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March 31, 2023

Protesters rally as Merkel visits austerity-hit Greece

The German Chancellor pledges support.

Tens of thousands of people gathered in Athens Tuesday to protest a visit by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who is viewed by many Greeks as being behind their country’s suffering, CNN reports.Critics see Merkel as the main enforcer of the European Union-imposed austerity measures that have left a large number of Greeks unemployed and streaming to soup kitchens for a hot meal. Police estimate as many as 25,000 people have turned out to demonstrate in central Athens, despite a ban on protests in certain areas amid beefed-up security for Merkel’s visit.Merkel, who arrived in Athens early Tuesday afternoon, met with Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras during her six-hour stay.A number of arrests were made in Syntagma Square, by the Greek parliament building, with missiles thrown at police as tensions began to rise. Many protesters, some of whom belong to labor unions and Syriza, the radical-left opposition party, are carrying anti-Merkel banners.“Merkel we are a free nation and not your colony,” said one banner. Another read, “Merkel Raus (out, in German). Murderer of 3,500 Greeks,” a reference to the number of Greeks who have taken their own lives, according to some estimates, as a result of the current hardship. The Greek government is seeking new ways to implement budget cuts of 11.5 billion euros (USD 14.49 billion) to ensure the country receives another international bailout installment later this month.According to BBC, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has pledged her country’s continuing support to Greece, during her first visit to Athens since the eurozone crisis erupted nearly three years ago. Mrs Merkel said Greece had made good progress in dealing with its vast debt but that it was on a “difficult path”. At a news conference after talks with Mr Samaras and business leaders, Mrs Merkel said the pace of reform in Greece had recently “picked up considerably” and that the country had “a good bit of the path” behind it. She acknowledged that there were “many people suffering in Greece” as a result of the financial crisis and austerity measures, but that the difficult path was necessary to ensure future generations could live in prosperity.Mr Samaras said their meeting had been “dominated by frankness, mutual understanding, solidarity, a spirit of collaboration and a feeling that we can overcome the Greek problem, and obviously, the European problems alike”. He said Greece was “determined to fulfill its obligations and overcome this crisis” and was determined to stay in the eurozone.Speaking in Syntagma Square, Syriza leader Alexis Tsipras said Merkel had come to Athens in support of Samaras and his ministers “while the people are on their knees ahead of new, barbaric measures.” But, he said, her visit would allow the Greek people to send a message to the rest of the Europe that they were stronger than those supporting the bankers and bailouts.To comply with the belt-tightening measures, salaries have been cut for many workers in Greece, pensions and benefits have been slashed and unemployment rates have soared. As of May 2012, 53.8% of Greeks younger than 25 were unemployed, according to Eurostat, the statistics division of the European Commission.

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