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Greece

Steinmeier named honorary member of Greek Jewish community

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier has been named an honorary member of Thessaloniki's Jewish community. In a meeting with his Greek counterpart, he also signed an action plan to boost bilateral ties.

On visiting Greece's second largest city, Thessaloniki, on Sunday, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier became an honorary member of the city's Jewish community.

The Social Democrat (SPD) thanked the congregation for their willingness to reconcile. During World War II, some 50,000 members or 96 percent of local Jewish community was murdered in Auschwitz and other extermination camps.

"Without constraint, Germany is committed to the political and moral responsibility for these murders and the terrible crimes committed in Greece during World War II," Steinmeier said.

At the ceremony, Steinmeier told an 89-year-old Auschwitz survivor: "We take your outstretched hands, with great joy and with great humility, and be assured: We will not let go of them!"

The German foreign minister added that he was pleased to see how the Jewish community - which today totals around 1,200 members - could once again lead "a diverse Jewish life."

Frank-Walter Steinmeier with Nikos Kotzias Foto: Bernd von Jutrczenka/dpa

Steinmeier met with his Greek counterpart Nikos Kotzias

Improving relations 

During his visit to Greece on Sunday, Steinmeier also met with his Greek counterpart Nikos Kotzias. In light of the financial crisis fallout, Steinmeier said German-Greek relations are back on a good track.

As a result of the euro debt crisis, relations between the two countries have deteriorated drastically sine 2008, with many Greeks blaming Berlin for the painful austerity measures in their country.

A reason for the improvement was the cooperation between the two countries in dealing with the refugee crisis, Steinmeier said.

Speaking in German, Kotzias added that "all sides are now more realistic than in the past."

The two ministers signed a German-Greek action plan, which aims to enable closer cooperation in the fields of politics, business, science, culture and society.

"With regard to the state of Europe, we believe that we must strive to set a positive sign," Steinmeier said, referring to the growing euroskepticism, particularly since the UK's vote to leave the European Union in June.

ksb/cmk (dpa, KNA)

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