Greek foreign minister lays path for Tsipras visit to Berlin | News | DW | 23.03.2015
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Greek foreign minister lays path for Tsipras visit to Berlin

On Monday, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras makes his first official visit to Berlin. Before his arrival, his foreign minister has sought to calm diplomatic tensions running high over Greece's impending insolvency.

On Monday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel is to receive her Greek counterpart in Berlin, with the two expected to discuss austerity reforms. Since coming to office in January, Alexis Tsipras' left-wing Syriza party, which aligned itself in a coalition with a far-right group, has endeavored to unshackle Greece from the fiscal policies of the troika - the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund - which it contends have hindered Greece from economic recovery.

As the informal leader of Athens' EU creditors, the German government - and by proxy, Angela Merkel - has become the focus of Greek ire over skyrocketing unemployment and painful budget cuts. And in Germany this anger has fuelled animosity toward what some people view as an ungrateful and irresponsible recipient of billions of euros.

Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias sought to calm these tensions on Sunday evening by spreading a message of goodwill through the German media.

"The most important thing is that we try to better under one another, that we dismantle the stereotypes that exist on both sides," he told DW, pointing to a long history of friendship between the two nations.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said that he and Kotzias had agreed to "take stock of bilateral relations between Germany and Greece and to discuss their continued development in the future."

Oppermann demands reform list

Last week, Prime Minister Tsipras promised Brussels a list of reforms "in the coming days."

"I expect [the Greek prime minister] to present this list during his meeting with Chancellor Merkel on Monday," Social Democratic (SPD) parliamentary group chairman Thomas Oppermann told Spiegel Online on Sunday.

"I want to finally know if Greece is ready to make real reforms or not," he added.

The center-left SPD is in a coalition government with Merkel's center-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU).

EU and IMF creditors have said they will only release the final 7.2-billion-euro ($7.8 billion) tranche of Greece's 240-billion euro bailout once the new government in Athens has delivered a viable reform package.

Gabriel downplays reparation row

Merkel's vice chancellor, SPD politician Sigmar Gabriel, struck a less combative tone on Sunday.

"The social hardship is enormous," Gabriel told German news magazine Bericht aus Berlin, underscoring the urgency of reaching a solution as quickly as possible. Brussels has already signaled readiness to release 2 billion euros in humanitarian aid.

However, in answer to recent questions about whether Germany should pay reparations for World War II, Gabriel emphasized that the hotly debated 70-year-old debt was not at the core of Athens' eurozone woes. He added that it made little sense to use the debate to place Germany under moral pressure.

Greece's foreign minister also mentioned the reparations row on Sunday and proposed that scholars from both countries deliberate over the case.

kms/cmk (Reuters, AFP, dpa)

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