Angela Merkel’s last visit to Greece, a country still marked by years of austerity

Eleven years after the start of the debt crisis, a painful chapter that left a lasting mark on the relationship between the two countries, German Chancellor Angela Merkel arrived in Greece on Thursday, October 28, for her last official visit.

Relations between the two countries “Have had their ups and downs, but are based on solid foundations, underlined the German Chancellor during a meeting with the Greek President, Ekateríni Sakellaropoulou. What gave us strength during this time was that we always had the feeling of being together ”.

Austerity under supervision

Mme Sakellaropoulou recalled that “Greece had been called upon to pay a heavy price” during the last decade, especially because of the austerity measures demanded by the government of Mme Merkel in return for financial aid to avoid the country’s bankruptcy.

With her finance minister at the time, Wolfgang Schäuble, the German Chancellor demanded from Athens budget cuts and drastic tax increases to reduce the deficits accumulated for years in exchange for three international bailouts of more than 300 billion euros between 2010 and 2018, of which Berlin was the main contributor.

Read the decryption: The Greek crisis in nine austerity plans, three aid plans and one re-election

The pensions received are reduced, the minimum wage falls to around 500 euros, privatizations are taking place in several economic sectors, public services and in particular hospitals must operate under-staffed. This austerity, imposed under the supervision of the European Union (EU), the European Central Bank (ECB) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), allows the country to remain in the EU at the cost of destruction. part of its economy: the unemployment rate reaches up to 28%, and more than 60% among the youngest.

For a large part of the Greek people, the efforts requested are seen as reckless. In 2012, at the height of the crisis, Merkel is greeted in Greece by a large rally against the austerity policy with Nazi swastikas and caricatures of her with a Hitler mustache.

“The most difficult moment of [mon] mandate “

The election of the radical left leader, Alexis Tsipras, in January 2015, marks the start of an even more stormy period. The Greek Prime Minister wishes “Tear up the memoranda”, and call “Merkel to go home”. Athens is threatened with being excluded from the euro zone, before giving in under pressure to its creditors and resolving to further austerity measures.

Read the interview: Article reserved for our subscribers Alexis Tsipras: “The intransigence of certain leaders could be fatal to the European Union”

During an interview with image, in September, the one presented by the tabloid as “One of the most hated women in Greece” had confided that “The most difficult moment of her mandate was when she had asked so much of Greece”. Mme Merkel had already returned to Greece in 2019, the opportunity to mark the start of a more peaceful relationship between the two countries. Mr. Tsipras even admitted that “The difficulties were behind […] ».

His current visit will be devoted to more geopolitical than financial issues, with discussions planned on the European energy crisis, the migration issue, the situation in Libya or even relations with Turkey, according to a Greek government source quoted by Agence France. -Hurry.

“Generation Merkel”, a five-part series

Le Monde with AP and AFP

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Angela Merkel’s last visit to Greece, a country still marked by years of austerity