Merkel expresses 'respect' for Papandreou stepping down
German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Monday expressed her "respect" during a phone call with Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou for his decision to step down, her spokesman said.
"The chancellor, for her part, expressed her respect for the decision of the prime minister and, from her side, expressed thanks for the good cooperation," Steffen Seibert told reporters at a regular press briefing.
"The chancellor has much respect for George Papandreou's achievements," he said.
"With courage and the ability to see measures through, he has put his country on the right path, and he had to overcome much resistance," he added.
Papandreou had understood that Greece needed far-reaching structural reforms and austerity measures which was "an arduous path with hardships for millions of Greeks", Seibert said.
"But it is also an unavoidable path and to have taken this path is thanks to George Papandreou," he said.
Papandreou and the head of Greece's main opposition party, conservative Antonis Samaras, are holding negotiations on naming a new interim leader tasked with fulfilling the requirements of a massive EU bailout deal.
The historic power-sharing deal was reached in late-night talks Sunday after Papandreou agreed to quit.
The embattled premier had enraged European leaders with a shock announcement last Monday to put the debt-bailout package to a referendum and then hastily withdrew the bid, in a week of tumultuous political drama in the eurozone.
Both Merkel and Papandreou agreed the transition government must now urgently oversee the complete implementation of all decisions taken by EU leaders in Cannes last month before early elections are held, Seibert said.
For his part, Papandreou had thanked the German chancellor during their telephone conversation for the "close and good cooperation in the last months", he added.
© 2011 AFP