Gabriel slams Greek demands for WWII reparations

Greece’s demands for WWII reparations from Germany, amid the debate over solving its debt problems, were met with criticism from Germany’s Minister of Economic Affairs, and calls from the Greens for a ruling in the International Court of Justice. EURACTIV Germany reports.

“To be honest, I think it is dumb,” said Gabriel on Tuesday (7 April).

After all, Greece has an interest in getting leeway from its euro-partners on solving its financial problems. “And this leeway has absolutely nothing to do with the Second World War and reparations,” he emphasised.

However, if one discusses these together, it becomes easier for those who reject such a path, Gabriel said.

But the minister made it clear that, apart from the formal conclusion of the reparations debate in the Two Plus Four talks over German reunification, Germany continues to face the debate over its responsibility for the events of WWII.

In Gabriel’s opinion, there can be no “discussion over drawing a final line” in Germany within the foreseeable future.

Meanwhile, the German government has repeatedly stated that it considers the issue of reparations or damage payments to Greece to be legally and politically closed.

In a 2012 case jointly put by Italy and Germany before the International Court of Justice, the court ruled that no individual lawsuits can be made against the Federal Republic over injustices caused by the Nazis.

Seeking legal certainty

Green Party MP Manuel Sarrazin argued that the German government should allow the International Court of Justice to clear up the issue of reparations for Greece.

“Together, Germany and Greece should mutually agree to seek legal certainty on this,” the Green faction’s spokesman for European policy told Reuters on Tuesday.

The estimate from the parliamentary committee on Nazi occupation during WWII, appointed by Athens’ new government, indicates that Germany still owes €278.7 billion. Here, Sarrazin’s response to the recent development was more reserved. “There should not constantly be new numbers coming from Greece,” Sarrazin remarked.

The MP said that the only demand he considers to be justified is compensation for a forced loan under Nazi occupation in 1942.

“At any rate, it must be very clear that settling a political, legal and moral debt can in no way be connected to solving the Greek debt crisis,” Sarrazin emphasised.

As a result it is better, he said, to leave a decision over reparations up to a neutral court. “I think it is completely open-ended, what the outcome of a trial before the International Court of Justice would be.”

A ‘moral issue’

On Monday (6 April) evening, Greece put a figure on demands for compensation of crimes committed by Germany during the Nazi era.

Deputy Finance Minister Dimitris Mardas told the parliament in Athens that Germany owes Greece €278.7 billion.

>>Read: Greece puts a figure on Nazi reparations claims

During a visit to Berlin at the end of March, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras explained that his country no longer expects material remuneration from Germany in the debate over reparations and a forced loan from the Third Reich.

“It’s not a material matter, it’s a moral issue,” Tsipras said after a meeting with Chancellor Angela Merkel.

He made it clear that the debate over reparations “is a purely bilateral issue”, which concerns an “ethical evaluation”.

It “is not connected”, the Greek head of government claimed, to the current debt crisis and the search for solutions at the EU level.

On 20 March, the European Commission offered Greece funds to deal with what it called a humanitarian crisis, after Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras vowed to clarify bailout reform pledges demanded by creditors.

Following talks between Tsipras and European leaders, EU Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker said he was making available €2.0 billion in unused EU structural funds to Greece.

>> Read: Greece promises to deliver full reform list after three-hour 'mini summit'

Greece secured a four month extension of its financial rescue on 24 February, when its eurozone partners approved an economic reform plan that backed down on key measures and promised that spending to alleviate social distress would not derail its budget.

>> Read: Eurozone approves Greek reform plan with reservations

Germany's rejection of an initial Greek request for a six-month loan extension forced Athens into a string of politically sensitive concessions, postponing or backing away from campaign promises to reverse austerity, scrap the bailout and end cooperation with EU, ECB and IMF inspectors.

>> Read: Greece, eurozone agree to four-month loan extension, avert crunch

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