Greek leaders hope Merkel visit marks change in Athens-Berlin relations
Greek politicians and businesses hope that German Chancellor Angela Merkel's visit to Athens Tuesday can mark a change in German-Greek relations. As the country faces its fifth year of recession, she hinted that a new tranche of aid will be delivered as soon as a European Union report has been submitted.
Merkel arrived in Athens Thursday for her first state visit since the crisis engulfed Greece five years ago. During her six hours on Greek soil she met Prime Minister Antonis Samaras and President Karolos Papoulias.
In a joint press conference with Samaras, she implied that the next aid tranche will be delivered after the European Troika report has been submitted.
According to the Wall Street Journal, EU Commissioner for Economic and Monetary Affairs Olli Rehn said on Thursday that Greece can expect to get the 31.5 billion-euro bailout instalment in November at the latest.
While in Athens, Merkel also met a select group of 12 businessmen. These included the chairman of the Hellenic Federation of Enterprises, the chairman of the German-Greek Chamber, the CEOs of the National Bank of Greece and of Eurobank, two of the largest Greek banks that are in the process of merging, the CEO of OTE, the national telephone operator partly owned by Deutsche Telekom, the CEO of Prometheus Gas, a Greek-Russian joint company involved in the natural gas market, and the CEOs of three major German companies active in Greece (Boss, Hochtief and Siemens).
The list of participants suggests that the subject of the meeting was the search for ways to revive the Greek economy either by starting new investments or by reactivating major projects that are currently mothballed because of the credit crunch.
The Greek economy is in a fifth year of depression and facing a liquidity crisis as well as a debt crisis.
Greek politicians and entrepreneurs hope that Merkel’s visit will turn the page on German-Greek relations and help usher in a new era of cooperation. In that respect it is notable that, despite sensationalist coverage by some world media, the demonstrations were mostly peaceful and violent protests were limited and localised.