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Merkel's Athens trip is a chance to show solidarity: German politicians

BERLIN--German Chancellor Angela Merkel's visit to debt-wracked Greece this week is a chance to show solidarity and recognition of its efforts, government and opposition parties said Sunday.

Merkel's trip to Athens on Tuesday is “an act of recognition for the Greek government which is under great pressure with its reform policy,” Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said.

The minister, who is from the Free Democratic Party (FDP), a junior partner in the centre-right coalition, told Monday's Bild newspaper that the Greeks had earned “fairness and respect.”

For his part, the FDP's parliamentary chief, Rainer Bruederle, told the Welt am Sonntag newspaper that the chancellor's visit was “a clear sign of our solidarity with Greece.”

Politicians from the opposition Social Democratic Party (SPD) and Greens struck a similar tone ahead of the visit, Merkel's first to Greece since the eurozone debt crisis ignited nearly three years ago.

Relations between Greece and Europe's effective paymaster Germany have been strained, with Merkel blamed in Athens for imposing austerity at all costs and the Greeks criticized in Berlin for not keeping promises.

Merkel must make it clear that “we are helping out of mutual interest and not as a rich uncle who knows everything better,” European Parliament president Martin Schulz, an SPD member, told the Leipziger Volkszeitung.

Late Sunday, German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, told public television channel ZDF that the point of Merkel's visit was not to weigh in on what the “troika” must decide, referring to Greece's international creditors, the International Monetary Fund, the European Central Bank and the European Union.

The group must approve spending cuts necessary to unblock a 31.5-billion-euro installment from Greece's second EU-IMF rescue package.

“The troika must say if Greece is or isn't fulfilling its obligations,” Schauble said.

The Green party's parliamentary group leader Juergen Trittin meanwhile urged Merkel in the Welt am Sonntag to make clear to the Greeks that “they can count on European solidarity on the hard path ahead of them.”

Merkel's spokesman Steffen Seibert said Friday the message she would take to Athens would be that “we want to help Greece stabilize itself within the eurozone.”

“We are doing that by massively contributing to the two aid packages that are supposed to help Greece come out of the crisis,” he said, stressing that aid was possible only if Greece stuck to the austerity cuts demanded by international creditors.

Nevertheless, he said Berlin saw greater efforts being made under Prime Minister Antonis Samaras.

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 UK leader tells Europe he can veto EU budget, 
German Chancellor Angela Merkel speaks during a Youth Union convention in Rostock, Friday, Oct. 5. Merkel's visit to debt-wracked Greece this week is a chance to show solidarity and recognition of its efforts, government and opposition parties said Sunday, Oct. 7.

(AFP)

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