Greece is a very different country from the one that outgoing Angela Merkel first visited as German chancellor a decade ago, according to Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis.
“Merkel was the voice of reason and stability. At times unfair, but decisive, as in 2015, when she refused the expulsion of Greece from Europe," Mitsotakis said during joint statements with outgoing German chancellor after a meeting between delegations of the two sides in Athens.
The premier was referring to a financial crisis that led to years of painful austerity measures for Greece, and some friction between Athens and its richer neighbors in Berlin.
The two leaders spoke about Greek-Turkish relations, how Greece faced the COVID-19 pandemic, and its financial recovery after years of recession.
Asked about sometimes-fraught relations with Turkey, Mitsotakis said: “My door is always open for a constructive dialogue.”
He added, referring to Merkel: "I know your firm position in favor of dialogue and the easing of tensions.”
He said that “Western equanimity” often serves to encourage what he called “Turkish arbitrariness,” adding: “It is time for European principles to be transformed into European practice."
He argued that Greece only wants friends and good relations with its neighbors, guided by international law and the law of the sea, but it will not tolerate threats.
“My position is crystal clear," he stated.
Athens, Berlin found 'common path' out of crisis
Merkel, for her part, described German-Greek relations as “quite lively.”
“The difficulties were a given when it came to the stability of the euro and I was personally fully aware of the excessive burden that this meant and the challenge that this meant for the people in Greece,” she said.
“In the end, we managed to find a common path, to keep in step for Greece to remain a member of the EU.”
As for Turkish-Greek relations, which include such issues as disputes over setting fair maritime boundaries, Merkel said there are a number of challenges, but underlined the importance of continued dialogue with Turkey.
“We discussed yesterday and today with intensity that United Nations resolutions and international law must apply, and we believe that it is important but difficult to find answers and solutions through dialogue," she added.
Earlier on Friday, Merkel was received by Greek President Katerina Sakellaropoulou at the presidential mansion.
"I welcome a great politician who has shaped the policy of Germany and of Europe for nearly two decades," Sakellaropoulou said in her meeting with Merkel.
"Greece paid a heavy price," she added, while thanking Merkel for "preserving bilateral relations and your pro-European stance."
Germany’s outgoing chancellor made strong efforts last year to de-escalate tensions between Greece and Turkey.
Ankara has criticized Greece for pursuing maximalist policies in the Eastern Mediterranean and underlined that its maritime claims violate Turkey’s sovereign rights.