German Chancellor Angela Merkel will wind up her work week flying to Athens this Friday. Much of Greece sees as this a symbolic visit to encourage it to carry through on promised austerity reforms.
Eurozone finance ministers recently approved 8.3 billion euros in rescue loans for Athens.
The last time Merkel was here was a year and a half ago, and stones and petrol bombs flew in the streets, thrown by Greeks angry that their country had run out of money and was facing painful restructuring.
With strikes and other social unrest continuing, their country is trying to get back, finally, into the international bond market.
Economist Panayotis Petrakis said: “The Greek economy’s great achievement since the Chancellor was here before has been producing a primary surplus during a recession. This means lower expenses for borrowing, but at the cost of higher unemployment. I think the country’s greatest achievement is the endurance of its people.”
Four years ago, Greece became the first eurozone country to get a bail-out.
The conditions hammered jobs, salaries and pensions in the public sector, many services were reduced to a minimum, and thousands of smaller companies closed up shop.
The Greeks were forced to reinvent stoicism.
One elderly Athens resident said: “I thing this visit is good, whether it’s Merkel or any other European leader who comes. She’s here for Greece’s benefit. We got ourselves into this mess.”
However, another Athenian said: “Germany still owes the Greek people huge compensation for World War Two damages.”
For that, Germany paid Greece the equivalent of almost 60 million euros in 1960, and considered that matter closed, but Athens has said it always considered it a first payment.
As for today’s debt business, Berlin has said to forget any new “haircut”.
Our Athens correspondent Giannisis Stamatis said: “The Greeks will get no gifts from Merkel. But her visit shows strong symbolic support for Prime Minister Samaras and his party, ahead of the European Parliament and local government elections that will take place simultaneously in Greece in May.”
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