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Greek, German leaders move to soothe tensions

05 marca, 2010

Germany\'s economy minister told Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou he would not come away with \"one cent\" from Berlin on Friday as the two eurozone leaders moved to calm rising tensions.

"Papandreou said that he didn\'t want one cent -- in any case the German government will not give one cent," Rainer Bruederle said on the sidelines of an event in Berlin.

Papandreou was due to meet German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin later on Friday following the announcement this week the third wave of spending cuts and tax rises in as many months aimed at restoring trust in Greece\'s solvency.

The 4.8-billion-euro (6.5-billion-dollar) package was enough for Athens to be able to raise an urgently needed five billion euros through a bond issue on Thursday, albeit with a painful six-percent rate of interest.

Merkel said on Friday that the bond issue "provides optimism".

Whether it will be enough to restore investor trust in Greece in the longer term remains to be seen however, and the cutbacks are provoking angry protests in Greece.

Europe\'s biggest economy is widely seen as the most likely candidate to help prevent a Greek default, which would be disastrous for the 16-nation eurozone.

But there is huge opposition in Germany against such a move, with newspapers carrying angry editorials about Greek corruption and wasteful spending and Merkel allies even suggesting Greece should sell some islands to free up some cash.

The mass-circulation Bild wrote its own "letter" to Papandreou on Friday, telling him he was visiting a country where, unlike his own, people "get up early and work the whole day".

"No one here has to pay thousands of euros in bribes to get a hospital bed. We don\'t give pensions to generals\' daughters who can\'t find a husband ... Taxi drivers give receipts and farmers don\'t get billions of euros in EU subsidies for non-existent olive trees," the paper thundered.

German magazine Focus printed a cover image of the famous Venus de Milo statue making an obscene hand gesture. The accompanying article called Greece the "traitor" of the euro for its excessive deficit spending.

This has irked Greek politicians and newspapers, with some claiming that Germany still owed Greece money from World War II, and Papandreou and Merkel both moved to soothe tensions on Friday.

"We haven\'t asked the German taxpayer to bail us out, to pay for our pensions and our holidays. That is not fair," Papandreou told the Frankfurter Allgemeine daily in an interview.

"Nor do Greeks have corruption in [their] blood any more than Germans have National Socialism (the Nazi ideology) in theirs. It is very dangerous when we use stereotypes like this."

Merkel said on Friday that "everything to do with negative emotions is not helpful".

"We should find other solutions to our problems," she told reporters.