Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras on Thursday welcomed Angela Merkel in Athens saying that the German Chancellor’s visit marks an end to a difficult period in bilateral relations.
“I am certain that your trip brings a difficult cycle in bilateral ties to a close and opens up a more positive outlook,” Tsipras said ahead of talks at Maximos Mansion.
“Greece has managed to overcome the crisis and return to growth. During that period we went through difficulties – we both experienced hard times, conflict and confrontations – but with compromise and concessions managed to find solutions to overcome the challenges. We managed to overcome the Greek crisis which was at the same time a European crisis,” Tsipras said.
“Greece is gradually turning from part of the problem into part of the solution and turning into a pillar of stability. We face new challenges ahead… such as the rise of far-right populists,” he said.
In her comments, Merkel acknowledged that “the Greek people went through a very difficult phase.”
“I want to thank [Greece] for everything it has achieved in spite of the hardships… and for the country’s overall role in the Balkans at a time when it is important to examine [regional] issues.”
“Greece has made great progress,” she said.
The two leaders are scheduled to hold a joint press conference at 7.40 p.m.
In an exclusive statement to Kathimerini ahead of the visit, Merkel expressed her support for Greece and the country’s reform effort, saying that the country can “continue to count on its partnership and friendship with Germany.”
During her visit, the chancellor is expected to stress that Greece’s continuation of reforms might be onerous but are necessary for its full recovery.
Merkel is also expected to reiterate her support for the Prespes name deal, which is currently being discussed by the parliament of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and, once approved, will face ratification in Greece.
In comments on Wednesday, Merkel’s spokesman, Steffen Seibert, rejected speculation of a trade-off between Greece’s support for the Prespes deal and creditors’ approval of the cancelation of a planned round of pension cuts this month.
Security is tight in the city centre with an intensified police presence around buildings such as the German embassy, the house of the German ambassador and the Goethe Institute. Several roads are closed. A total of 2,000 police officers are deployed across the capital.
Officers of the Greek Police (ELAS) inspected on Wednesday venues the chancellor is expected to visit.
Authorities have banned public gatherings and marches in the city centre as of 6 p.m. The ban will not affect a planned rally by leftist groups at Propylea but protesters will not be allowed to proceed towards Syntagma square. Neo-Nazi Golden Dawn’s protest will also be affected because the rallying point is Evangelismos hospital, located within the security zone. Members of known anarchist groups are also under surveillance to prevent any activities on their part.
Several metro stations were closed ahead of Merkel’s arrival at Athens’s international airport.
On Friday, authorities will close Syntagma station from 8.30 a.m. to 11.30 a.m. There will be no metro services from Plakendia station to the airport for the duration of her visit.