“For me, the question should no longer be asked,"De heer. Hollande said after meeting Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, who took over in mid-June. “Greece is in the euro zone and should stay in the euro zone.”
Like Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, whom Mr. Samaras met on Friday, De heer. Hollande said that the new Greek government “must demonstrate the credibility of its program and the willingness of its leaders to go all out.”
Maar de heer. Hollande added a key phrase demonstrating his unhappiness with some of the austerity measures the Greeks had to enact. The Greek government must press forward with economic reforms, zei hij, “while making sure that it is tolerable for the population.” Mr. Hollande made a point of “saluting the Greek people” for their “painful efforts of the last two and a half years.”
He used a softer and more conciliatory tone than had Ms. Merkel, who has been a champion of austerity and financial discipline. She leads a coalition opposed to another bailout for Greece, which has already received nearly $200 billion in loans from Europe and the International Monetary Fund and must meet stringent deficit targets to qualify for the next tranche of loans.
De heer. Samaras, the head of a center-right party called New Democracy, has argued that his commitment to reform, deficit reduction and structural change is complete, but that Greece needs time to encourage economic growth.
In a brief interview later on Saturday, De heer. Samaras said the Greeks “need some light at the end of the tunnel.” Greece is like “a swimmer who is underwater for a long distance and needs to come up from time to time for some air,"Zei hij. “We need to be able to take a breath.”
His government is committed to keeping its promises, zei hij. “We have to show we’re different,"De heer. Samaras said in the interview, “and we have to show that we abide by what we’ve signed.” There must be “a click in the psychology” of Greeks, zei hij, but also of its creditors, investors and European allies, “to understand that something important has changed.”
The Greek leader said he had asked both Mr. Hollande and Ms. Merkel to stop their officials from publicly speculating about Greece’s future in the euro zone, which he said was deeply damaging to potential investments, especially when Greece is beginning a more serious privatization program.
“I want to switch from being a country of red tape to one of a red carpet for investors,"De heer. Samaras zei. If someone is considering “investing millions of euros in Greece and you think you’ll get back drachmas, then no one will come.”
He promised renewed efforts to limit tax evasion, saying that the government would consider prison sentences to persuade tax cheats to pay what they owe.
During his presidential campaign, De heer. Hollande was critical of the pain the Greeks have been put through in the name of austerity, and he has presented himself as a critic of austerity and a defender of growth in the euro zone.
But he agreed with Ms. Merkel in Berlin on Thursday not to make any commitments to Greece until a report next month on its compliance with the terms of a second bailout deal reached with the so-called troika of the European Union, European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund. The troika will also examine how Mr. Samaras proposes to find an additional $14.4 billion in savings and revenue over the two years of 2013-14.
When the report is complete, Europe needs to make decisions about Greece “the sooner the better,"De heer. Hollande zei. “In the face of ordeals, we must show more solidarity.”