October 9, 2012 - 12:03 AMT
PanARMENIAN.Net - German Chancellor Angela Merkel makes her first visit to Greece since the eurozone crisis began here three years ago. Her five-hour stop is seen by the government as a historic boost for the country's future in Europe's shared currency, but by protesters as a harbinger of more austerity and hardship, The Associated Press reports.
More than 7,000 police will be on hand, cordoning off parks and other sections of central Athens, to keep demonstrators away from the German leader who is due to arrive in the Greek capital at 1:30 pm (1030GMT) Tuesday, Oct 9, for talks with conservative Prime Minister Antonis Samaras.
Many of Europe's leading politicians have avoided official travel to Greece and the risk of a hostile reception, as the debt-saddled country struggled to keep up with commitments needed to guarantee rescue loan payments and long-term euro membership.
But Merkel, heading Europe's largest bailout contributor, accepted Samaras' invitation to Athens despite failure by his government so far to conclude a massive new austerity package. The cuts will save €13.5 billion ($17.5 billion) but doom Greece to a sixth year of recession in 2013.
After months of tough rhetoric, the German chancellor may be preparing her own voters for a more tolerant approach toward Greece ahead of federal elections next year, according to Jason Manolopoulos, author of the 2011 book on Europe's financial crisis "Greece's Odious Debt."
In Athens, Merkel will meet with Samaras and President Karolos Papoulias, the largely ceremonial head of state, in adjacent buildings before flying back out of the country