Merkel's visit creates tension in Athens

Greece is bracing itself for strikes, protests and potential violence as German Chancellor Angela Merkel heads to Athens to signal her strongest support yet for a government struggling to implement fresh austerity cuts.

Merkel is the first German chancellor to visit Greece in decades and is making her first trip since the debt crisis began here three years ago.

Deemed highly symbolic, Merkel’s seven-hour stay signals the attempt by Europe’s most powerful lender to keep its poorest peer, Greece, within the 17-nation eurozone.

Merkel also has a desire to further mend relations with Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, who was among the Chancellor’s most outspoken critics at the start of the crisis.

“The stakes are enormous,” said George Pagoulatos, professor of European Politics and Economy at Athens University. “It is a seminal moment for Europe.”

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