Ahead of an official two-day visit to Athens beginning today, German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier has told Kathimerini in an exclusive interview that Greece must push forward with crucial reforms to achieve economic stability and social cohesion while also underlining the need for unity in a European Union grappling with Brexit.
“I know that the lengthy crisis, the reforms and the cuts have resulted in hardship for many people in Greece,” Steinmeier said. “However, Greece still has not reached the end destination. It will take additional reforms, even if economic indicators are improving,” he said. “The end objective is that reforms bring long-term economic growth and, at the same time, social cohesion.”
As regards the timing of his visit, he attributed it to the documenta art fair, a German initiative, which opens in Athens for the first time on Saturday.
“My political talks in Athens will naturally center on the future of Europe,” Steinmeier said, referring to Greece as “a key partner in the European Union.” But, he added, “we would have something to gain if art were to stimulate politics, perhaps even openly challenge it, and thereby provide stimulation for thoughts beyond the contours of everyday politics.”
Noting that the crises of recent years, including the Brexit decision, have “caused shocks inside the EU,” he said it was “particularly important that we send a clear signal of EU cohesion.”
Asked about the unsettling rhetoric and signals in Washington following the election of President Donald Trump, Steinmeier said, “We can already say that for us, a necessary consequence of the differentiated political debate in the US must be the strengthening of Europe.” “It is in our own interest to invest in the power of the EU.”
Asked about a spike in aggression by Turkey, the German leader said some rhetoric has been “unacceptable and indecent” but added it was important to “neither demolish the bridges that connect us nor contribute to the escalation of polarizing rhetoric.”
On the thorny issue of Greek demands for war reparations, Steinmeier repeated Berlin’s official position. “On the basis of international law, the case is closed.”
But he said the two sides should “work together, in a European spirit, for a commonly accepted historical memory, their eyes fixed above all on the new generation.”
Read the full interview here.