Greece’s deputy finance minister said yesterday (6 April) Germany owes Greece nearly €279 billion in reparations for the Nazi occupation of the country.
Greek governments and also private citizens have pushed for war damages from Germany for decades, but the Greek government has never officially quantified its reparation claims.
A parliamentary panel set up by Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’s government started work last week, seeking to claim German debts, including war reparations, as well as the repayment of a so-called occupation loan that Nazi Germany forced the Bank of Greece to make and the return of stolen archaeological treasures.
Speaking at parliamentary committee, Deputy Finance Minister Dimitris Mardas said Berlin owed Athens €278.7 billion, according to calculations by the country’s General Accounting Office. The occupation loan amounts to €10.3 billion.
The campaign for compensation has gained momentum in the past few years as Greeks have suffered hardship under austerity measures imposed by the European Union and International Monetary Fund in exchange for bailouts totalling €240 billion to save Greece from bankruptcy.
Tsipras has frequently blamed Germany for the hardship stemming from the imposition of austerity. He has angered Berlin by threatening to push for reparations in the middle of talks to unlock aid for Greece.
Germany has repeatedly rejected Greece’s claims and says it has honoured its obligations, including a 115 million deutschmark payment to Greece in 1960.
Preliminary deal with lenders?
In the meantime, Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis told Greek daily Naftemporiki on Monday that he wants the negotiations with the country’s official lenders to reach a preliminary deal at a 24 April meeting of euro zone finance ministers.
“At the Eurogroup [meeting] of 24 April there must be a preliminary conclusion (of the talks), as per the Eurogroup accord on 20 February,” Varoufakis told the paper.
Greece offered a new package of reforms last week in the hope of unlocking remaining bailout funds, but has yet to win agreement on the proposals with its EU and IMF lenders.
“We are not going to condemn the country, as previous governments did, to a long-term asphyxiation,” Varoufakis told the paper, suggesting the EU/IMF lenders had treated the previous conservative-led government more leniently.
“The negotiations will end when we reach an honourable agreement, which will give the Greek economy the prospect of real stabilisation and substantive growth,” Varoufakis said.
Asked whether he had thought of quitting the job, said: “Not for one minute.”
On Sunday Varoufakis said that Greece “intends to meet all obligations to all its creditors, ad infinitum”.
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 crisis 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.
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.
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 the "troika" of EU, ECB and IMF inspectors, which are now called "the institutions".
- Heard in Europe: Greece’s Nazi reparation claim: Not as far-fetched as it seems