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Greek press welcomes Merkel despite protests

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Greek press welcomes Merkel despite protests
Photo: DPA
11:10 CEST+02:00
Greek media on Wednesday hailed a rare visit by German Chancellor Angela Merkel that gave a boost to the country's embattled coalition government. But critical reform negotiations with EU-IMF creditors continued.

Merkel's visit - the first since the start of Greece's crisis - came as the government of Antonis Samaras struggled to finalise a €13.5-billion package of austerity cuts.

Greece must approve the measures to unlock a loan slice of the package from its outstanding EU-IMF bailout that has been stalled since June.

"Merkel sends strong message on November deal," said centre-left Ethnos daily.

"The visit confirmed the positive climate that now characterises relations with Germany...so barring any unforeseen developments, there should not be any concern about the disbursement of the loan tranche," Ethnos said.

More sceptical, financial daily Naftemboriki said the visit was "a mainly symbolic gesture" without practical results.

The austerity package must be approved by the EU, the IMF and the European Central Bank before the loan slice is released sometime next month.

"She came, she saw, she pledged," said top-selling Ta Nea daily. "With her visit, Merkel ended a Greek isolation period of two-and-a-half years. Though she carefully worded her public statements, she succeeded in giving a strong message of support," the centre-left daily said.

Some 30,000 people demonstrated in Athens against the German chancellor's visit and a smaller demonstration was held in Thessaloniki, according to police reports.

Sporadic clashes broke out near the parliament building in Athens when a few dozen protesters threw bottles and stones at police who fired back tear gas.

Over 200 people were detained for questioning before and during the protests in the capital and 24 of them were arrested.

But most of the German media apparently judged the trip a failure in terms of bringing the two countries together.

"Merkel's visit was intended as a goodwill gesture but it is doubtful that her quiet expressions of sympathy were heard by the demonstrators," the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung daily commented.

Meanwhile, German government politicians have heavily criticised Bernd Riexinger, chairman of the socialist Left party, for joining protesters in Athens to protest against Chancellor Angela Merkel's euro policies.

Riexinger joined Greece's far-left activists on Sytagma Square outside the Greek parliament on Tuesday as violence erupted on the streets of the city during the chancellor's visit.

Gerda Hasselfeldt, Bavarian state leader for the Christian Social Union, said it was "unprecedented and outrageous" that the chairman of a party represented in the German Bundestag should "use the anti-German protests in Athens as a stage to promote policies that go against the interests of his own country," she told the Passauer Neue Presse newspaper.

Patrick Döring, general secretary of the CSU's government coalition partner the Free Democratic Party (FDP), accused Riexinger of deliberately breaking foreign policy convention and escalating tensions in Athens.

Riexinger justified his actions by saying he was protesting "for the interests of German taxpayers." Merkel had "dumped tax-euros into the European banking swamp," he told the Berliner Zeitung newspaper.

"Merkel should have faced the desperate people in Athens, instead of just meeting officials, ministers, and companies," he added.

The Local/AFP/bk

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