Merkel Sets April 11 Athens Visit

German Chancellor Angela Merkel is expected to come back to Athens on April 11 for the first time in 18 months to give a boost to Prime Minister Antonis Samaras’ reform-led government and show support for the ongoing austerity measures he imposed on orders of international lenders, Germany the biggest among them.

Greece is set to receive a fresh installment of 8.3 billion euros from the European Union after Samaras’ coalition government rammed a reform bill through Parliament after fierce infighting in the ruling parties of his New Democracy Conservatives and his coalition partner the PASOK Socialists.

Greece is surviving on 240 billion euros in two bailouts from the Troika of the European Union-International Monetary Fund-European Central Bank (EU-IMF-ECB), most of which will run out this year. Those came on condition of big pay cuts, tax hikes and slashed pensions which Merkel insisted on.

German media suggested that Merkel’s visit to Athens was meant as a display of support to the Greek premier and his efforts to implement the country’s pledged reforms although they are unpopular and led to nearly four years of protests, strikes and riots, all to no avail.

Merkel’s last visit to Greece was in October 2012 when there were fierce demonstrations. The government has ordered a ban on protests during high-level visits of foreign officials.