From the start of the crisis, meetings between successive Greek prime ministers and German Chancellor Angela Merkel have acquired particular importance. It was clear that Germany, as Europe’s greatest power and Greece’s largest creditor, played the leading role in the Union’s course and, to a great extent, determined developments in Greece.
Although Merkel insisted that all decisions were taken by the institutions of the European Union and other creditors, each Greek prime minister’s journey to Berlin was presented by news media as a visit to the oracle, whose pronouncements would have a direct impact on the Greek economy and on each one of us. That is why the most positive aspect of Kyriakos Mitsotakis’s visit to Berlin yesterday was that it was not accompanied by anxious news reports, nor did it contain any surprises.
The Greek government had prepared the ground, saying that the prime minister would not be arguing for a change of the fiscal targets that the previous government had agreed to. Instead of the talks focusing mainly on how much Greece needed the generosity of its partners, Mr Mitsotakis made clear that the reforms which Greece will adopt are its own choice, not an imposition by creditors; he stressed that Greece and Germany are allies who face joint challenges and that as partners they will cooperate to their mutual benefit.
“I am here to change the overall framework of Greek-German relations,” the prime minister said. “I do not want us to discuss only the payment of our debt, our fiscal targets, I want us to discuss mainly our common challenges for development.”
The talks in Berlin did include Greece’s finances, as well as migration, German investments and other issues on the agenda. The change in spirit, though, is already a steady step towards a new relationship between the two countries and the establishment of more fertile ground for investments.
This, in connection with reforms to the public administration, the strengthening of state institutions, the selection of the right people in important posts, reinforces what Mr Mitsotakis said yesterday: what is good for one country is good for the other; that the Greeks are responsible for their own future and they want the Germans at their side as allies and partners.
Implementing this policy faithfully will ease the suspicions that persist in both countries and open the way for more investments.