Greece is now a very different country to the one that Angela Merkel first visited roughly 10 years ago, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis underlined in his farewell meeting with the German chancellor in on Friday.
“It is not a source of deficits. It is a modern state,” Mitsotakis underlined, after his meeting with Merkel.
“As the eight Greek prime Minister to meet dear Angela, I can dare a brief review,” the prime minister said, noting that he wants to “talk about her impact and about today’s Greece, which is very different from the one she has known over the last decade.”
Mitsotakis noted that “Europe and Greece were tested by mistaken decisions that came back to turn against them, disguised as populism and demagogy.”
“And you yourself admitted that you asked a lot of the Greeks,” he said, adding that “fortunately neither cheap austerity nor the cheap nationalist slogans endured. EU solidarity and true patriotism were ultimately victorious.”
“Merkel was the voice of reason and stability. At times unfair, but decisive, as in 2015, when she refused to see Greece expelled from Europe,” Mitsotakis added.
For her part, Merkel said that “anyone who knows about culture and civilisation cannot leave out Athens and Greece,” underlining that her farewell visit as outgoing chancellor would not be her last visit to the country.
“German-Greek relations were quite lively, I would say. The difficulties were a given when it came to the stability of the euro and I was personally fully aware of the excessive burden that this meant and the challenge that this meant for the people in Greece. In the end, we managed to find a common path, to keep in step for Greece to remain a member of the EU,” she said.
Asked about her stance toward Greece during the debt crisis, Merkel noted that the euro’s vulnerability to outside pressures had been a “shock” and that this had the greatest impact on countries with high debt “that had not done all that they should on the level of reforms”.
“I was always in favour of Greece remaining in the eurozone and I said that the efficiency of our economic system must be comparable otherwise we would not be able to keep the common currency alive. I know that I demanded a lot from the Greeks but, on the other hand, there were various governments in Greece that considered many reforms possible,” she said.
Turning to Greece’s relations with Turkey, Mitsotakis told Merkel. “I know your firm position in favour of dialogue and the easing of tensions.”
“I have also always strived to keep channels of communication open but Western equanimity often serves to encourage Turkish arbitrariness. It is time for European principles to be transformed into European practice,” Mitsotakis underlined, adding: “Greece only wants friends. It wants good relations, of course, with its neighbours, guided by international law and the law of the sea. But it does not tolerate threats. My position is crystal clear.”
Merkel pointed out that Greece, due to its geopolitical position and proximity to Turkey, also faced huge challenges at its external borders: “One can learn and be taught many things by Greece and from one another and many discussions led to very good solutions,” she said.
“I cannot but agree that most of the problems between Greece and Turkey are EU-Turkey problems, and within the framework of the EU there is unity,” the German chancellor said.
Greece achieved “excellent results” when its external borders came under pressure from migrants, Merkel said. She also noted that the Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, “was using people to achieve political goals.”
She stressed that the EU “must not end up supporting smugglers and people traffickers” and get to the point where it was “people with the financial means and not refugees that are reaching us.” [AMNA]