Alexis Tsipras became today the first Greek Prime Minister to raise the issue of World War II reparations at a top level, during his meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin. As the leftist Greek Premier said, the long-standing dispute between the two countries “is not a material matter, it is a moral issue.”
Moments earlier, the newly elected Prime Minister said that stereotypes such as the ones of lazy Greeks and Germans being responsible for Greece’s woes should be dropped once and for all, amid a joint effort to fight corruption and resolve differences of the past that “cast shadows,” like the war reparations issue and the forced occupation loan, which still remain open.
On her behalf, the German Chancellor appeared rather in discomfort, repeating the known cliché German officials have been demonstrating since the war reparations discussion has been refueled by the SYRIZA-led Greek government. “In the German government’s view, the issue of reparations is politically and legally closed,” she said.
It is reminded that last week, a group of senior German politicians from the junior partner in the country’s coalition government, expressed their support to the idea that Berlin should pay reparations from World War II to Greece, saying that it is a moral and legal duty. In an interview to German magazine Der Spiegel, published on Tuesday, March 17, the German politicians highlighted that the war reparations issue should be separated from the ongoing Greek debt debate. “It is about recognizing the fact that we committed a serious injustice in Greece,” Social Democratic Party (SPD) Values Committee chairwoman Gesine Schwan told Der Spiegel.
The group’s public statements come in complete contrast with Berlin’s official stance on the matter. The German government has repeatedly stressed that the issue was closed five decades ago with a 115-million-deutschmark arrangement under an agreement with several European governments.
The “burning” Siemens scandal also in the agenda
Another “burning” issue that none of the two countries’ leaders have ever tabled in previous bilateral meetings is the so-called Siemens scandal. The leftist Prime Minister was the first one to set the issue of a necessary German judicial assistance regarding the Siemens bribery scandal at the highest possible level. The Siemens scandal hit Greece over deals between the colossal German company and Greek government officials during the 2004 Athens Olympic Games, regarding security systems and purchases by the Hellenic Telecommunications Organization (OTE). The scandal was revealed in 2008 and no charges have been brought against any specific individual so far, neither in Greece or Germany.