Athens: Assailants have raked the German ambassador’s residence with gunfire in an attack that caused no injuries, according to Greek police.
Police found 60 spent bullet casings at the scene and detained six people in connection with the incident, which occurred early on Monday morning in an affluent suburb north of Athens. The casings came from two Kalashnikov assault rifles, police say.
No one has claimed responsibility for the attack, but anti-German sentiment has been festering among many Greeks struggling with record unemployment and reduced salaries under a harsh austerity plan required for Greece’s international bailout. Germany had a major role in setting the terms of the bailout.
“Nothing, but really nothing, can justify such an attack on a representative of our country,” the German foreign minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, said in a statement in Berlin. He said Germany took the attack seriously, and a Foreign Ministry spokesman said Greek authorities had reacted swiftly and assured Germany they would strengthen security in Athens.
The spokesman said German Chancellor Angela Merkel received a phone call from Prime Minister Antonis Samaras of Greece, which for the next six months will hold the rotating presidency of the European Union. Greece can count on Germany’s full support, he added.
“The Greek government expresses its abhorrence and utter condemnation of today’s cowardly act of terrorism, the sole and obvious target of which was Greece’s image abroad just a few days before the start of the Hellenic Presidency of the Council of the EU,” the Greek Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
Although no group has claimed responsibility for the attack, the incident follows an apparent rise in violent incidents by both far-right and far-left groups in Greece.
Germany is the largest contributor to Greece’s 240 billion euro (A$370 billion) bailout. Recently, Mr Samaras has been pressing Germany to reduce and renegotiate Athens’ delinquent debts as it grapples with a wrenching five-year recession – something Germany has refused to do.
That has also fed persistent low-grade anger over hundreds of billions of euros in reparations that Greeks say Germany owes the country from World War II, money that some say should go toward helping to forgive Greece’s debt. Greek newspapers regularly run articles on how much money Germany owes Greece.
Greece has made some progress in improving its finances – so much so that it is forecast to have a primary surplus before debt payments in 2014 for the first time in five years. But Greece still faces a mountain of debt that economists say is all but unpayable unless some new form of forgiveness is extended to Athens.
Over the weekend, Jens Weidmann, the chairman of the German Bundesbank and a member of the European Central Bank’s Governing Council, ruled out another reduction in Greece’s state debt, saying in a German newspaper interview that Athens still needed to press ahead with a number of reforms as required by the terms of its bailout.
While financial markets have calmed recently, he told the newspaper Bild, “this could be some misleading safety. The crisis could be fanned again like a fire.”
His remarks echoed those of the German finance minister, Wolfgang Schauble, who is widely reviled in Greece. During a visit to Athens this summer, police locked down the center of the city to pedestrian and car traffic as helicopters flew overhead, leaving the streets in a ghostly state of quiet. The scenes were reminiscent of when Ms Merkel visited Greece in 2012.
Representatives of the so-called troika of lenders – the ECB, the International Monetary Fund and the European Commission – are scheduled to return to Athens in January to resume talks over a fresh 4.9 billion euro tranche of aid.
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