Greek PM to visit Merkel as Spain turns screw on Athens
The leaders of debt-wracked Greece and economic powerhouse Germany will meet in Berlin today after weeks of bad feeling over Athens' debt woes, bitter wartime memories and an offensive hand gesture.
Berlin: The leaders of debt-wracked Greece and economic powerhouse Germany will meet in Berlin today after weeks of bad feeling over Athens' debt woes, bitter wartime memories and an offensive hand gesture.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel will receive Greece's radical left-wing Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, who has blamed her insistence on tough austerity for his country's "humanitarian crisis" of poverty and mass unemployment.
Spain's economy minister Luis de Guindos turned the screw on Athens another notch yesterday by insisting that it will not receive any money until it implements all its proposed reforms.
Merkel also insists that if cash-strapped Greece wants more bailout loans, of which Germany stumps up the biggest share, it must accept the bitter medicine of cuts and reforms.
Talking to the Greek newspaper Kathimerini ahead of the visit, Tsipras said the meeting with Merkel would be an opportunity to talk "without the pressure of any negotiation. It's important because we will be able to talk about topics which are damaging Europe, and about how to improve relations between our two countries."
"In this meeting two worlds will collide," said Hajo Funke, political scientist with Berlin's Free University.
"There is the political world of Greece, where a left-wing government faces a society in collapse, (of) societal decay... As grave as anything we have seen in western Europe since 1945," he told AFP.
"The other world is a content country that is dominant in Europe, Germany, which worries about maintaining its economic happiness, and which is now being asked to help the other, under conditions it doesn't fully understand."
As tensions have flared, bitter historical memories have resurfaced, with Tsipras' government reviving reparation claims for the Nazi occupation of Greece in World War II -- an issue which Berlin considers settled.
Greece's Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias appeared to offer an olive branch to Berlin on the eve of his leader's visit, telling the German daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung that a Greco-German committee of experts could be set up to look into the thorny question.
When Tsipras took power in January he lost no time before laying flowers at a memorial near Athens for dozens of Greek leftists executed by the German occupation troops in 1944.