German Chancellor Angela Merkel arrived in Greece on her first visit since Europe's debt crisis erupted  three years ago, braving protests to deliver a message of support - but no new money - to a nation hammered by recession and fighting to stay in the European Union.

Thousands of Greeks defied a ban on protests, gathering in Syntagma square in central Athens as Merkel's plane touched down. Two protesters dressed in German military uniforms waved a red-black-and-white swastika flag and held out their arms in the Nazi salute.