The French government is willing to discuss ways to ease Greece’s financial burden including extending the maturity of its debt, Sapin said Sunday in an interview with Canal Plus television before meeting with his Greek counterpart Yanis Varoufakis. He ruled out a full write-off and said the French government’s total exposure to Greece is 42 billion euros
“They say we cancel it, we just cancel it — no,” Sapin said. “We can discuss, we can postpone, we can alleviate. But we won’t cancel it.”
The comments may offer encouragement to Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras who begins a tour of European capitals on Monday, as he seeks support for a plan to ease the country’s debt burden to help him pay for a program of public spending to boost gross domestic product. Tsipras said Saturday that Greece would repay its debts to the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund, leaving the focus of any debt reduction on the other euro-area governments.
In a press statement on Sunday evening the French minister Sapin, expressed his satisfaction for the substantive, almost two-hour working meeting he had with Varoufakis and reiterated several times France’s willingness to stand by the new Greek government in its efforts.
According to the French minister, their mutual understanding is based on the following elements: Greece is in and will remain within the eurozone; there is a joint aim for growth, especially for Greece – which has lost 25% of its GDP – to come through investments; and it must create an effective and just taxation system.
On this latter point about taxation, Sapin said he will propose that the collaboration with the Greek government be augmented and specialists from France be available for consultation, an offer that has been on the table by the French government since 2012.
The Varoufakis-Sapin meeting in France sends a message that a negotiation of the loan agreement with creditors will lead to a mutually beneficial solution for Greece and the European Union, government spokesman Gavriil Sakellaridis said in Athens.
“The agreement of the two finance ministers in a series of pivotal issues proves that the stances of the Greek government are falling on fertile ground in Europe,” he said, mentioning that this was the general outline of U.S. President Barack Obama’s comments to CNN as well.
The Greek people “can be certain that the government will honour the mandate it was given, with decisiveness and calmness.”