On the right path together
The progress is plain to see, as Chancellor Angela Merkel confirmed to Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras. During her brief visit to Athens, the Chancellor met not only with her Greek counterpart, but also with numerous representatives of the business community.
The Chancellor was visiting one of Germany’s close European partners; a country with which Germany enjoys regular contact. Greece currently holds the EU Presidency and is coordinating European policy.
Greece’s return to the capital market
Economic issues dominated the Chancellor’s visit; since the euro crisis, this has been an area of particularly close cooperation with Greece. Chancellor Angela Merkel has frequently stated in public that she has been following Greece’s consolidation efforts with great admiration. She is very well aware how difficult this path has been for large sections of the Greek population.
Today the Chancellor was able to congratulate the Greek government on the country’s return to the international capital market. On Thursday, the Greek Finance Ministry announced that a bond issue had raised three billion euros – about half a billion euros more than forecast.
This is clear evidence of the success of the austerity programme. The confidence of the financial markets is being restored, said Angela Merkel following her meeting with Antonis Samaras. Over the last one and a half years, a lot has been achieved in Greece, she said.
It has become clear, "that the extremely difficult reform efforts have paid off and that progress can be seen; today Greece can look forward to the future". But Angela Merkel also said that this cannot yet be the end of reform efforts.
Current studies show that 2014 will mark a turning point for the Greek economy. After a long recession, the Troika expects to see positive growth this year. The primary balance of the budget too is expected to rise.
Meeting with young businesspeople
An important part of the Chancellor’s visit to Athens was a discussion with representatives of the Greek business community, especially representatives of medium-sized businesses and young business start-ups. The focus was on the current business environment and opportunities to make Greece’s traditional strengths, tourism and agriculture, more efficient.
Angela Merkel declared, that she is convinced that "Greece has a wealth of opportunities that have not yet been tapped, and which the country can now build on after its difficult period". She pointed to her experience with the process of transformation in former East Germany.
The Chancellor underscored that she is certain that Greece "will have more opportunities than difficulties after all the structural changes that the country has had to make, and the changes that might still have to be made in future".
Angela Merkel encouraged the Greek government not to relent in its efforts to keep spending down. Germany continues to stand by Greece and will support its economic and social reforms.
Concern over the situation in Ukraine
In view of the most recent reports on the current situation in Ukraine, Angela Merkel and Antonis Samaras expressed their concern. Russia was urged once more to help de-escalate the situation and withdraw its troops from the Ukrainian border.
The two heads of government welcomed the news that the contact group is to meet this week, with the foreign ministers of Russia, the USA, Ukraine and Catherine Ashton, the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy.