Merkel Tells Portuguese: Austerity Program Makes Growth Sustainable

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said during her first official visit to Portugal on Monday that Lisbon’s austerity measures were laying the foundation for future economic growth.

“I feel a great determination to master this difficult phase,” the chancellor said after meeting Portuguese Prime Minister Pedro Passos Coelho, while rejecting accusations by Portuguese critics that she was the architect of austerity policies seen as impoverishing the country.

“This is not a program that has been invented by Germany or any other country,” Merkel said.

Merkel, however, conceded that while she believed the spending cuts and structural reforms implemented by Portugal would benefit the country in the long-run, the measures have spelled hardship for the population.

Protests were a part of democracy, the chancellor said, in a reference to constant rallies faced by Passos Coelho in recent months. However, they should not prevent politicians from doing what was necessary, she added.

Hundreds of people demonstrated against the chancellor’s visit, displaying slogans such as “Merkel out of here”.

Protesters gathering outside the presidential palace demanded “the right to work and to be valued.”

The demonstrators included artists and far-left politicians.

Protesters tore down protective fences and displayed a Hitler-like doll outside a building where Merkel was due to meet with entrepreneurs, but no clashes were reported.

Many people working at offices, schools or factories wore black to “mourn” Merkel’s presence. The chancellor represented “a policy of a massacre of the poor,” said Joao Camargo from one of the protest groups.

Portugal entered the Troika bailout mechanism in 2011 and imposed strict austerity program against 100 billion euro. (Full story here)

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