4th Oct 2022

Merkel and Tsipras hold friendly meeting, problems remain

  • Merkel and Alexis struck a conciliatory note in Berlin (Photo: Bundesregierung)

A meeting of Greek and German leaders on Monday (23 March) saw little change in substance on how to deal with Greece's debt, but the tone was conciliatory, including on the difficult issue of WWII reparations.

Following weeks of sniping between the two capitals, Greek leader Alexis Tsipras was on a charm offensive.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

He made a joke about bringing nice Greek weather to Berlin, promised to push ahead with reforms, and said German chancellor Angela Merkel is someone who "listened" to people.

"We have to understand one another. Dialogue is the only way".

For her part, Merkel emphasized the two countries’ "close friendship". She noted that many Germans love to holiday in Greece and said the many Greeks who live in Germany have formed a "living bridge" between "our two peoples".

She also noted, on several occasions, that Germany is just one of 19 euro states and that each of them is "just as important" as the others - comments aimed at the entrenched impression in Greece that Berlin calls the shots and is solely responsible for austerity.

The chancellor said all of Greece’ creditors, not just Germany, will have to decide whether Athens is doing enough to receive a €7.2 billon tranche of bailout money.

She added that so long as the sums add up, Greece has leeway on which reforms to choose.

Both politicians sought to undo the damage of recent weeks.

The rhetoric at one point saw German ministers say Greece might leave the euro by accident, and Greek ministers threaten to repossess German property or to send thousands of migrants to Berlin.

"This European Union is so precious that we have to make all efforts to develop it further," said Merkel.

Tsipras dismissed talk of seizing German-owned property - such as the Goethe Institute - in Greece.

He did raise the painful issue of WWII reparations, but his tone was less strident than when he spoke in the Greek parliament earlier this month.

"We have to shed light on the shadows of the past," the left-wing politician said, referring directly to a forced loan which Nazi Germany took from Greece's central bank in 1943.

"That is not primarily a material question but an ethical and moral problem," he added.

Merkel said the question of reparations is “politically and legally closed".

She added that Germany is "conscious of the cruelties we carried out" and that this "injustice and suffering" is perhaps "not as present as it should be for many Germans".

The meeting appeared to bode well for future dialogue between Greece and its eurozone partners, but outstanding problems remain.

The debt-ridden country is running out of cash - some say as early as next month. But its creditors are refusing to release money until it comes up with a list of reforms. Following a meeting last week with key eurozone figures, it promised to produce the list in the next couple of days.

Tsipras came to power two months ago promising to end austerity and to reduce the country's debt. Since then, the two sides have been stuck in an impasse.

Speaking in Berlin, Merkel said the German government wants Greece to restore growth, but she noted: "For that you need structural reforms, a solid budget, and a functioning administration”.

Greece to seek war reparations from Germany

Greek PM Tsipras has reopened the painful question of German WW2 reparations, while his justice minister has threatened that German assets might be seized in compensation.

Franco-German relations now a 'brotherhood'

The leaders of France and Germany on Tuesday said that recent national tragedies have brought their two countries together in a sign that the Franco-German engine - notably off-track in recent years - may be back up and running.


The euro-crisis and the Greek crisis

It was the Greeks who chose the politicians that led the country into disaster. But is it really as simple as that?

Leading German MP quits over Greek bailouts

A prominent German politician has resigned from his party and parliament in protest over coalition partner chancellor Angela Merkel's Greece politics.


Why northeast Italy traded in League for Brothers of Italy

EUobserver spoke with several business figures and all confirmed they voted for Georgia Meloni's Brothers of Italy because it promised stability, less bureaucracy and tax cuts. Matteo Salvini's anti-EU rhetoric scared them, while they trust Meloni has "more common sense".

Europe's far-right celebrates Meloni victory

In Warsaw and Budapest, the prime ministers were quick to congratulate the new Italian leader, who — they hope — will back them in their battles with the EU over civil rights, rule of law and democratic backsliding.


How Europe helped normalise Georgia Meloni

Should Georgia Meloni be considered neofascist? She insists she's a patriotic conservative. And indeed, if she's prime minister, she's expected to respect Italy's democracy — if only to keep money flowing from the EU.

News in Brief

  1. Czechs warn joint-nationality citizens in Russia on mobilisation
  2. Greece to unveil proposal for capping EU gas prices
  3. Four dead, 29 missing, after dinghy found off Canary Islands
  4. Orbán: German €200bn shield is start of 'cannibalism in EU'
  5. Lithuania expels top Russian diplomat
  6. Poland insists on German WW2 reparations
  7. Russia halts gas supplies to Italy
  8. Bulgaria risks hung parliament after inconclusive vote

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. The European Association for Storage of EnergyRegister for the Energy Storage Global Conference, held in Brussels on 11-13 Oct.
  2. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBA lot more needs to be done to better protect construction workers from asbestos
  3. European Committee of the RegionsThe 20th edition of EURegionsWeek is ready to take off. Save your spot in Brussels.
  4. UNESDA - Soft Drinks EuropeCall for EU action – SMEs in the beverage industry call for fairer access to recycled material
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic prime ministers: “We will deepen co-operation on defence”
  6. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBConstruction workers can check wages and working conditions in 36 countries

Latest News

  1. Last-minute legal changes to Bosnian election law stir controversy
  2. EU wants probe into alleged Nagorno-Karabakh war crimes
  3. EU officials were warned of risk over issuing financial warning
  4. EU debates national energy plans amid calls for more coordination
  5. What Modi and Putin’s ‘unbreakable friendship’ means for the EU
  6. EU leaders have until Friday for refugee resettlement pledges
  7. Cities and regions stand with citizens and SMEs ahead of difficult winter
  8. Editor's weekly digest: A week of leaks

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us