Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras approved plans to launch a parliamentary commission on World War II reparations while simultaneously accusing Germany of avoiding the reparation issue with silence, legal tricks and delays.
Tsipras was addressing the Greek parliament on Tuesday, March 10 when he raised the reparations issue.
“After the reunification of Germany in 1990, the legal and political conditions were created for this issue to be solved. But since then, German governments chose silence, legal tricks and delay,” Tsipras told a parliamentary debate, adding that “And I wonder, because there is a lot of talk at the European level these days about moral issues: is this stance moral?”
Germany was quick to dismiss Tsipras’ claims.
“It is our firm belief that questions of reparations and compensation have been legally and politically resolved,” Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman Steffen Seibert said on Wednesday. “We should concentrate on current issues and, hopefully what will be a good future,” he said, adding that the dispute did not, however, affect euro zone talks with Greece on its bailout.
The issue is nothing new in Greece. Previous Greek governments and private citizen groups have attempted over the years to petition for additional compensation. But given Greece’s current negotiations with obstinate German and other Euro Group leaders, who refuse to budge on the current conditions the loan agreements, the remarks are sure to ruffle feathers in Berlin.
Berlin has long said that it has already honored all its war obligations, including a payment of 115 million deutschmarks (59 million euros) to Greece in 1960. Tsipras said the 1960 deal only covered compensation for the victims of Nazi horrors, not the destruction wrought on the Greek economy and infrastructure by the 1941-1944 Nazi occupation.
The speech comes a little over a month when the newly-elected Tsipras paid an official visit to an Athens suburb called Kaissariani, to lay flowers on a tomb commemorating 200 Greeks who were shot by Nazi occupiers on May 1, 1944.
The men and women who were shot dead at dawn that day were killed in reprisal for the guerrilla ambush of a German general, Franz Krech, and three of his aides at Molaos, near Sparti, in the Peloponnese.
The prisoners began to sing – giving an uproarious rendition of the Greek national anthem – as they were lead to their deaths while German soldiers looked on astonished as the Greeks broke into song. The hostages also refused to undress – insisting that they go dressed with dignity. It was an act of resistance that in austerity-whipped Greece resonates greatly today.
As one of the first official duties as prime minister, it was seen as a provocative act by Germany.