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Merkel warmly greeted in Athens by Greek PM Tsipras; latter says 'difficult moments' now surpassed

Thursday, 10 Jan 2019 22:40 UPD: 22:45
REUTERS / COSTAS BALTAS

A beaming Alexis Tsipras greeted Angela Merkel with "open arms" on Thursday in Athens, referring to what he called a dramatically different country from the one visited in 2014 by the powerful German chancellor - when his predecessor, Antonis Samaras, was the Greek prime minister, and when he was a firebrand critic of Merkel and Berlin's policy vis-a-vis a then twice bailed-out Greek state.

"Ms. Merkel arrives in Greece during a different period. During her previous visit five years ago, the country was on the verge of bankruptcy; its economy teetering, with society suffering...with one million unemployed. The Greek people were sorely tested from (austerity) measures that were often incomprehensible, unjust and ineffective; ones that tested social cohesion," Tsipras said, during a joint press conference with Merkel, and after their one-on-one talks.

The Greek premier, who as the main opposition leader once thundered at a party rally on the eastern Aegean island of Lesvos (Mytilene) the eyebrow-raising slogan "Go back, madam Merkel... go back, ladies and gentlemen of Europe's conservative nomenclature", said the situation in the country is now "completely different".

Months after the end of the third and last bailout memorandum, the one signed by his government in August 2015, Tsipras referred to "serious wounds that are now gradually healing, but with society standing".

He also indirectly cited the acrimonious relationship between Berlin and his own once rabidly anti-austerity and anti-bailout SYRIZA party, as well as the first six months of his leftist-rightist government in 2015.

"There were difficult moments - but with great effort we were able to leave them behind. We were able to leave behind us the stereotypes of the 'bad German' and the 'lazy Greek'," he told reporters and a television audience, as several television stations provided a live feed.

He said his talks with Merkel touched on fiscal matters, the migrant/refugee crisis and the need to revise Europe's asylum process, as well as more support to front-line countries faced with flows of third country nationals trying to enter EU territory.    

 

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