After meeting with French President Francois Hollande (right in photo), Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras (left) called on France to help restore growth to the EU. Tsipras' Syriza party won Greece's January 25 elections in part because it had campaigned against austerity and pledged to reverse cuts that were imposed in return for bailout loans amounting to 240 billion euros ($270 billion).
"We need a new accord in Europe for the return of growth and social cohesion, and in this effort we certainly need France playing a role of guarantor, a protagonist for this political change," said Tsipras.
Tsipras and Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis must convince eurozone officials to support a new debt agreement. The European Commission, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the European Central Bank (ECB) are responsible for overseeing Greece's finances, and the bulk of the country's bailout loans come from other countries and from the IMF.
Since winning the election, Tsipras has fielded a Cabinet of austerity critics - especially of the brand of austerity imposed in exchange for the IMF bailout funds.
"We are available to share our experience and expertise on certain reforms that Greece wishes to carry out, including fiscal reform, on which we are specialists," Hollande said.
'Our common future'
In Brussels, Tsipras said he respected EU rules, but that the goal was also "to respect the people's sovereignty in Greece and the clear mandate of our people." Though no decisions had been made at Wednesday's meeting, he said, "we are in a good direction to find a viable agreement."
"We want to recorrect this framework, not to smash this framework," Tsipras said.
After meeting ECB President Mario Draghi in Frankfurt, Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis said he believed that Greece could count on Central Bank support during the short period it would take to conclude talks with international lenders. So far, Varoufakis, who will meet with German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble in Berlin on Thursday, has said that Greece will not extend the bailout program when it expires on February 28.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Greek officials had yet to suggest how their country might reduce its debt load. "We are waiting for the concrete proposals, and then we can talk further," said Merkel, who could have her first meeting with Tsipras on February 12, when EU leaders gather in Brussels.
mkg/kms (Reuters, AFP, dpa, AP)