Sunday

30th Apr 2017

Merkel to Greece: 'I come here as a friend'

  • Riot police fired tear gas against anti-Merkel protesters (Photo: S.J.Borne)

German leader Angela Merkel on Tuesday (9 October) showed sympathy for Greek "pain," as tens of thousands filled the streets, clashed with police and chanted angry slogans.

"I have come here today conscious of the very difficult times, of the pain many people are going through," Merkel told a joint press conference with Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

Her visit, the first in five years, came amid widespread street protests and an almost unprecedented security effort.

Many Greek people blame Germany for the austerity and recession gripping the country. The demonstrations were largely non-violent, with police estimating that 40,000 took to the streets during the Merkel visit.

But some clashes did occur, with riot police firing tear gas to disperse the crowds and arresting a few dozens of people.

One protester was captured by press photographers wearing a Nazi uniform and imitating Hitler, while others burned Nazi flags.

Meanwhile, Greek commentators noticed a badly-inspired wardrobe choice on Merkel's side, as she wore the same olive-coloured jacket she had on when Germany beat Greece in the European football championship in June.

During the press conference, Merkel tried to mend ties with the alienated Greeks: "I did not come here as a teacher to give grades, I am here as a partner, as a friend."

She gave assurances that she wants Greece to stay in the eurozone and that "we are all in this together, as partners."

A lot of reforms were under way and had accelerated in recent months, Merkel noted.

But she could not promise the next tranche of bailout money - needed for Greece to avoid bankruptcy, and already delayed for over three months - was going to come anytime soon.

Merkel clearly distinguished between her "bilateral" visit and the ongoing examination by the troika of international lenders whose report has also been postponed several times as the Greek government struggles to cobble together enough cuts before more money can be disbursed.

For Samaras' part, he claimed that "with Ms Merkel's visit, we are breaking a Greek isolation from the international scene" and pledged to do all the necessary reforms to stay in the eurozone.

"Everyone knows Germany's economic and political power in Europe. The strengthening of our relationship can only be beneficial for our country," he added.

He said painful reforms were "needed to make Greece more competitive and to change the image of our country."

At the same time, speaking alongside anti-Merkel protesters in Syntagma square, left-wing leader Alexis Tsipras told Skai TV that her visit was just a show of support for the "Merkelites" in the Greek government and their "barbaric austerity measures."

He again criticised the fact that most of the €130 bailout money goes to repay Greece's debt and to prop up its banks, but not into the real economy, which is shrinking rapidly.

Eurozone gives Greece 10-day ultimatum

Eurozone ministers have given Greece 10 days to implement budget cuts in return for a bailout cash, as Germany Merkel braves protesters on a visit to Athens.

Agenda

Merkel to visit Greece this WEEK

German Chancellor Merkel will Greek PM Samaras in her first visit to the debt-ridden country since the crisis began.

Eurogroup makes 'progress' on Greek deal

Eurozone ministers endorsed an agreement in principle between the Greek government and its creditors over a new package of reforms. But talks on fiscal targets and debt could still block a final agreement.

New anti-trust complaint looms over Microsoft

At least three security software companies “met several times” with the European Commission to complain about Microsoft’s alleged abuse of its market position. A formal case could follow.

Investigation

MEPs oppose EU agency to prevent Dieselgate II

The European Parliament said on Tuesday that there should be more EU oversight on how cars are approved, but stopped short of calling for an independent EU agency.

News in Brief

  1. Vote of no confidence prepared against Spanish PM
  2. Syria to buy Russian anti-missile system
  3. Germany seeks partial burka ban
  4. Libya has no plan to stop migration flows
  5. EU has no evidence of NGO-smuggler collusion in Libya
  6. Poland gets 'final warning' on logging in ancient forest
  7. Commission gives Italy final warning on air pollution
  8. Romania and Slovenia taken to court over environment policies

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceCharlotte Hornets' Nicolas Batum Tells Kids to "Eat Well, Drink Well, Move!"
  2. ECR GroupSyed Kamall: We Need a New, More Honest Relationship With Turkey
  3. Counter BalanceParliament Sends Strong Signal to the EIB: Time to Act on Climate Change
  4. ACCARisks and Opportunities of Blockchain and Shared Ledgers Technologies in Financial Services
  5. UNICEFRace Against Time to Save Millions of Lives in Yemen
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersDeveloping Independent Russian-Language Media in the Baltic Countries
  7. Swedish EnterprisesReform of the European Electricity Market: Lessons from the Nordics, Brussels 2 May
  8. Malta EU 2017Green Light Given for New EU Regulation to Bolster External Border Checks
  9. Counter BalanceCall for EU Commission to Withdraw Support of Trans-Adriatic Pipeline
  10. ACCAEconomic Confidence at Highest Since 2015
  11. European Federation of Allergy and Airways60%-90% of Your Life Is Spent Indoors. How Does Poor Indoor Air Quality Affect You?
  12. European Gaming and Betting AssociationCJEU Confirms Obligation for a Transparent Licensing Process

Latest News

  1. EU boasts unity on Brexit talks
  2. May’s election juggernaut
  3. EPP scolds Orban over university and NGO laws
  4. Oxford-Studie besorgt über 'Schrott' News in Frankreich
  5. Alte Freundschaft zwischen Le Pen und Putin
  6. EP chief faces questions after homophobic 'summit'
  7. EU signals Northern Ireland could join if united with Ireland
  8. One year later: EU right to open internet still virtual