Greece's government, now free of its bailout programme, is to renew its call for Germany to pay €279 billion in war reparations in compensation for the Nazi occupation during World War II, which could strain the already-fraught relations between the two countries.
Greek President, Prokopis Pavlopoulos, will raise this issue with his German counterpart, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, this week during a meeting in Athens, Triandafyllos Mitafidis, president of the Greek parliamentary committee on war reparations, confirmed to Euronews.
Why do the Greeks want compensation?
Greece's demands are twofold. First, they want compensation for the war crimes inflicted by Germany and Italy during their 1941-1944 occupation of the country. During that time, entire villages were wiped out, tens of thousands died of starvation and more than 70,000 Greek Jews were deported never to come back again.
The second part of the claims relate to direct and indirect financial costs suffered by Greece. By the time the Axis powers withdrew, the country's economy was in tatters with vast swathes of its infrastructure all but destroyed.
The state coffers had also been plundered as the 1907 Hague Convention stipulated that occupied states should pay for the living expenses and maintenance of the occupying troops. Greece also handed over 476 million reichsmarks as part of a forced loan which was then used to fund Nazi campaigns in north Africa.
What was agreed after the war?
After the defeat of the Nazis, the Paris Peace Treaties of 1946 defined the war reparations that the various countries involved would have to pay.
Greece received $105 million from Italy (slightly more than the Soviet Union) and $45 million from Bulgaria. But Germany did not conclude such a peace treaty before 1990, since it had been split in two – West and East.
Nevertheless, the Paris Compensation Agreement established that Greece should receive 2.7% of total cash compensation paid by Germany and 4.35% of the transport industry, ships or other payment in kind. In effect this allocated $7.1 million at 1938 market value, around half of what Greece had demanded.
In February 1953 another pact, known as the London Agreement, was signed, which covered the general debts of defeated Germany to the winners – the Allies.
The prewar German debt was cut by about 50% and the time (West) Germany had available to repay was extended to 30 years. As for the the actual war debt, this was determined separately for each country (usually there was an agreement for a 50% cut but there were exceptions, for example the “moral” debts of Germany to Israel were not reduced at all).
After 1953, West Germany came to various agreements with individual states to pay additional compensation. In 1960 Germany agreed with Greece to pay 115 million deutschmarks to Greek individuals who were victims of the German occupation.
In total, Germany has paid around 72 billion euros in war reparations, according to Reuters.
Why is Greece demanding reparations now?
The war reparations issue gained traction again in 2010 as the country's economy plunged into recession with creditors, including Germany, demanding reforms as part of a bailout programme.
A parliamentary report on the topic was commissioned and released in August 2016 but it was put on hold with the eight-year bailout programme — during which Greece received €240 billion in financial aid — believed to be the reason behind the two-year-delay.
But Greece successfully exited the IMF-sponsored programme in August. Since then President Pavlopoulos and Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras have both stated the country's intention to demand reparations.
"Claiming reparations from Germany is a historic duty," Tsipras said during a visit last month to a memorial in Crete, commemorating the 1941 destruction of the village of Kandanos and the killing of its 180 inhabitants.
Why €279 billion?
In April 2015, Greece's then-Deputy Finance Minister Dimitris Mardas announced that according to the country's General Accounting Office, Germany owed Greece €278.7 billion in reparations.
He also called on Germany to repay the forced loan estimated to total €10.3 billion in today's money.
The Greek parliament is expected to launch proceedings in November by approving the findings of the 2016 parliamentary report on the issue, according to German newspaper Der Spiegel.
The government is then expected to argue its case abroad including in Germany, at the European Union and the UN.
Finally, Greece will demand Germany enter into negotiations.
What is the German position?
Germany has repeatedly rejected Greece’s claims and says it has honoured its obligations, including a 115 million deutschmark payment to Greece in 1960.
Berlin also claims that, 70 years after the war, any such claims have long-since “lost their justificatory basis.”
But according to Der Spiegel, Greece could then take its claims against Germany to the International Court of Justice in The Hague.