Payback time? Greek PM Tsipras wants $236 billion in German World War II reparations
Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras says the country has a “moral obligation” to claim reparations from Germany for the damages wrought by the Nazis during World War II.
Greece had “a moral obligation to our people, to history, to all European peoples who fought and gave their blood against Nazism,” he said in a key address to parliament.
Berlin has already sounded a firm “no” to requests for reparations nearly 70 years after the end of the war, but Mr Tsipras and his radical left party have vowed to tackle the issue.
The issue risks aggravating already strained ties between Athens and Berlin, as Mr Tsipras bids to reverse austerity measures imposed by its international creditors.
“Our historical obligation is to claim the occupation loan and reparations,” the new prime minister said, referring to Germany’s four-year occupation of Greece and a war-time loan which the Third Reich forced the Greek central bank to give it, and which ruined the country financially.
Mr Tsipras’s anti-austerity Syriza party claims Germany owes it about around €162 billion ($236 billion), about or around half the country’s public debt, which stands at over €315 billion. The loan to the Third Reich was for 476 million Reichsmarks, which was valued at $US8.25 billion in a 2012 German Bundestag lower house of Parliament report.
Mr Tsipras said on Sunday that his government would not seek an extension of a stringent bailout program and would carry out its campaign pledges to roll back austerity, but gradually.
In laying out his government’s program in a speech before Parliament, Mr Tsipras sought to tread a line between satisfying coalition lawmakers and supporters that his government will honor the anti-austerity promises that brought it to power last month while reassuring creditors that his radical leftist administration is prepared to move towards a compromise that keeps the economy afloat without further burdening European taxpayers.
Greece’s creditors – the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund – want the new government to seek an extension beyond February 28 of the European portion of the country’s bailout of €240 billion. However, the government has said that despite dwindling cash reserves, it is not interested in the latest portion of the bailout, a loan of €7 billion, because of what it sees as onerous conditions. Instead, it has said it wants a program between now and the end of May to bridge the gap and permission to raise short-term funding by issuing treasury bills.
“We only have one commitment: to serve the interests of our people, the good of society,” Mr Tsipras said, noting that it was an “irreversible decision” of his government to fulfill its campaign promises “in their entirety”.