Emmanuel Macron will make Greece the launchpad for a major policy speech on the future of Europe as he starts his first official trip to the country on Thursday.
From the dramatic setting of the ancient Pnyx in Athens, the French president is expected to outline his vision for the continent in what is being called his most important overseas address since taking office in May.
Amid the rocky hills of the Pnyx beneath the Acropolis, the speech will focus on the virtues of democracy as the European Union – and Greece – finally show signs of economic revival.
“It will be a message of confidence in Greece but also a European symbolic message, given that in many ways Greece has been a symbol of Europe’s crisis,” said an Élysée Palace source. “The restart of Greece is the restart of the eurozone.”
It is a measure of the significance the Greek government is attaching to the visit that Macron is making the address from such an august setting. From the earliest days of Athenian democracy, the Pnyx was a meeting place for popular assemblies. Greek PM Alexis Tsipras see the visit as an opportinity to push the narrative that the country has turned the corner after years of austerity and is finally returning to normality.
According to the official programme, the French head of state will arrive at Eleftherios Venizelos International airport accompanied by his wife Brigitte at 1pm, where Greek government spokesperson Dimitris Tzanakopoulos will welcome the French delegation. The French President will lay a wreath at the tomb of the unknown soldier at Syntagma Square and then will visit the Greek Presidential Palace where the French first couple will be greeted by Greek President Prokopis Pavlopoulos and his wife Vlasia. Mr. Macron will be awarded with the Grand Cross of the Saviour. Mr. Macron is scheduled to meet with Greek PM Alexis Tsipras at Maximos Hall at 3.30pm, with the two men having a private meeting followed by a sit down between the French and Greek delegations at 4.15pm. The two leaders will hold a joint press conference at 5pm, while Mr. Macron is scheduled to deliver his key speech at the ancient Pnyx in Athens after 7pm. The official dinner is programmed for 9pm in honour of the French President. On Friday there will be a round table work meeting at 10am between Greek and French businessmen at the Stavros Niarchos Foundation in the presence of Mr. Tsipras and Mr. Macron, while the French President and his wife will visit the french Archaeological School at 11.45am.