Mr. Macron has also been leading an effort to toughen screening of major Chinese investments in Europe. He was rebuffed recently in Brussels by a group of countries dependent on China’s investments, including Greece.
Widely regarded as a counterweight to German leaders who have championed austerity in Greece and other southern European countries, the French leader expressed solidarity with Greece, which is still struggling with the fallout of a crippling financial crisis that struck in 2010. The Greek crisis was “a failure of Europe,” Mr. Macron said.
But while he repeated his calls for a common budget and a eurozone Parliament — ideas opposed by Germany — his speech was otherwise short on specifics.
Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras of Greece, who spoke before Mr. Macron did, underlined the need for additional support for weaker European Union states, and for a “new democratic contract in Europe.” He also called for an end to policies that “fuel cycles of crisis,” a reference to the barrage of spending cuts and tax increase.
In a news conference with Mr. Tsipras earlier on Thursday, Mr. Macron said that Europe must protect growth and investments, and that it “must turn a page.” As for Greece, he said “growth and recovery are returning.” Mr. Tsipras said Europe should help in talks on Greek debt relief next year, and he called on the International Monetary Fund, one of Greece’s foreign creditors, to make no further demands on the country. The organization, he said, “should not intervene in European programs.”
Mr. Macron said the French wanted to invest in Greece’s recovery. But while dozens of French entrepreneurs were accompanying Mr. Macron on his visit, it was unclear whether any actual deals would be clinched.
The Greek government had been hoping for something concrete before a scheduled speech by Mr. Tsipras at an international trade fair in Thessaloniki this weekend where Greek leaders traditionally outline their economic policy for the coming year.
Mr. Tsipras did take the opportunity to hail French involvement in the privatization of the port of Thessaloniki, Greece’s second city. “Investors are realizing that, after many years of recession, trust is returning,” he said.
Echoing his predecessors, Mr. Macron has repeatedly called for Greece to be relieved of some of its huge debt load — which stands at some 180 percent of gross domestic product, the highest rate in the eurozone. In his comments on Thursday, however, he acknowledged that debt talks would not begin until next year, when Greece’s third international bailout is set to officially end.
The French leader’s declarations about growth and improved prospects came as the European Union’s statistics service indicated that the bloc is indeed experiencing a robust economic upturn. According to Eurostat figures released on Thursday, the eurozone’s gross domestic product expanded by 2.3 percent in the second quarter. The Greek economy, too, has seen some recovery, its economy growing 0.8 percent in the second quarter, figures showed last week.