German Chancellor Angela Merkel has arrived in Athens on a symbolic visit to mark Greece’s economic rehabilitation.
Her arrival came one day after the country’s return to the bond market following four years in exile from international borrowers and supported by bailout loans.
“I believe that Greece has more opportunities than difficulties ahead of it,” she said.
However, not everyone is convinced of a return to growth after years of austerity under international bailout conditions of which Merkel remains a figurehead.
“Generally, the way the situation is now, it is really difficult,” said one student demonstrating in front of the parliament one day ahead of the German leader’s visit. “I am worried there will be no growth – not in two years, not even in 10 years’ time.”
Just hours before the country re-entered global bond markets on Thursday, a bomb exploded in the capital. Police suspect left-wing groups were behind it.
Though some fear Greece’s re-entry to the market could increase public debt, Prime Minister Antonis Samaras defended the move saying: “The international markets have expressed in the most indisputable way their confidence in the Greek economy, their confidence in the future of Greece, because it is in this future that they will invest, and they also expressed their confidence in Greece’s ability to exit the crisis.”
A general strike on Wednesday showed how many Greeks feel about their future, and the spending cuts necessary to receive bailout money from international creditors including Merkel.
All demonstrations have been banned during Merkel’s visit, after her last outing in the Greek capital in 2012 when 50,000 took to the streets.
Opposition parties and trade unions planned rallies outside the banned zone to protest against Merkel’s visit.
“Merkel visits Athens to praise the government’s destructive work and make sure that austerity continues,” the main opposition leftist Syriza party, which opposes the country’s international bailout, said in a statement.