Picture: EPA/YANNIS KOLESIDIS
Picture: EPA/YANNIS KOLESIDIS

Athens — Greece’s parliament began a debate on Wednesday on a resolution to demand the payment of German war crime reparations, an issue long disputed by Berlin.

A parliamentary committee in 2018 determined that Germany owes Greece at least €270bn for World War 1 damages and looting, atrocities and a forced loan during the Nazi occupation in World War 2.

“These demands are always active. They were never set aside by Greece,” parliament speaker Nikos Voutsis said.

The chamber was expected to approve, with cross-party support, the resolution later on Wednesday. It calls on the government of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras “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 1 and World War 2”.

Reclaiming war reparations has been a campaign pledge by Tsipras since 2015. He faces multiple electoral challenges this year, with his party trailing in opinion polls.

During a visit to Greece in January, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said her country “recognised its historical responsibility”.

“We recognise our historical responsibility. We know how much suffering we, as Germany in the time of Nazism, have brought to Greece,” she said.

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

But when it comes to actual payments, Berlin has always insisted that the issue was settled in 1960 in a deal with several European governments.

Germany’s government spokesperson Steffen Seibert reiterated on Wednesday that “the reparation issue is judicially and politically settled”. He said Berlin is doing “everything it can so Greece and Germany maintain good relations as friends and partners”.

During the Greek economic crisis, there was further tension in Athens over draconian EU austerity and bailout terms seen to be imposed by Berlin hardliners. Relations have improved over the past three years after Tsipras’ government endorsed conditions linked to satisfying its creditors.

Tsipras and Merkel also worked closely on finding common ground on migration and Balkans security.

AFP