German-Greek tensions are rising as a result of the eurozone crisis. In the hope of improving relations between the two countries, a number of German politicians are opting to vacation in Greece.
Naxos, Paros, Mykonos – the classic triumvirate is a must for lovers of the Greek Islands. When previously asked why she wanted to spend her vacation on the Cyclades, Green Party parliamentarian Beate Müller-Gemmeke simply said: "Sun, sea and sand." But this year, other reasons are at play. "When I heard that tourist numbers were down 50 percent in Greece, it was just self-explanatory that I would travel there again," she said.
Solidarity and tango courses
That's also the reason why Die Linke parliamentarian Richard Pitterle will be flying with his family to the Greek island of Crete in August. But he doesn't just want to support tourism in the country – the nation's most important source of income. He would also like to speak to Greeks on the island and through his presence show that "we haven't written you off."
Naturally, Richard Pitterle and all the other politicians traveling to Greece want to relax, maybe take a swim, read a good book and enjoy some good Greek cuisine. But for Pitterle there's another, very special attraction in Crete: tango lessons. His Greek tango instructor in Stuttgart also runs courses on the island.
Private support for Greece
While Richard Pitterle's vacation has yet to begin, Friedlinde Gurr-Hirsch is fresh back from Hellas. The acting Chairwoman of the CDU fraction in Baden-Württemberg, together with members of her extended family – her husband, their three children and their partners, and four grandchildren –, spent their vacation in Corfu. The family wanted to show that there is no reason for holidaymakers to avoid traveling to Greece. The mood of people in Crete was "a little subdued," said the CDU parliamentarian. But the people were, she added, "very friendly, the services were in order and we didn't face any criticism along the lines of 'you're putting us under pressure.' There was a consistent level of friendliness and a high level of professionalism."
The bad weather in Germany has also increased the longing of the family of FDP parliamentarian Erik Schwenkert for sun and sea. The options were either Turkey, where they had a good time last year, or Greece. Family Schwenkert have decided – at the end of July they'll be flying to the Greek island of Cos. Schwenkert said he hoped to counter the accusation, often heard in Germany, that politicians are only willing to transfer taxpayer's money to other countries. By taking his vacation in Greece, Schwenkert wants to prove that German politicians are also willing to reach in to their own pockets to support Greece.
'We stand by you'
The Berlin SPD parliamentarian Mechthild Rawert is confronted with the Greek issue on a daily basis: a work colleague has Greek heritage. Because of that, Rawert isn't just aware of the facts and figures of the crisis, but also the direct consequences for relatives and friends of her Greek colleague on the island of Thasos. Just like last year, Rawert will travel to the Greek island together with all her colleagues in October. But will she talk to people on the island? "I definitely won't be running around the island with a sign saying 'I'm a German politician,'" she said. But Rawert would be happy to discuss the issues with friends of her Greek colleague. That's another reason why she is traveling to Greece: "The only that helps all of us is that we must talk to one another."
The acting chairwoman of the CDU parliamentary fraction Ingrid Fischbach also wants to make her own personal gesture by traveling to the Greek island of Rhodes with her daughter. "The Greeks have to put up with a lot of negative criticism," said the CDU parliamentarian, adding that she hopes "that in supporting tourism in Greece we also make it clear: 'We stand by you, we like to come here and if it is good then we'll back again next year."