Germany pledges Greece backing, ahead of Schaeuble visit

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said he’ll pay his first official visit to Athens to discuss ways to help Greek businesses, as the German government rallied to the side of Greece.

Schaeuble, in a statement released in Berlin one day after Chancellor Angela Merkel spoke by phone with Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, said that he’d accepted an invitation to the Greek capital from his “friend and colleague” Yannis Stournaras, Greece’s finance minister. His visit will come in weeks rather than months, and will include talks on measures such as the creation of a state-owned development bank that would disburse German loans, the Finance Ministry said.

“Greece still has a steep and long path of reforms ahead of it,” Schaeuble said in the statement e-mailed Tuesday. “The troika and the countries of Europe will continue to closely support and assist the Greek partners.”

Germany’s coordinated show of support may bolster Samaras after he overrode objections from his coalition partners and shut public broadcaster ERT on June 11, eliminating 2,600 jobs and prompting a public outcry. Merkel, who in October made her first visit to Athens during the three-year sovereign debt crisis, told Samaras of her “respect” and “support for the clear reform orientation” of Greece’s government, her spokesman, Steffen Seibert, said in a statement Monday.

Samaras’s coalition of New Democracy, Pasok and Democratic Left “has succeeded at steering the Greek ship safely through most difficult waters and has already mastered a good part of the reform path,” Schaeuble said. “For this, we pay our respects to the Greek people and the Greek government.”

The Greek government’s commitment to reducing the state payroll by 15,000 people by the end of next year has been a sticking point in past reviews by its creditors of Greece’s performance in meeting its bailout terms.

“Now it is crucial to implement all agreements with the troika” of International Monetary Fund, European Commission and European Central Bank, “including those referring to a reformed civil service,” Seibert said. [Bloomberg]