As the BBC puts it, Greece felt like two different places today: On the one had you had an “amicable and symbolic” state visit by Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel and on the other hand, you had tens of thousands of protesters gathered across Athens who weren’t too happy to see her.
If you don’t remember, Greece has been pressured into strict austerity measures by other European countries like Germany, who have said if the country doesn’t get its fiscal house in order, it wouldn’t receive any more bailout money. Greece desperately needs those emergency funds to pay its debt.
“As Europe’s largest contributor to the bailout fund that has rescued Greece from bankruptcy, Germany is viewed by many Greeks as the primary enforcer of the austerity measures,” the AP reports. That’s why Merkel’s visit — the first since the austerity measures were agreed to — is such a big deal.
“Some demonstrators threw stones and bottles. Police fired tear gas to hold them back, but violent flare-ups were isolated.
“‘I did not come here as a teacher giving grades,’ Merkel said after her meeting, praising Greece for making progress in its debt crisis.
“‘I am convinced that although it’s tough, this path will pay off for Greece,’ she said, drawing parallels to the difficulty of reforms in East Germany when it reunified with West Germany after the collapse of the Soviet Union. ‘Germany will be a good partner and friend along the way.'”
The Los Angeles Times reports that some protesters outside the Greek Parliament building dressed in Nazi uniforms.
The Times adds that despite the meeting between Merkel and Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, much remains up in the air. For example, reports the paper, Greece and its allies have been unable to agree on just how the country achieves $14 billion more in cuts.