Mar 23, 2015 10:42 AM
Greece's PM on first trip to Germany amid tense relations
The Associated Press
BERLIN (AP) Alexis Tsipras is visiting Germany for the first time since becoming Greece's prime minister, meeting Chancellor Angela Merkel on Monday as his debt-ridden nation and its key creditor seek to halt a downward spiral in relations.
Tsipras' visit comes after Merkel and other European leaders last week told Greece to come up soon with budget cuts and tax increases that would enable it to get urgently needed bailout money.
Merkel, however, has said Monday's meeting "is not the place for any lists with proposed reforms to be submitted." She said those must go to Greece's international debt inspectors, not to Germany itself.
Tsipras' first weeks in office have been marked by tensions over the two governments' contrasting approaches to Greece's debt crisis and over Athens' revival of calls for new reparations from Berlin stemming from Germany's World War II occupation of Greece.
Tsipras' party won in January after campaigning against the spending cuts favored by Germany in exchange for 240 billion euros ($260 billion) in international bailout money. His new government agreed a month ago to push through reforms in exchange for keeping European Union aid flowing, but has delayed submitting the measures for approval.
A detailed reform list should be presented "by early next week," Greek government spokesman Gavriil Sakellaridis told private Mega television on Monday. He insisted that "the Greek government will not take any recessionary measures" that will weigh down the country's troubled economy.
German officials have complained about their Greek counterparts making commitments and then publicly casting doubt on them, but also insist the debt spat isn't a bilateral matter.
German Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel told ARD television he hopes for a "new beginning" in relations.
"The Greek government must clearly recognize that the rest of Europe, Germany too, wants to help. But that we cannot do that without something in return, without fair agreements on the necessary reforms," he said though he agreed that the "social hardship is huge" in Greece and must be addressed.
Merkel's governing coalition insists talk of wartime reparations has no place in discussions of Greece's current debt troubles. Greece, however, believes it is due payments for its wrecked infrastructure, war crimes and a loan that occupied Greece was forced to make to the Nazis.
German officials say the matter has been resolved through previous payments and agreements.
The two countries' foreign ministers met Sunday night and agreed to work on strengthening relations. German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said the debt crisis must not be allowed to "erode the strong foundations of German-Greek relations."
Greek counterpart Nikos Kotzias, in an interview with German daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung, advocated creating a German-Greek panel of experts to examine the reparations issue but Germany promptly made clear that it isn't interested.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Martin Schaefer reiterated that "for us, the chapter of reparations is politically and legally concluded."
Gabriel said "it makes no sense to make an attempt now to exert moral pressure on Germany along the lines of, 'You must accommodate us more on the question of the euro and in the debt crisis.'"
"The two things have nothing to do with each other," he added.
The parliamentary chief whip of Merkel's conservatives, Michael Grosse-Broemer, was blunter.
"The reparations demands were another distraction from Greece to divert attention from their own failings," Grosse-Broemer told Deutschlandfunk radio.
Derek Gatopoulos in Athens contributed to this report.