Some 50,000 protesters turned out to greet Angela Merkel in Athens Tuesday, in the German chancellor's first visit to the fiscally beleaguered country in five years.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel got a hostile reception from many ordinary Greeks Tuesday when she flew into Athens on her first visit to the country since its debt crisis erupted three years ago.
But she praised the current Greek government for covering "much of the ground" required for recovery.
Her visit triggered protests attended by some 50,000 demonstrators in Athens. The rallies were mostly peaceful, but police briefly clashed with several dozen demonstrators and detained nearly 200 people throughout the day.
As Europe's largest contributor to the bailout fund that has rescued Greece from bankruptcy, Germany is viewed by many Greeks as the primary enforcer of the austerity measures the Greek government enacted in exchange for emergency aid.
Merkel, who stopped in Athens for five hours, said the coalition government led by Prime Minister Antonis Samaras still had to push through more key cost-cutting reforms.
"Much of the ground has been covered ... There is daily progress," Merkel said after talks with Samaras. "This is an effort that should be seen through because otherwise it would make the circumstances even more dramatic later on."
Although the German leader damped expectations in Athens of a stronger message of public support for Greece, Samaras saidMerkel's visit had ended "the country's international isolation."
Greece has depended on bailouts from Europe and the International Monetary Fund since May 2010. To get the loans, it has implemented a series of deep budget cuts and tax hikes, while increasing retirement ages and facilitating private sector layoffs.