French President Emmanuel Macron gave his keynote speech on the hill of the Pnyx on Thursday on the first day of his two-day visit to Athens.
Macron expressed his admiration for the ancient Greek democracy and stressed his dedication for the democratic ideals that were born in the Greek capital.
“Do we trust each other in Europe?” he wondered citing Pericles and continued:
“The Greek crisis didn’t just concern Greece. It was a European crisis. It is a failure of Europe.”
Macron said the world needs Europe noting that member-states have to find the strength to restart it. “If we continue to turn a blind eye we will be the generation responsible for Europe’s death and we have to start with a tough self-criticism,” he added.
Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras welcomed French President Emmanuel Macron at the Maximos Mansion on Thursday, noting the significance of his visit for the deepening of Greek-French relations and for the opportunity to discuss about the future of Europe.
“I believe we couldn’t have selected a more symbolic place than the Pnyx, where democracy took its first steps, to present our visions for the necessary changes, the brave decisions we must take to make Europe more attractive to our generation and the generations to come,” Tsipras said in a brief dialogue with th French leader before the press.
“I believe that your visit today can be an important milestone both for Greek-French relations, which have traditionally been close, but also for the necessary changes that we need in order for Europe to permanently emerge from today’s crisis. Let’s not forget, the Greek crisis was simultaneously a European crisis. Therefore, Greece’s exit from the crisis will also mark the final end of the crisis in Europe,” he added.
The French leader said the new Europe will be able to tackle terrorism and support European sovereignty and protect against climate change.
“If we back down, somebody else will take our place. There is no other continent that defends democracy, freedom and the economy, but there are forces that are not committed to social rights,” he said, noting that Asian countries have strong economies but are autocracies.
Macron said the Greek people paid for the lie that it could live in Athens as people did in Berlin without reforms and suffered the burden of the crisis.
He spoke of a social rupture and a type of “civil war” within Europe with exchanges of accusations and criticisms that do not befit Europe.
“What did we promise the youths of Greece in the last few years” Austerity and unemployment. We showed them a beautiful future in Paris and Berlin. But initially we had promised they could live beautifully in Greece too. This must happen and this is European sovereignty,” he said.
Speaking on the future of the continent, Macron said the triptych that should be offered to the young of Europe is “democracy, sovereignty, culture”, adding that “we have been lost in the labyrinth of talks over bureaucracy and which treaties to change.”
“We have today the right to dream and have ambitions […] What France chooses, is to discuss about this vision and the ambition for a stronger Europe,” he added.