Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras met with German Chancellor Angela Merkel at Maximos Mansion in Athens on Thursday evening.
This is Merkel’s first visit to Greece since 2012 and will last for two days, with the Greek and German leaders discussing a wide spectrum of issues including the prospect of the western Balkan countries joining the E.U., the reform of the Eurozone, the upcoming European elections, Turkish provocations in the Mediterranean and the Cyprus issue.
In his welcoming address to Merkel in Athens, Tsipras said, “The last time you visited was at the height of the crisis. Now you are coming to a different Greece, which after great difficulties managed to overcome the (financial) crisis.”
He added that despite “differences of views, confrontations, and disagreements,” Greece and Germany have since managed to achieve a good relationship.
Tsipras also spoke of the importance of peace, stability, and growth in the Balkans for the future and security of Europe.
"We stressed the importance that the Prespes Agreement has for the region and for Europe, as a step forward and a model agreement for other disputes, which shows that mutually acceptable solutions - without one side imposing something on the other - are possible," he said.
Tsipras also highlighted the rising danger of the far right in Europe and the role that the dominant economic dogma played, in his opinion, in feeding the growth of far-right and anti-European populism, highlighting the need to counter this by building a social Europe and a new architecture for the Eurozone.
"We stress, together with the Chancellor, that this is the greatest danger for Europe," he said, referring to the far-right forces seeking to increase their influence in the upcoming European elections.
Chancellor Merkel said that the Greek people have gone through a great deal over the last few years, and she thanked Greece for its reforms. She also expressed gratitude for the country’s actions regarding the refugee crisis as well as its effort to maintain stability in the Balkan region.
Merkel noted that the aim of her visit was to help Greece get back on its feet, reduce unemployment and finance its needs by tapping the markets, adding that large German investments in Greece show confidence in the country.
"This is not the end of a period of reforms but the start of a new situation. Unemployment has fallen and we must try to create jobs for young people," the chancellor said, pointing to initiatives in the export sector and welcoming Tsipras's announcement that Germany will be the honoured country at the 2020 Thessaloniki International Fair (TIF).
Referring to the upcoming European elections, Merkel said that she was united with Tsipras "in the deeply-held conviction that it is through cooperation in Europe, not nationalism, that we will have a better future."
Merkel also touched on the refugee crisis and migration issues, noting that the EU-Turkey agreement, "has not been implemented in the way that we would like," especially the part concerning returns.
"We will work with Greece to improve some parts of the agreement. We agreed today that for the refugees that do not come from Syria but from other countries, the EU-Turkey agreement will not apply and we will try to find other ways of support," she said. The chancellor also referred to the need for a common European policy on migration.
While Merkel and Tsipras were at Maximos Mansion, protesters clashed with riot police in Athens. The police authorities were forced to use tear gas to prevent the protesters from moving any closer to the area where the two leaders were holding their meeting.
Greek authorities banned demonstrations in a large part of the capital’s centre and shut down streets and train stations for security reasons.
Around 2,000 officers, a police helicopter and drones were deployed for the visit, which ends Friday afternoon.
*Main Source: AMNA