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22ndannualcapital

Angela Merkel's visit ends in praise and admonition

Angela Merkel had only good things to say about the PM's fiscal adjustment efforts. As for structural reforms, she didn't fail to mix her compliments with caution about their continuation.

In her early afternoon press conference with the PM, in front of "Greek startups" and small business owners, she even made a stab at a joke, saying that Mr. Samaras' friends might not want to talk to him after they find out what the two leaders would be talking about. Not exactly a crowd pleasing joke, but an attempt to make light out of the situation nonetheless.

“I know Greeks are having a hard time and they will continue to do so”, she said in the evening press conference standing next to Samaras. “Young people I've met have asked me for less bureaucracy and support in the Greek marketplace”, she pointed out, repeating what young businessmen obviously discussed with her.

That was her take on the Greek business community she encountered on her short visit. But she had a few words for the other side of Greece, which was in the background of her visit, too. “The primary surplus obviously means nothing to the unemployed”, she accepted. “Still, there have to be new healthy structures first, before the fruit of the reforms start appearing”, she added, reiterating her strong belief that the reforms will bring growth and employment in the end.

As for the future and the discussion about the country's debt restructure, the Chancellor was not as forthcoming as the PM would have hoped for. She said that the talks about Greece's future have yet to be completed, since the program will be completed by the end of 2014. “Then we'll see what happens with the debt viability”, she added. If one could read the PM's mind at that time, they would have felt the disappointment. Still, his expression remained motionless.

The only substantial commitment she offered the battered PM was that Germany would help Greece's liquidity problem as soon as the country's primary surplus is confirmed in a couple of months. She talked about the long awaited investment fund which will be available soon and promised that her country would offer assistance in hospital sustainability and renewable energy sources.

PM Samaras talked again about the sacrifices of the Greek people, which have changed the country's image since the last time the Chancellor visited the country a year and a half ago. He reiterated his staunch belief that there will be no need for further Troika funding and highlighted the agreement about the Greek-German liquidity fund which “could evolve into an investment bank”. Naturally, he thanked the Chancellor for her visit and kind words.

What was obvious from the press conference given minutes before the two leaders went to dinner in a picturesque Plaka restaurant, was that they were talking each to their own respective electorate. Samaras's statements were in full campaign mode, with frequent spikes against opposition SYRIZA, while Merkel's comments were meant as an assurance to the German public that the program worked in Greece, yet there's more Greek concessions / sacrifices to be made by the Greeks.