Merkel ex­presses sup­port for re­form effort, Pre­spes deal

Ger­man chan­cel­lor to meet ND chief to­day

Kathimerini English - - Front Page -

On her first of­fi­cial visit to Athens in four years, Ger­man Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel yes­ter­day ex­pressed her sup­port for the Pre­spes name deal as well as Greece’s on­go­ing eco­nomic re­form ef­forts, say­ing the coun­try was en­ter­ing a new phase.

In a joint press con­fer­ence with Prime Min­is­ter Alexis Tsipras, Merkel said the name deal “cre­ates clar­ity” and will be ben­e­fi­cial not just for Greece and the For­mer Yu­goslav Repub­lic of Mace­do­nia but for the whole of the Euro­pean Union. She hailed the ef­forts of Tsipras and his FYROM coun­ter­part Zo­ran Zaev and said she would raise the is­sue of the name deal with Greece’s con­ser­va­tive New Democ­racy leader, Kyr­i­akos Mit­so­takis, who she is to meet to­day. She noted, how­ever, that she did not be­lieve she could in­flu­ence Mit­so­takis, who op­poses the agree­ment.

Merkel re­jected spec­u­la­tion that there had been a trade-off be­tween Greek sup­port for the Pre­spes ac­cord and cred­i­tors’ ap­proval of the can­ce­la­tion of a planned round of pen­sion cuts this month, say­ing she was “sur­prised” that the ques­tion had even been posed.

Tsipras, for his part, said that the deal reached be­tween Greece and FYROM on the name dis­pute can be a “model” for solv­ing other prob­lems in the re­gion.

De­scrib­ing Greece as a “pil­lar of sta­bil­ity in the re­gion,” Tsipras said that the coun­try has moved from be­ing “part of the prob­lem to part of the so­lu­tion in Europe.”

Merkel too ex­pressed her con­vic­tion that Greece has en­tered a new chap­ter. “It is not the end of a re­form pe­riod, but the be­gin­ning of a new sit­u­a­tion,” she said, ad­ding that she ex­pected the coun­try to re­turn to fi­nan­cial mar­kets. “My visit, all my work, has this as its pur­pose, that Greece can stand on its own feet, and get fi­nanc­ing from the mar­kets,” Merkel told a press con­fer­ence, ad­ding that re­duc­ing un­em­ploy­ment is an­other key pri­or­ity.

Merkel re­ferred to Ger­man in­vest­ments in Greece, while sug­gest­ing that the coun­try’s pub­lic ad­min­is­tra­tion could ben­e­fit from some im­prove­ments. She also thanked Tsipras for nam­ing Ger­many as the hon­ored coun­try for next year’s Thes­sa­loniki In­ter­na­tional Fair.

The two lead­ers also dis­cussed the refugee cri­sis, with Merkel ac­knowl­edg­ing that it struck Greece when it was al­ready grap­pling with its eco­nomic cri­sis. Merkel said Ber­lin would con­tinue to sup­port the deal for re­turns be­tween Turkey and the EU signed in March 2016 which min­i­mized the flow of mi­grants through Greece but said it should not ap­ply to refugees flee­ing war and strife.

Tsipras, for his part, un­der­lined the im­por­tance of Turkey show­ing re­spect for in­ter­na­tional law “at a time that a new en­ergy map is in the process of be­ing drawn up.” He also said Al­ba­nia should not be a can­di­date for Euro­pean Union mem­ber­ship as long as it dis­re­spects its Greek mi­nor­ity.

Both Tsipras and Merkel stressed the im­prove­ment in re­la­tions be­tween the two sides since the peak of the cri­sis. How­ever, Tsipras took the op­por­tu­nity to re­it­er­ate Greece’s de­mands for war repa­ra­tions from Ger­many.

Prime Min­ster Alexis Tsipras wel­comes Ger­man Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel to the Max­i­mos Man­sion in Athens yes­ter­day for talks on eco­nomic re­forms, mi­gra­tion and re­gional is­sues in­clud­ing the name deal, for which she ex­pressed sup­port.

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