The Straits Times
Published on Oct 05, 2012

Unions plan rowdy welcome when Merkel visits Greece next week


BERLIN (AP) - German Chancellor Angela Merkel will travel to Greece next week for the first time since the debt crisis erupted to meet the country's prime minister - who warned on Friday that Athens will run out of money at the end of November if it doesn't receive the next part of its bailout loans.

Because Germany has been instrumental in pushing Greece to make austerity cuts in exchange for its bailout loans, Dr Merkel has routinely been the object of anger at public protests in Athens. Her photograph has been manipulated by Greek newspapers to look like a Nazi officer and a prisoner at Guantanamo Bay.

Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras said her visit on Tuesday was good news. "We will receive her as befits the leader of a great power and a friendly country," he told reporters in Athens. But Greece's main labor unions were swift to call a protest rally outside Parliament on Tuesday and a three-hour work stoppage in Athens.

Dr Merkel's spokesman, Mr Steffen Seibert, was at pains to portray the trip, her first since July 2007, as "a normal visit." It follows an invitation that Mr Samaras made when he visited Berlin in August.