Greek riot police deploy for Merkel's first post-crisis visit
German Chancellor urged by her party not to increase bailout as Greece struggles to pay debts
Chancellor Angela Merkel pays her first visit to Greece since the onset of the euro crisis today amid growing uncertainty over the country's bailout and dire warnings from her own party that no "presents" should be given to Athens to help it overcome its worsening financial emergency.
The German leader's one-day visit comes amid fears of violent demonstrations on the streets of Athens in protest against her insistence on tough Greek austerity measures. Prime Minister Antonis Samaras' government has put more than 7,000 police and riot control units on duty for the length of her stay.
Ms Merkel travels to Athens less than 24 hours after the launch of the eurozone's new €500bn (£404bn) permanent bailout facility, the European Stability Mechanism, which Jean-Claude Juncker, the chairman of the euro group, yesterday hailed as "an historic milestone in shaping the future of monetary union".
Germany is scheduled to make the largest contribution to the fund of around 27 per cent. But on the eve of her departure to Greece, Ms Merkel's own MPs were adamant that she should make no further concessions to Mr Samaras despite his repeated pleas for a two-year extension to his government's reform deadline.
Volker Kauder, parliamentary leader of Ms Merkel's ruling Christian Democrats, warned the Chancellor yesterday: "The purpose of the visit is not to bring presents to the Greeks. The Greeks would do best if they kept to what has been agreed."
His words were echoed by Wolfgang Schäuble, Germany's veteran conservative Finance Minister. "The truth is that Greece has no other option to get its industry and its finances in good enough order to be able to refinance itself on the markets at a reasonable interest rate at least by 2020," he told Berlin Inforadio news channel.
The Samaras government is struggling to implement a €11.5bn savings programme it must fulfil in order to gain its next €31.5bn tranche of EU bailout funding. However, the country's budget deficit is reported to be almost double the amount the government initially acknowledged and there are doubts about its ability to deliver. Mr Samaras has made several appeals for more time to implement austerity measures.
Last week he told Germany's Handelsblatt newspaper that the combination of economic crisis, austerity measures and rising unemployment were severely undermining social cohesion and creating conditions comparable with "the end of the Weimar Republic in Germany".
"There is something in our country which has never existed before – a growing extreme right, one could say fascist neo-Nazi party," he said in a reference to Greece's far-right Golden Dawn party, which is currently the third largest in the Athens parliament.
Ms Merkel radically altered her attitude to Greece following European Central Bank President Mario Draghi's insistence that the EU and the bank would do everything possible to keep Greece in the eurozone. She now insists that she and her government wholly support this view, yet she has many critics within her own coalition and public opinion is divided on the issue.
The German Chancellor, who has been compared to Hitler in Greek newspaper caricatures, is not expected to make any concessions to Mr Samaras on her visit. Berlin has insisted all along that it will not consider any new moves before the "Troika" of experts from the International Monetary Fund, the European Commission and the ECB have assessed Athens' progress in implementing its reforms.
Oscar Pistorius trial: Defence witness contradicts athlete version
Oscar Pistorius trial: The case against Oscar Pistorius – and why the prosecution claims his story doesn't add up
South Korea ferry: Captain Lee Joon-seok could face criminal investigation as over 280 remain missing
Peaches Geldof dead: Private funeral for the family and friends of the socialite will take place next week
Shropshire criminals ‘using unmanned drones and infrared cameras to find illegal cannabis farms’ – and then steal from the growers
The food poverty scandal that shames Britain: Nearly 1m people rely on handouts to eat – and benefit reforms may be to blame
US Navy christens huge $3 billion destroyer ship USS Zumwalt that appears as a fishing boat on enemy radar
Scottish independence: It is the English who should be on their knees, begging the Scots to vote ‘No’
Nigel Farage fatigue? Half of voters ‘immune’ to Ukip’s appeal
Nigel Farage on Have I Got News For You: Ukip leader ridiculed over expenses and party 'fruitcakes'
Nigel Farage: I’m taking on the status quo, and the Establishment’s fighting back
- 1 Poveglia: 'World's most haunted island' up for sale...is anyone brave enough to buy it?
- 2 The Hobbit: There and Back Again set for possible title change
- 3 Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'
- 4 24 people applied for the 'world's toughest job', here are their interviews
- 5 Andre Johnson: Wu-Tang Clan-discovered rapper severed his penis and jumped from LA building
£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company is a company that specializ...
£153.75 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company is an innovative outsourcin...
£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company has been providing on site ...
£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: We've been supplying best of breed peopl...