ATHENS – Germany isn’t relenting on the harsh austerity measures it demanded in return for being the biggest contributor to $325 billion in two bailout packages to keep the Greek economy from collapsing.
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, on a two-day official visit to the Greek capital, said the government must stock to reforms no matter the political cost.
He met with Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, the New Democracy Conservative leader, and the premier’s coalition partner, PASOK Socialist chief Evangelos Venizelos, who is the Deputy PM/Foreign Minister.
“I see that the government is determined to stay the course notwithstanding the political cost and the risks involved,” the German envoy told journalists, adding that a number of pressing issues remain, most importantly youth unemployment, which is still near 60 percent.
Last year, Samaras pledged to announce a program this month to put 75,000 of those under 25 to work but hasn’t said a word about it since. Ironically, Greece now holds the rotating, symbolic European Union Presidency until June 30 and has pledged to help fight youth unemployment in the 28-member bloc but hasn’t done anything about it at home.
Steinmeier, who planned to meet with representatives of Greece’s opposition parties before wrapping up his visit, said his visit to Athens was an expression of solidarity for the crisis-hit nation, although critics have said previously that means Greece is being pressed not to let up on big pay cuts, tax hikes, slashed pensions and public worker firings.