2013-02-19 17:12:19

French President visits Greece

(Vatican Radio) France’s president, Francois Hollande, arrived in Athens today on a brief visit designed to support Greek prime minister Antonis Samaras in his effort to find a way out of the Greek crisis.
For the past few months Samaras has been canvassing high-level European support for what, here in Athens, seems like endless severe austerity. Not finding much sympathy in Germany, Samaras is now turning to the socialist Hollande for some advice on how to ease the burden on the average Greek.
At least, that’s how the Greek media are playing the Hollande visit. Samaras remains hungry for international recognition of his efforts, both to stave off declining popularity at home and draw in much-needed foreign investment. Unemployment continues to soar to previously unheard-of levels, hitting 60 percent in the 16-to-24 age group and 26 percent nationally.
But not even encouragement by the likes of Hollande could erase the grim reality of last weekend, when a well-armed group of urban guerrillas destroyed the surface installations of a gold mine in northern Greece. What’s more, they poured petrol over a couple of security guards and threatened to burn them alive. The gold mine represented a significant foreign investment, even if local groups opposed it on environmental grounds.
So as Samaras continues to wrestle with intractable economic problems and lingering domestic terrorism, the visit of Francois Hollande is seen as no more than a pat on the back, a public relations exercise. True, there was some talk of possible French investment in Greece to help kick-start the economy, but after the attack on the gold mine, few here in Athens believe the French are particularly eager to do it.

Listen to the report by correspondent John Carr: RealAudioMP3

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