Greece has been dependent on EU grants since 2010. This year, the country wants to borrow again. The Chancellor spoke of a new era.
Chancellor Angela Merkel is convinced that Greece can and will return to the financial markets. “My job is for Greece to be able to stand on its own feet and finance itself through the markets,” Merkel said during her visit to Athens – the first in five years.
Following the debt crisis in 2010, Greece needed financial support from European partners. The third aid program expired in August 2018. Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras had announced that his country would get along without European aid programs in the future. This year, the Greek government wants to buy bonds worth between five and seven billion euros.
To get out of the financial crisis, the Greek people “went through difficult times,” said the Chancellor. Confidence is growing, with many German companies investing in Greece. Although the period of reforms is not over, she said, but the country’s return to the financial markets is “the beginning of a new state.” In Greece, due to the financial crisis, pensions and wages had been cut down on a large scale, civil service posts and taxes had been increased, and many people had suffered serious losses.
Merkel calls for consistent continuation of the refugee pact
In Greece, where numerous refugees had arrived, Merkel also commented on refugee policy: she called for a consistent continuation of the pact between the EU and Turkey. The repatriations from Greece to Turkey are still insufficient. “We will work constructively with Greece to improve the situation,” said the Chancellor. She also called for more commitment to improve the situation in the refugee camps in the east of the Aegean.
Merkel praised the attitude of Prime Minister Tsipras in the name dispute over Macedonia. Tsipras’ firm stance had found a solution that would allow the state of Macedonia to become a member of NATO and the European Union. For years there had been conflicts between Macedonia and Greece because Greece feared that Macedonia could raise claims to the northern Greek province of Macedonia because of its name. Tsipras and the Macedonian head of government Zoran Zaev had agreed last June that Macedonia should in future be called North Macedonia. Because of the name dispute, the Greek government had previously blocked Macedonia’s entry into the EU and the NATO military alliance. The Parliament in Skopje must finally agree to the new name.
Tsipras: “The stereotypes are over”
During Merkel’s visit to Athens, Tsipras called on all EU citizens to resist populist forces that wanted to “throw back dark times” in Europe. He hopes the EU will increase its commitment to further promoting the rapprochement of the Western Balkan countries with the EU.
A cooperation with Germany demanded Tsipras not only with the topic migration. “We are entering a new era, and cooperation between Berlin and Athens will be crucial in the coming years,” he said. Resentments from times of debt crisis have been overcome: “The stereotypes of the lazy Greeks and the strict Germans are over”.