destination and to provide a much-needed political fillip.
Emmanuel Macron this week follows in Francois Hollande and Nicolas Sarkozy’s footsteps, projecting Paris’ leadership role in the EU, on the one hand, and attempting to help jump-start the Greek economy, at second glance. Both sides have repeatedly cited the fact that the French president will be accompanied by “numerous” businesspeople and corporate executives during his visit to Athens.
According to the “official” veneer of the visit, the French side is interested in infrastructure, transports, the electricity market, tourism, start-ups and even Greece’s thrice recapitalized banking sector.
In terms of the latter, a French banking giant, Credit Agricole, previously had a prominent involvement in Greece after buying out Emporiki Bank, which it sold to domestic rival Alpha Bank after posting successive and increasingly negative results and losses a decade ago.
Despite the Greek economic implosion since 2009, France still ranks fourth in terms of foreign direct investments in Greece, which are valued at 1.5 billion euros. Luxembourg, as an attractive host for multinational corporations, ranks first, with 4.8 billion euros, followed by Germany (4.6 billion euros) and the Netherlands (4.5 billion euros).
Roughly 120 subsidiaries of French companies are active in Greece, with 31,000 direct jobs related to those companies.