Ahead of a two-day visit to Athens starting on Thursday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has expressed her support for Greece and the country’s reform effort in an exclusive statement to Kathimerini, saying that the country can “continue to count on its partnership and friendship with Germany.”
Merkel, who last visited Greece in April 2014 under the previous conservative-led government, acknowledged that “the past few years have been very difficult for many people in Greece.”
However, she noted that the country has made “great progress” with the completion of its third adjustment program last year and said this should be a “motive for the future.”
“Greece and Germany have close ties both via a plethora of bilateral relations and as partners in the European Union and NATO,” she said, adding that she was looking forward to “good talks and interesting meetings” during her two-day visit.
Noting that Europe has displayed solidarity to Greece with three support programs while backing its efforts to achieve fiscal and economic stability, Merkel added that Germany remained committed to supporting these efforts.
“I would like to reassure Greece that in this course, it can continue to count on its partnership and friendship with Germany.”
During her visit, the chancellor is expected to stress that Greece’s continuation of reforms might be onerous but are necessary for its full recovery.
Merkel is also expected to reiterate her support for the Prespes name deal, which is currently being discussed by the parliament of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and, once approved, will face ratification in Greece.
In comments on Wednesday, Merkel’s spokesman, Steffen Seibert, rejected speculation of a trade-off between Greece’s support for the Prespes deal and creditors’ approval of the cancelation of a planned round of pension cuts this month.
Merkel is to meet Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras at 6 p.m. on Thursday for talks that are to be followed by a joint press conference. On Friday she is to meet President Prokopis Pavlopoulos and New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis before her departure from Athens.
Security is expected to be tight in the capital for the duration of Merkel’s visit, with an intensified police presence in the center and some roads likely to be closed.
The full text of Merkel's statement to Kathimerini (translated from the original in Greek):
“I am happily looking forward to my visit to Athens on Thursday and Friday, to good talks and interesting meetings. Greece and Germany have close ties both via a plethora of bilateral relations and as partners in the European Union and NATO.
I know that the past few years have been very difficult for many people in Greece. Europe showed its solidarity through three rescue programs and supported Greece in its course of reforms towards fiscal and economic stability.
It is undoubtedly a difficult course. However, with the completion of the third adjustment program last year, Greece has made great progress.
That should be a motive for the future. At this point I would like to reassure Greece that, in this course, it can continue to count on its partnership and friendship with Germany.”