Photo: wassilis aswestopoulos
The french president holds speeches in athens addressed to berlin
French president emmanouel macron was given a rough honor in athens. He was allowed to speak from the birthplace of athenian democracy, the pnyx. Here once pericles had founded democracy. From here macron wanted to rhetorically evoke the re-foundation of the european union. The counterpoint to the declining popularity at home should be set at the so-called blue hour, the breaking of the dam over the greek capital. A speech in the pnyx, a privilege that german chancellor angela merkel, for example, will never have, was to be a high point in macron’s still short career.
Macron in front of the illuminated acropolis and the dark blue evening sky of athens. In addition, the lights of the athenian houses and streets, which slowly come on and make the ambience look like a rising starry sky. The rising moon, one day after the full moon, was to provide the rest of the illumination. In addition, a keynote speech on the democratic re-launch of the eu – a dream scenario for every european politician.
This was macron’s expressed wish. The frenchman also overrode security concerns that prevented a similar, planned spectacle at the last minute during the visit of u.S. President barack obama.
The staging worked only partially. Because, as it is usual in athens, deadlines can usually not be met. For the first minutes of the delay macron had provided himself. When he arrived in his jet at athens’ eleftherios venizelos international airport, it took what felt like an eternity for all of the presidential couple’s clothes to be carried off the plane by helpers. The program was further delayed, mainly because all the protagonists involved gave long speeches. The first item on the agenda was the customary wreath-laying ceremony at the tomb of the unknown soldier, immediately followed by macron’s visit to his greek counterpart.
Photo: vasilis aswestopoulos
The greek president prokopis pavlopoulos buried his french counterpart with a medal ceremony and a long speech about the advantages of a united europe. He urged the european community to fulfill the promises made to athens. "Pacta sunt servanta", treaties must be honored, one of the favorite sayings of pavlopoulos, professor of constitutional law, was used again. Pavlopoulos is not only fond of talking, but also always very long-winded. The time schedule of the visit program was again blown up.
Macron was in no way inferior to his predecessor. He complained that europe is in danger of losing its fundamental values. Regarding the international monetary fund, which has been involved in all bailout programs within the eurozone, macron spoke of a mistake. The imf should hold back with its demands, he implored.
The french president, who envisions a euro zone with its own finance minister responsible for all states, like pavlopoulos, did not forget to point out that budget surpluses and intra-community export records exceeding the euro treaties will not be cut, while deficits will be punished all the more severely. To save democracy, both politicians would like to see parliamentary control of the eurozone administration.
Both speeches had a clear addressee: berlin. Macron, in whose wake four dozen french investors visited athens, also pointed out that his compatriots had stood by greece in good times and bad, and had not withdrawn their investments even during the crisis.
The frenchman also went on a shopping spree during his first official visit abroad. His investors are interested in municipal waterworks, port and also a bank. After visiting his prasidial colleague, macron walked down herodes atticus street from the presidential palace to the next corner, the megaron maximou, the official residence of the greek prime minister.
Photo: vasilis aswestopoulos
After the obligatory photo session, macron and tsipras retreated for a long talk. Once again the schedule was further strained. At the subsequent press conference, macron had to deal with the consequences of hurricane irma, in addition to the usual questions about the euro crisis and the greek drama. The president explained why he did not travel to the devastated french colony in the caribbean, but stuck to the program of his visit to athens. A trip to the caribbean, according to macron, was not possible due to weather conditions, he said.
Tsipras and macron delivered in their statements a reprise of the speeches in the presidential palace. Immediately after the press conference, after a short break, they rushed to the pnyx, where they arrived a good twenty minutes late. Macron had walked the 500 meters from tsipras’ official residence to the french embassy, where he briefly freshened up. The greeks, whose members of government, apart from former finance minister yanis varoufakis, only travel in state cars, are not used to this kind of thing.