Merkel in Athens as Prespes deal threatens government stability

Economy issues and the future of the Macedonia name change deal will be high in the agenda

Photo: EPA Greece`s PM Alexis Tsipras and German Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel (R) at the European Council in Brussels in December 2018

German Chancellor Angela Merkel arrives in Greece today for the first time in nearly five years as Alexis Tsipras' government is facing a possible loss of its parliamentary majority. During her two-day visit, Merkel will first and foremost urge Greece to press on with tough economic reforms and maintain strict fiscal discipline. Her visit, however, will not only focus on the economy. It will also address the Prespes name deal with neighbouring Macedonia with Merkel reiterating Germany’s positive stance towards the agreement and expressing her support for the greek prime minister.

The timing for the trip is not accidental since it comes at precarious moment when in Macedonia the Parliament is concluding the process of the constitutional procedure for the ratification of the agreement and in Greece - Tsipras' junior coalition parter, the Independent Greeks led by Defence Minister Panos Kammenos, threatens to pull support for the name-deal.

In this regard on Friday, the Chancellor will also meet conservative opposition leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis - who is opposed to the deal with Macedonia, as well.

The chancellor knows, from her briefings from the German Embassy in Athens, that the FYROM name dispute was a political challenge not for Tsipras - whose supporters and voters have traditionally been in favor of a solution that would include some compromises - but for Mitsotakis. Had the New Democracy leader supported the deal, he would have risked the breakup of his party - a loyal member of the European People’s Party group and a pillar of political stability in the country. And at today’s political juncture, neither Greece, nor the Balkans, would benefit from the creation of a new political movement in Greece that could easily fall prey to influences from other powers.

In addition, as a party that respects the continuation of the state, ND will, if it comes to power, go along with the implementation of the deal. Hence, the normalisation of bilateral relations between Greece and Macedonia will move ahead, and the latter will join NATO.

Besides those topics, the issue of World War Two reparations for Greek victims of the brutal Nazi occupation and the repayment of a loan Greece was forced to make to Germany at that time is also expected to be raised during Merkel's two-day visit, diplomats said. Germany has dismissed Athens' demands but the Greek president raised the issue when his German counterpart visited Athens last October.

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