MUNICH Dec 9 Greek Prime Minister Antonis
Samaras said he was looking forward to a "new start" in Greece's
relations with the conservative German state of Bavaria, one of
his country's harshest critics, ahead of his visit there on
Samaras' trip to meet with Bavaria's State Premier Horst
Seehofer is another sign of the new thaw in Greek-German
relations that started when Chancellor Angela Merkel visited
Athens in October this year and was convinced of Greek
government's commitment to painful reforms.
Samaras told the Muenchner Merkur newspaper in an interview
published in its weekend edition: "We are partners, we share the
same values and ideals."
"We have nothing to hide from each other, but a lot to gain
when we talk. I'm looking forward to a new start in our
Merkel and her centre-right government have taken a much
more conciliatory tone on Greece, a country previously branded a
"bottomless pit" by some of her lawmakers, focusing instead on
the progress made by Greece and the suffering of its citizens as
tough reforms bite.
Seehofer and his Christian Social Union (CSU), sister party
to Merkel's conservatives, have fallen into line behind the
Chancellor, acknowledging that bailing out Greece is less costly
than the chaos that would follow if it left the euro zone.
Previously CSU deputies had taken a tough stance, repeatedly
calling for Greece to be thrown out of the euro zone, suggesting
its civil servants be paid in drachmas and likening bailing out
Greece to "watering flowers in the desert".
Samaras visit to Bavaria comes little under two weeks after
Greece's international creditors clinched agreement on reducing
the country's debt, allowing the release of urgently needed
loans to keep the near-bankrupt economy afloat.
On Saturday a Greek government official said the country was
set to buy back around half of its debt owned by private
investors, broadly succeeding in a bond buyback that is key to
Bavarians consider themselves passionate Europeans and
readily admit they have benefited hugely from the euro zone,
with the larger part of their goods and services exported to the
region. Yet the affluent state, where traditional values are
held dear, is also proud of its balanced budget and has little
time for profligacy.
Travelling to Bavaria to face his critics is the latest move
in Samaras' charm offensive with the German public. In an
interview with mass-market newspaper Bild three days ago he said
he aimed to bring about a "spectacular" transformation in Greece
and that more had been achieved in the last two months than in
the previous three decades.
"We're working on a success story. Everyone will realise
that soon," he said in the interview.
Behind the scenes Germany has long been trying to promote
projects and corporate networks that can bring German business
acumen to Greece as well as twinning towns to try and bring
Germans and Greeks closer together.