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French, German leaders hold 'fruitful' talks on Greece

Hollande’s office said the President’s phone conversation with Angela Merkel was constructive and fruitful on the eve of Greek elections.

A couple kiss each other at the seaside of Thessaloniki a couple of days ahead of key elections.
A couple kiss each other at the seaside of Thessaloniki a couple of days ahead of key elections.
Image: Nikolas Giakoumidis/AP/Press Association Images

THE FRENCH PRESIDENT and German Chancellor Angela Merkel held “constructive and fruitful” talks on the crisis in Greece and the eurozone, Francois Hollande’s office said today.

They exchanged “views on the situation in Greece, the preparations for a G20 summit and the next European Council meeting on June 28 and 29,” a statement said. The talks come on the eve of the Greek elections, deemed crucial for the future of the eurozone.

The conversation, which was described as routine, came after a tense week between Paris and Berlin as France’s new socialist government tries to find common ground with Merkel, a centre-right, pro-austerity champion.

On Thursday, Merkel irritated some partners by calling proposed solutions to the crisis quick fixes smacking of “mediocrity” that failed to address core problems.

French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault responded by urging Merkel to avoid “simplistic talk”.

Ayrault seemed to smooth things over Friday, saying Berlin and Paris should work “hand-in-hand for a solution to pull Europe out of crisis”, and called for stronger contacts with Berlin.

“Without growth, even if you move to reduce debt, you won’t be all right,” Ayrault said.

A strong Franco-German partnership has been considered key to progress and problem-solving in the 17-nation eurozone, and the wider European Union, in the past.

Earlier today, Merkel warned that it was crucial for the eurozone that Greece elects a government which would stick to all terms of the €130 billion bailout. Joint frontrunners, the left party Syriza have promised to rip up the austerity agreement if it gains a majority.

- © AFP, 2012 and additional reporting by Sinéad O’Carroll

Germany to Greece: You must continue with austerity>

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