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Greece's Papandreou says WWII reparations issue still open

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Greece's Papandreou says WWII reparations issue still open
Photo: DPA
12:10 CET+01:00
Greek Prime Minister Georgios Papandreou said the issue of German reparations for World War II was still “open,” potentially putting Athens on a collision course with Berlin as it contends with a crippling debt crisis.

“That's an open issue,” Papandreou said on Thursday in Brussels while attempting to shore up EU support for Greece's efforts to stay solvent. “But it's not advisable to put it on the table right now.”

He admitted dredging up the past would send the wrong signal at a time Greece needed backing from fellow eurozone members to contend with its crushing mountain of debt, which was a problem of its own making.

“We're not looking for a scapegoat,” Papandreou said.

Though several other Greek politicians have suggested Germany still owes Greece compensation for the Nazi occupation during World War II, it is the first time Papandreou has suggested the issue is unresolved.

His deputy Theodoros Pangalos has said Germany never repaid Greece for gold stolen by the Nazis, but Germany says it has already paid millions of euros worth of reparations on several occasions over the decades.

Relations between Athens and Berlin have been burdened by nasty insults hurled in the media in recent weeks. While the Greeks have labelled Germany “fiscal Nazis” for demanding that Greece get its financial house in order, the Germans have suggested Greece sell a few islands and accused them of threatening the euro by doctoring their books to get into the single currency.

But Chancellor Angela Merkel's spokesman said on Friday Germany is open to International Monetary Fund aid for Greece.

"The German government does not rule out aid from the IMF if Greece requests it," spokesman Ulrich Wilhelm said at a regular news conference.

Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble earlier this month floated the idea of a eurozone version of the IMF, with Berlin keen to see the 11-year-old, 16-nation currency union able to solve its own problems. IMF aid to Greece would also involve the United States, since Washington is the biggest contributor to the fund.

Merkel's spokesman stressed that possible aid to Greece and the creation of a European lender of last resort, which Berlin believes would require changes to the EU's governing treaties, were two very separate issues.

"The questions have to be differentiated, for example for whether there will be support for Greece ... plays no role in the issue of treaty changes," Wilhelm said.

He said that any changes to the EU treaties, the prospect of which has received a cool response from some of Germany's EU partners including France, would be "very laborious" and would take "several years."

He said that talks on creating an EMF "should be discussed further, and are being discussed further ... and are in no way over." Wilhelm also stressed that Greece has not asked for aid.

"There is no decision pending because Greece has not asked for help and because we expect Greece to be able to solve its problems with its consolidation efforts," he said.

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