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"We should head towards a European Monetary Fund but this should in no way be mixed up with a (euro zone) budget", Macron said during a visit to Athens.

Greek President Prokopis Pavlopoulos escorts his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron as they inspect a guard of honour during a welcome ceremony in Athens September 7, 2017.

But he is running into German resistance despite conciliatory public signals from Chancellor Angela Merkel.

At the same time, he repeated Macron's view that the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) has evolved into an institution that can assume the IMF's role in the Euro zone.

These debates - so-called "democratic conventions", which he proposed during his French presidential campaign - would help lay the foundations of Europe for the next 10 to 15 years.

"We respect the International Monetary Fund, but we can manage better with an organization which was set up to have a European mentality and understand the euro zone's special features", Pavlopoulos said.

"A Europe which protects itself is one which protects our strategic investments", said Macron, who traveled to Athens with about 40 French executives.

"In order not to be ruled by bigger powers such as the Chinese and the Americans, I believe in a European sovereignty that allows us to defend ourselves and exist", Macron said at the top of the hill of Pnyx, with the spectacular backdrop of the Parthenon temple in the sunset.

The IMF, alongside the European Union, has participated in two of Greece's three foreign bailouts since 2010 in exchange for unpopular austerity measures. He reiterated that Athens should be granted debt relief and said he hoped the issue would be resolved in 2018 when Greece is due to exit its €86bn (£79bn) rescue programme.

Turning to Greece, Macron said the handing of the Greek debt crisis has been a European failure underlining the need for a revival of the EU. On Thursday, he met Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and presented his vision for Europe in a speech at the site of the ancient Athenian assembly, seen as an enduring icon of democracy worldwide.