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FRANCE - GREeCE - Germany

Hollande claims Greek deal credit as critics snipe from left and right

President François Hollande on Monday
President François Hollande on Monday Reutes/Philippe Wojazer
Text by: Tony Cross
3 min

French leaders have claimed much of the credit for keeping Greece in the euro after Monday's agreement between European leaders and Alexis Tsipras's government. But, within hours of the announcement, debate was raging over President François Hollande's role, France's relations with Germany and whether the agreement was even a good thing.

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Greece leaving the euro would have damaged Europe's credibility, Hollande said on Monday morning, but he also warned that the country "has not finished with" suffering and austerity.

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Having worked closely with Tsipras and the Greeks, the French leaders say they played a decisive role in reaching the deal.

"An agreement has been reached," he declared. "That agreement - France searched for it, wanted it."

Prime Minister Manuel Valls tweeted in triumph when agreement was announced and went into battle to defend his president.

France pushed a softer line than Germany during the talks, showing a split in the usual show of unity between the two countries.

In a statement Sunday in which he dubbed Tsipras an "extremist" while criticising him for changing his line in negotiations, former president and current opposition leader Nicolas Sarkozy called on Hollande to "pull himself together" and "rebuild unity" with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Hollande on Monday said that Franco-German cooperation had been "highly necessary" to reaching a compromise and Valls later scolded Sarkozy, accusing him of undermining Hollande's efforts.

"When you're a former head of state, a former president of the republic, you don't weaken France's position," he told France Inter radio. "You help your country whatever's going on."

Long-time Sarkozy ally Eric Woerth saw the question differently, Hollande had clearly listened to his predecessor's advice and gone along with the Germans, he said.

France was not particularly tough with Germany, according to former Greek finance minister Yanis Varofakis, who complains that German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble completely dominates the Eurogroup in an interview with Britain's New Statesman.

"Only the French finance minister [Michel Sapin] has made noises that were different from the German line and those noises were very subtle," he said. "You could sense he had to use very judicious language, to be seen not to oppose. And in the final analysis, when Doc Schaeuble responded and effectively determined the official line, the French FM in the end would always fold and accept."

Valls was even harder on left and right-wing critics of Germany's role in the deal.

Hard-left leader Jean-Luc Mélenchon said that Greece had agreed to the deal "with a gun to its head".

"The German government ... is destroying Europe for the third time. That's unacceptable," he said.

And right-wing anti-tax campaigner Nicolas Dupont-Aignan said Berlin had "crushed" Greece, tweeting "The fourth Reich!"

Describing the Franco-German partnership as "indestructible", Valls called their remarks "insufferable insults".

"Germany is a democracy, a partner," he said. "There's a balance between France and Germany."

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