European spirit has strengthened after ‘difficult years’: Merkel
Athens: German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the European spirit has been strengthened through the management of common challenges and Europe will have a better future through cooperation and not nationalism.
She gave a joint statement to the press with Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras on Thursday at the start of her two-day visit to Athens, reported Xinhua news agency.
“We have been through difficult years. What we have achieved was to strengthen the European spirit,” the German leader stressed during the remarks broadcast by Greek state television ERT.
Merkel praised Greece for its achievements despite the difficulties of the recent years of the debt crisis, such as the historic agreement reached last summer for the resolution of the Macedonia name dispute.
The deal, which is currently in the process of ratification by the parliaments of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) and Greece, will benefit the entire Europe, the chancellor stressed.
She reiterated Germany’s support to Greece’s efforts to stand on its feet, noting the need to continue on the path of reform in the post-bailout era.
“Today you are coming to a different Greece, which after many challenges has managed to overcome the crisis and enter the path of growth,” the Greek prime minister said.
“I believe that Greece is not only gradually exiting the crisis but is turning from part of the problem into part of the solution,” the Greek leader said, underlining that his country is a pillar of stability in a region suffering from destabilisation.
The German chancellor’s visit marks the end of a difficult period in bilateral relations, opening new prospects, Tsipras noted, referring to past differences regarding the way to address the Greek debt crisis, which was overcome through compromises.
He also stressed the need for closer cooperation in finding solutions to more problems as Europe faces more challenges, like the rise of the populist far-right.
The leaders also highlighted the need to establish a comprehensive European migration and asylum policy to deal with the refugee-migrant crisis, which has also tested the EU in recent years.
During the meeting at the prime minister’s office, police used tear gas to disperse leftist and far-right protesters who held two different demonstrations against the chancellor’s visit.
“We are here to protest against Merkel’s visit. She came indeed to check what the entire EU leadership has created in Greece. We are against and we demand that our country be liberated from the shackles of the EU and the debt load,” Nikos Adamopoulos, one of the leftist protesters, told Xinhua.
The German leader is scheduled to hold a meeting with Greek President Prokopis Pavlopoulos and main opposition New Democracy party leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis on Friday before departing from Athens.