Merkel in Athens after bond sale success
German Chancellor Angela Merkel is visiting Athens on Friday (11 April) in a show of support for the Greek government after its successful return to the bond markets and a first budgetary surplus in 11 years.
It is Merkel's second visit to Greece since the country had to undergo harsh austerity measures in return for two EU-IMF bailouts, totalling €240bn.
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Security will be tight. During her first visit in 2012, protesters portrayed her wearing a Nazi uniform reflecting the widespread anger against what is perceived as being a German austerity diktat.
Ordinary Greeks feel little has changed, despite their government talking up the economy.
Some 20,000 people demonstrated in Athens and Thessaloniki on Wednesday as fresh statistics showed that the jobless rate reached 26.7 percent in January, with nearly 15,000 more jobs lost since last year.
On Thursday a car bomb exploded in front of the Greek central bank.
The blast, which did not injure anybody, came just as the Greek government announced a successful bond sale which raised €3 billion. It was the first such sale since 2010 when the country reached near-bankruptcy and had to apply for EU-IMF loans. Greek officials said the sale had been "at least eight times oversubscribed".
A government spokesman, Simos Kedikoglou, said the attackers were trying to taint Greece's success: “The evident target of the attackers is to change this image, and change the agenda. We will not allow the attackers to achieve their aim.”
The premises of the central bank is used for meetings with the troika of international lenders - the International Monetary Fund, the European Commission and the European Central Bank.
IMF chief Christine Lagarde said the successful bond sale was "an indication that Greece is heading in the right direction”.
"There is still a lot to be done, the programme is not over, but this is a clear indication that the return to markets - which is clearly the objective of any IMF programme - is on the horizon," she added.
Acting economics commissioner Siim Kallas said: "It is an important sign that the Greek economy is starting to regain the confidence of investors, and reflects the positive effects of the far-reaching reforms undertaken by Greece."