German Chancellor Angela Merkel has arrived in Greece amid a heavy security presence that has seen up to 7,000 police officers being called up for duty in the country’s biggest security operation for a decade.
The visit is the first time the Chancellor has visited Greece despite the troubles facing the embattled nation beginning in 2008. Many Greeks are furious at the Germans regarding Merkel as the cause for their austerity nightmare.
Merkel’s visit coincides with Greece’s latest attempts to pass through new austerity cuts of up to €13billion. Greek premier Antonis Samaras needs to get the cuts approved by his government and the Troika if the nation is to qualify for more bailout funds and to avoid running out of cash in November.
Ahead of Ms Merkels arrival a massive security operation was underway in Athens which saw thousands of police officers take to the streets and cordon off a large portion of the capital. All public gatherings and protests have been banned until 10pm tonight, and a 100m radius of the route of Merkels motorcade will be cleared of any possible troublemakers.
Despite these restrictions being enforced, two large protests are taking place elsewhere in the city. The Left wing press has called for massive non-violent demonstrations and the largest union is holding a protest in Syntagma square. One union leader, Nikos Papageorgiou, said at the rally: “These measures are hitting every Greek family – hurting our children.People should not be afraid to protest because of the police measures. No-one can deny us the right to ask for a better life.”
Mr Bournos a spokesman for the leftist Syriza party said; “People are frustrated and enraged because they clearly understand that Mrs Merkel’s visit is just a theatre play for the political support of a collapsing coalition,”
An Athens resident said: “She should see how the people are suffering”
Yesterday, public order minister Nikos Dendias appealed to protesters to “protect the peace, and above all our country’s prospects and our international image”, Reuters news agency reported.
The Greek government says the visit is a “positive step”.
Merkel is expected to stay in Athens until this evening and will meet ministers in a show of support the struggling coalition government.
As of 12:20pm
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