NEWS

Merkel admits being tough on Greeks

PM says outgoing German chancellor a voice of reason, stability, sometimes ‘unfair’ but decisive

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Outgoing German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s visit to Athens took place Saturday in a warm atmosphere and in a completely different climate to that during her previous trip.

Merkel once again referred to Greece’s 10-year financial crisis, saying she is aware of the burden that was borne by Greek citizens and that she “demanded a lot.”

However, she added that she was committed to keeping Greece in the eurozone. In the end “we managed to find a common course, a common step,” she said.

“We were all extremely shocked at how vulnerable the euro was to external pressures… and this hit the countries with the highest debt and which did not implement significantly, on the level of reforms, everything they should have implemented,” she added.

“I said that the efficiency of our economic system should be comparable, otherwise we could not keep the common currency alive,” the chancellor insisted, while also noting that there were many different Greek governments during the crisis and that the issue of privatizations is not disputed now as it was in the past.

For his part, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, who is the eighth Greek premier to work with Merkel, said, “Europe and Greece were tested by wrong decisions, which turned against them in the guise of populism and demagoguery.”

“Merkel was the voice of reason and stability. Sometimes unfair, but decisive, as she was in 2015, when she rejected the expulsion of Greece from Europe,” he stressed.

“I had the opportunity to see at the summits, where the chancellor not only suggests solutions, but shapes them,” he said.

The Greek premier also referred to austerity, a policy that Germany has promulgated for the past decade, emphasizing that “it cannot be the answer to everything.”

Mitsotakis also insisted that Greece is now no longer a hotbed of deficits, but “a modern state.”

With regard to Greek-Turkish issues, Merkel described them as a “Euro-Turkish problem” and advocated finding a solution through dialogue. She noted, however, that Ankara is hosting 3.5 million refugees in its territory. 

Referring to Turkey’s behavior in the region, Mitsotakis said Europe’s stance has often served to encourage Turkish arbitrariness. “It is time for European principles to be transformed into European practice,” he said.