Nothing was left to chance on the streets of Athens for the visit of Angela Merkel. Around 5,000 police were drafted into the capital and all protests were banned while she was there.
Vehicles were cleared from the streets just 24 hours after a powerful car bomb exploded in the city centre.
The chancellor’s last visit to Athens 18 months ago was marked by demonstrations when some protesters burned German flags. The Greek foreign minister said this visit was proof his country has finally “opened a new chapter”.
But it closed all public transport above and below the ground for the day in Athens. The harsh reality was a long walk to the office for the city’s workers.
“They are driving us crazy. I have been walking for hours and I am very, very tired. But we need to be patient. What else can we do really, just be patient,” said one.
Another complained: “I have already walked two and a half kilometres. For what? Merkel is here to lend us more money and then take back double the amount.”
Many Greeks accuse Merkel of forcing painful cuts in return for the bailout loans that have been keeping the country afloat.
It is understood she will discuss the launch of a development bank to create and spur investment during a meeting with Prime Minister Antonis Samaras. The two are also addressing a business forum.
Euronews correspondent Stamatis Giannisis in Athens said: “Chancellor Merkel is here in a demonstration of support to Prime Minister Samaras and his New Democracy centre-right party ahead of the May European Election. But she is also here to remind the Greek coalition government it should continue its reforms without straying from its austerity programme.”
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