Angela Merkel expresses support for Greece



Zeenews Bureau

Athens: German Chancellor Angela Merkel, during her first visit to Greece since the eurozone debt crisis erupted three years ago, pledged her support to the country and said that the country has made progress in dealing with the debt.

However, Merkel emphasised on the need to implement more key cost-cutting reforms.

"Much of the ground has been covered ... There is daily progress," Merkel said after talks with conservative Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras. "This is an effort that should be seen through because otherwise it would make the circumstances even more dramatic later on."

Strict security measures were in place in Athens because Greek public are expected to vent their anger against Merkel, who is seen as the portent of more austerity cuts.

The security measures include a ban on public gatherings outside the German Embassy and other parts of central Athens as well as within 100 meters (330 feet) of her motorcade route from the airport.

More than 7,000 police will be on hand, cordoning off parks and other sections of central Athens, to keep demonstrators away from the German leader who is due to arrive in the Greek capital at 1:30 p.m. (1030GMT) Tuesday for talks with conservative Prime Minister Antonis Samaras.

In Athens, where she will stay for five-hours, Merkel will hold talks with Samaras and President Karolos Papoulias in adjacent buildings.

Greece's debt crisis started in late 2009 after it misreported deficit figures, triggering fears that debts in other eurozone countries may also be at risk.

Since May 2010, the country has depended on bailouts from the eurozone and the International Monetary Fund.

But to get the loans, it implemented successive pay cuts and tax hikes, while increasing retirement ages and facilitating private sector layoffs that are expected to push the rate of unemployment up next year to nearly one in every four workers.

(With Agency Inputs)