Chancellor Angela Merkel said that Germany is ready to help the Greek government as it takes the necessary steps to resolve its economic woes, rebuffing European critics who advocate Greece’s exit from the euro.
Merkel, speaking at a joint press conference with Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras in Berlin today, said she aims to heal a rift in public perceptions that has opened, as Greeks blame Germany for painful austerity and Greece’s pace of change triggers “impatience” among Germans. Her intention is to help Greece reach “the light at the end of the tunnel,” she said.
“What I want is to bring the two realities that have emerged back together into one reality,” Merkel said. “Now it’s the task of those who have political responsibility in Europe to bridge that gap. I want Greece to stay in the euro zone and that’s what I’m working for.”
The German chancellor’s comments, made on Samaras’s first official visit to Berlin since he assumed power two months ago, are the clearest signal yet of a thawing of relations between the two main actors in the sovereign debt crisis that is almost three years old. They are also a rebuke to members of her own coalition and others who question Greece’s willingness to reform and call for it to be kicked out of the 17-nation euro region.
“I am deeply convinced that the new government under the leadership of Prime Minister Samaras will do what it takes to solve the problem in Greece,” Merkel said. “This is a difficult path and Germany has always said it will support Greece on this path.”
Samaras, asked about critical comments made by a senior member of Merkel’s party, said that talk about Greece exiting the euro must stop because it deters investors, undermining the task of sticking to the terms of Greece’s international bailouts.
“The recovery of the economy is of critical importance if we are to achieve our goals,” Samaras said. “What Greece needs is a chance at growth.”
A Greek exit would “not be a problem for the euro” because the region’s financial backstops can help prevent contagion, Volker Kauder, the parliamentary caucus leader of Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union, said on ZDF television.
Merkel rebutted that comment, saying that “it’s the goal of the entire German government that Greece is part of the euro zone.”