Update: Germany rejects new Greek demand for war payments

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Update: Germany rejects new Greek demand for war payments
Merkel and Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras during her visit to Athens in January. Photo: DPA

Germany on Wednesday rejected a fresh demand from Greece for hundreds of billions of euros in World War I and II reparations, insisting the issue had been legally settled decades ago.


The leftist government of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras had called on Berlin in a diplomatic verbal note to negotiate the issue just a month before elections where it faces the risk of defeat.

In Berlin, a foreign ministry spokesman reiterated that -- while Germany stands by its moral responsibility and seeks "dialogue with Greece" and a "common culture of remembrance" -- it considers the payments issue closed.

"Over 70 years after the end of the war and more than 25 years after the Two Plus Four Treaty (allowing Germany's 1990 reunification), the question of reparations has been legally and politically settled," said the spokesman, Rainer Breul.

A Greek parliamentary committee last year determined that Germany owes Greece at least €270 billion for World War I damages and World War II looting, atrocities and a forced loan to the Nazi regime.

In addition, the Greek state accounting office has estimated that private claims for war dead and invalids could be worth a further €107 billion.

Germany has repeatedly apologised to Greece for past crimes but insists that when it comes to actual payments, the issue was finalised in 1960 in a deal with several European governments.

Berlin says all former claims were finally settled with the 1990 Two-Plus Four Agreement signed by the former West and East Germany and the post-war occupying powers the United States, Britain, France and the Soviet Union.

'Historical responsibility'

During the Greek economic crisis, which began in 2010, Germany footed a large share of the multi-billion dollar rescue bill.

SEE ALSO: Merkel says Germany recognizes responsibility for Nazi war crimes in Greece

There was tension in Athens over draconian EU austerity and bailout terms seen to be imposed by Berlin hardliners and scheduled debt repayments run beyond 2060.

Reclaiming war reparations from Berlin has been a campaign pledge by Tsipras since 2015.

However, he had put the issue on the back-burner in recent years as he worked with Germany to keep highly indebted Greece in the eurozone and to manage migration and Balkans security.

Ahead of early elections on July 7th, Tsipras trails in the polls and is currently battling to galvanise his Syriza party after losing European and local elections over the last two weeks.

The Greek parliament in April also voted through a resolution demanding the payment of reparations.

With cross-party support, the chamber had approved the resolution to call on the government "to take all the necessary diplomatic and legal steps to claim and fully satisfy all the demands of the Greek state stemming from World War I and World War II".

German Chancellor Angela Merkel had said during a January visit to Greece that her country "recognised its historical responsibility".

"We know how much suffering we, as Germany in the time of Nazism, have brought to Greece," she said.

In 2014, then president Joachim Gauck had sought public forgiveness in the name of Germany from relatives of those murdered by the Nazis in the mountains of northern Greece.




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