Germany says Greek PM would be `a welcome guest`
Germany said Monday that Greece`s new hard-left Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras would be welcome in Berlin, even if "tough talks" lay ahead about Athens` economic plans.
Chancellor Angela Merkel and Tsipras would have a chance to meet at a February 12 European Union summit in Brussels, although no direct talks had been arranged yet, said Merkel`s spokeswoman Christiane Wirtz.
She stressed that Berlin wanted "friendly relations with the new Greek government, which doesn`t preclude likely tough talks" and added that Tsipras would be "a welcome guest" in Berlin.
A spokeswoman for Germany`s Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble meanwhile said she expected to announce "in the coming days" a meeting between him and his Greek counterpart Yanis Varoufakis.
In a flurry of diplomacy, Tsipras has phoned ECB chief Mario Draghi, visited Cyprus and booked meetings this week with Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, French President Francois Hollande and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker.
Notably absent from his itinerary has been Germany, which Tsipras blames for driving the tough austerity programmes his government has pledged to end.
Germany, Europe`s biggest economy, is the effective paymaster for Greece`s bailout programmes and Merkel has insisted that Athens stick to a strict regimen of budget cuts in exchange for assistance.
Greece`s new government has refused to work with the so-called troika of international bailout inspectors charged with overseeing its painful fiscal reforms, instead seeking direct contacts with creditors and governments.
Wirtz said the German government saw "no cause to depart from this proven mechanism", the troika, and no signs that the European Commission wanted to do so.
"There is the willingness and interest in friendly and good relations with the Greek government. Nonetheless the German government is sure to stick with its broad positions on the euro question."
The finance ministry spokeswoman reiterated Berlin`s position that the aid programme for Greece aims to "encourage growth and employment" and that "a sustainable building block of this is sustainable public finances".