BERLIN – Germany said on Monday there was “zero” chance of it paying World War II reparations to Athens, following a renewed demand from Greece’s new leftist Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras.
Tsipras, in his first major speech to parliament on Sunday, laid out plans to dismantle Greece’s austerity program, ruled out any extension of its €240 billion international bailout and vowed to seek war reparations from Berlin.
The demand for compensation, revived by a previous Greek government in 2013 but not pursued, was rejected outright by Sigmar Gabriel, Germany’s vice chancellor and economy minister.
“The probability is zero,” said Gabriel, when asked if Germany would make such payments to Greece, adding a treaty signed 25 years ago had wrapped up all such claims.
Germany and Greece share a complex history that has complicated the debt debate. Greece was occupied by German troops in World War II, an issue that has resurfaced since it has been forced to endure tough reforms in return for a financial bailout partly funded by eurozone partners.
Many Greeks have blamed eurozone heavyweight Germany for the austerity, leading to the revival of a dormant claim against Berlin for billions of euros of war reparations.
As part of a wider appeal to Europe for solidarity, Greece’s new finance minister has suggested a parallel between his country and the rise of Nazism in a bankrupt Germany in the 1930s, referring to Greece’s far-right Golden Dawn party.
Gabriel referred to the “Treaty on the Final Settlement with respect to Germany,” also known as the “Two plus Four Treaty” signed in September 1990, by the former West and East Germanys and the four World War II allies just before German reunification.
Under its terms, the four powers renounced all rights they formerly held in Germany. For Berlin, the document, also approved by Greece among other states, effectively drew a line under possible future claims for war reparations.
Germany thus denies owing anything more to Greece for World War II after the 115 million deutsche marks it paid in 1960, one of 12 war compensation deals it signed with Western nations.
But Athens has said it always considered that money as only an initial payment, with the rest of its claims to be discussed after German reunification, which eventually came in 1990.
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