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Thousands of protesters descend on Athens as Germany’s Merkel meets with Greece’s Samaras October 10, 2012

Posted by Yilan in Germany, Yunanistan.
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 Protesters burn a flag emblazoned with a swastika during a demonstration against the visit of German Chancellor Angela Merkel in central Athens.

  Prostesters, dressed as Nazis, wave a Greek and a swastika flag as they ride in an open-top car in Syntagma Square in Athens as they protest against the visit of Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel, Oct. 9.
 Greece’s Prime Minister Antonis Samaras (R) and Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel speak before their meeting at the Maximos mansion in Athens, Oct. 9.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel got a hostile reception Tuesday when she made her first visit to Greece since its debt crisis erupted three years ago.

But she praised the current Greek government for covering “much of the ground” required for recovery.

“I hope and wish that Greece remains a member of the eurozone,” Merkel said. “As partners, we are working hard to achieve that.”

Her visit triggered protests attended by some 50,000 demonstrators in Athens. The rallies were mostly peaceful, but police briefly clashed with several dozen demonstrators and detained nearly 200 people throughout the day.

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 Greek government enacted in exchange for emergency aid.

Greece has depended on bailouts from Europe and the International Monetary Fund since May 2010. To get the loans, it has implemented a series of deep budget cuts and tax hikes, while increasing retirement ages and facilitating private sector layoffs. To date, Greece has received €240 billion ($310 billion) in bailout loans and has renegotiated a €110 billion deal on the repayment of some of its bonds.

However, Athens must pass further austerity measures worth €13.5 billion over the next two years to qualify for its next rescue loan payment — without which the government will run out of cash next month.

Merkel’s stop in Athens was welcomed by the Greek government as a much-needed boost for the country’s future in Europe — but protesters viewed it as a harbinger of further austerity and hardship.

Dozens of youths broke away from the peaceful rally and threw rocks and flares at riot police, who responded with pepper spray and stun grenades, in clashes that were relatively minor.

More than 7,000 police had cordoned off parks and other sections of city to keep demonstrators away from the German leader.

As a helicopter buzzed overhead, thousands of protesters, chanting “History is written by the disobedient” gathered in front of Greek parliament. One group of demonstrators burned a Swastika and threw it onto a police barrier, while a group of special forces reservists appeared in uniform and chanted “Merkel out of Greece” in time to their march.

“I have no doubt that (Merkel) has good intentions, and wants to help, but that won’t solve Europe’s problem,” retired teacher Irini Kourdaki said.

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