Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel paid an official visit to Greece, Reuters reports. The outgoing top official has landed in Athens airport on her last official trip to the EU nation.
The German leader arrived in the capital city on Thursday evening, ahead of official meetings with prime minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and President Katerina Sakellaropoulou. “It is a highly symbolic visit because it will allow us to take stock of Greek-German relations,” a Greek government source commented.
As Merkel’s spokesman Steffen Seibert said, the Chancellor is grateful that she has received this invitation.
“She is looking forward to her visit to Athens and to the talks there,” Seibert added.
For Greece, Germany was the largest single contributor to three successive international bailout packages Greece received from 2010 to 2018. Tensions between the two EU countries were high during the decade-long crisis, which nearly saw Athens crashing out of the euro.
Dire finances locked Greece out of bond markets, meaning it could not raise funds on its own, and wiping out a quarter of the country’s economy.
But the rescue loans arrived, placing Greece’s economy under strict supervision by the eurozone, the European Central Bank, and the International Monetary Fund.
Greece needs reforms: Merkel
New reforms — including repeated tax hikes and cuts in pensions, salaries, and public spending — are deeply resented in Greece. Many Greek citizens blamed Merkel’s finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble for plummeting living standards, soaring unemployment, and economic depression.
But as the country’s financial situation gradually improved, so too did relations with Germany. The current talks are likely to focus more on politics, with Greece and neighbouring Turkey facing off over territorial disputes and drilling rights in the eastern Mediterranean.
According to Seibert, Berlin was “convinced” that good relations between Greece and Turkey were “important and beneficial” for all of Europe.
The visit also takes place on a Greek national holiday marking the day in 1940 when the country rejected fascism and Nazism in the Second World War
Ms Merkel’s decision led to Greece entering World War II, fighting a far stronger adversary and eventually suffering a brutal occupation by Nazi Germany.