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ATHENS NEWS, ZOUGLA (Greece), FOCUS, DAS BILD, DER SPIEGEL, STERN (Germany)

Worldcrunch

ATHENS - German Chancellor Angela Merkel arrived in Greece this morning to a welcome of police, protestors and armored cars, as well as a “wave of hatred,” reported German newsmagazine Stern, which also called Greece a Pleitestaat, or “broke” country.

The Greek government imposed a ban on rallies in Athens today and blocked off large sections of the capital to ensure Merkel’s safety, reported Athens News, which also said that 7000 police were on duty in the central city.

Merkel is hugely unpopular in Greece because Germany, the healthiest economy in the euro zone, is the main source for bailing out Greece, which is sinking under the weight of a huge public debt, caused in part by a lack of fiscal responsibility.

In return, the Germans are demanding that Greece clean up its act before more help is given; in essence, that it become like Germany.

But Germany, too, is in danger if the Greeks fail, as all euro zone countries are tied to the common currency. German taxpayers are incensed at what they see as Greek laxity.

In Greece there has been a culture of both tax avoidance and government aid, and government functionaries were paid far better than in Germany. The deep cuts in government have affected pensions, hospitals, schoolteachers and almost everyone in Greece. But they are not enough, the Germans and the European Bank have said.

All this is background for a fraught confrontation between Merkel and Greek leaders, who have been tossing around the hot potato of fiscal austerity.

Merkel wants to show her approval of Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, who has been in office only since June.

No one wants to be the one to tell the Greek population that drastic cuts must be made immediately. The euro zone authorities have set the Greeks a deadline of October 18 for announcing the cuts if they are to receive the money they must have to keep Greece afloat; the country is bankrupt.

Political chiefs of several other parties have refused to meet with Merkel. Popular television host Giorgos Trangas has called Greece a “German occupation zone” under the “Fourth Reich,” and told Das Bild that Merkel was behaving like a “second Hitler” in demanding sacrifices from the Greek population.

The Greek Internet news site Zougla showed a series of unflattering photos of Merkel with the headline “Persona Non Grata.”

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