The German Chancellor Angela Merkel, making a symbolic visit to Athens, has praised Greece for the progress made in solving its economic problems and has repeated that she wants the country to stay in the euro.
Her first visit there since the eurozone crisis erupted is seen as a high-risk trip to show support for the long-suffering Greek people – and the government of Prime Minister Antonis Samaras.
He told a joint news conference that Greece would respect its commitments to overcome the crisis. Athens needs to convince the ‘troika’ of creditors its package of reforms and cuts is on course in order to receive the next batch of bailout aid.
Merkel agreed that Greece had completed a large part of the journey towards reform.
“We heard yesterday from the Eurogroup (of finance ministers), that there was progress and today our talks made it clear that there is progress in overcoming that difficult task,” she said.
And there was a sweeter message to balance the austerity: “We agreed that we need to complement the hard austerity measures, that demand so much from the people, with a growth stimulus. Therefore, we will support everything that is possible in order to give Greece access to credits from the European Investment Bank,” the German Chancellor added.
Angela Merkel is performing a tight balancing act. She wants understanding from the Greek people – but she must also reassure German taxpayers, many of whom see Greece as a bottomless money pit.