German Chancellor to visit Greece next week to discuss the future of the country's bailout

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras in August. Samaras says he welcomes the visit, but public sentiment makes her an object of anger.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras in August. Samaras says he welcomes the visit, but public sentiment makes her an object of anger. (MAJA HITIJ / Associated Press)
Posted: October 06, 2012

BERLIN - German Chancellor Angela Merkel will travel to Greece next week for the first time since the debt crisis erupted to meet the country's prime minister - who warned Friday that Athens will run out of money at the end of November if it doesn't receive the next part of its bailout loans.

Because Germany has been instrumental in pushing Greece to make austerity cuts in exchange for its bailout loans, Merkel has routinely been the object of anger at public protests in Athens. Her photograph has been manipulated by Greek newspapers to look like a Nazi officer and a prisoner at Guantanamo Bay.

Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras said Merkel's planned visit on Tuesday was good news. "We will receive her as befits the leader of a great power and a friendly country," he told reporters in Athens.

But Greece's main labor unions were swift to call a protest rally outside Parliament on Tuesday against "the neoliberal policies of Mrs. Merkel and the European Union's core leadership," and a three-hour work stoppage in Athens to facilitate participation.

The unions said in a statement that "workers, pensioners and unemployed people can take no more of the European Union's punitive policies."

Merkel's spokesman, Steffen Seibert, was at pains to portray the trip, her first since July 2007, as "a normal visit." It follows an invitation that Samaras made when he visited Berlin in August.

Seibert underlined Germany's message that it wants Greece to stay in the euro bloc - but that the Greeks also must push ahead with their painful reforms. Since Greece received its first bailout in May 2010, it has repeatedly slashed incomes, hiked taxes and raised retirement ages.

"We want to help Greece to stabilize itself in the eurozone. We are doing that by contributing massively to the rescue programs that are supposed to help get Greece out of the crisis," Seibert said.

Officials from the European Commission, International Monetary Fund, and European Central Bank - the so-called "troika" - are currently in Greece assessing its progress in fulfilling the terms for receiving aid.

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