PARIS (Reuters) - French President Emmanuel Macron will travel to Athens next month to send a message to fellow euro zone leaders about the need to strengthen the currency union, at a time when Greece is emerging from years of economic crisis, French officials said.
Macron, a centrist, was elected in May on a pro-EU platform that included pledges to create a euro zone budget that would be voted through by a euro zone parliament and supervised by a euro zone finance minister.
He will go to Greece on Sept. 7-8 accompanied by French business leaders to promote investment in Greece, where the economy has been ravaged by a debt crisis which at one point threatened to engulf France and other bigger countries.
“The idea is for France to be on Greece’s side to help this recovery,” an adviser to Macron said, taking heart from Greece’s return to the bond market last month after a three-year hiatus.
“But the symbol, the substance of this visit is also to say that the euro zone must be deeply reformed,” the adviser said.
“The crisis exposed harmful dysfunctions and weaknesses. Greece can bear testimony to that,” he said.
While Greece has been grappling with gargantuan levels of debt and has had to put stringent austerity measures in place in exchange for EU funds, the country was given a boost in June when euro zone governments agreed to release $9.5 billion in aid.
“We have avoided the worst, but we can’t go through another crisis which, for Greece or another country, would push us all to the edge,” the official added.
Macron’s proposals were serious ideas driven by the belief that “we fundamentally think we must equip the euro zone so it can face any new difficulty in the future.”
It remains unclear, however, how much sovereignty France and other countries such as Germany, Europe’s biggest economy, are willing to transfer to the federal level.
Macron’s visit to Greece will come after a three-day tour of central and eastern Europe this week as well as a meeting with the leaders of Germany, Italy and Spain next week.
Reporting by Michel Rose; Editing by Leigh Thomas and Mark Trevelyan