ATHENS (Reuters) – The parliament in Athens will vote on Wednesday on whether Greece should pursue billions of euros in reparations that successive governments have said Germany owes for the Nazi occupation during World War Two.
The vote in the 300-seat house will mark the first official decision by lawmakers on the issue, which resurfaced after Greece became mired in a debt crisis a decade ago.
Parliament Speaker Nikos Voutsis is expected to submit a proposal – based on a parliamentary commission report which assessed the cost of the occupation at upwards of 300 billion euros (£260 billion) – on the next legal and diplomatic steps Greece would take and put it to a vote in the evening.
Any move to formally seek reparations is unlikely to be legally enforceable, but the issue is a deeply emotive one that will gain traction in an election year.
Greece has in the past year emerged from a decade of austerity prescribed by its international lenders in return for a series of bailouts that kept it afloat after the crisis erupted in 2010.
Many Greeks blamed their biggest creditor, Germany, for the painful cuts attached to the rescue loans which they feel have stripped them of sovereignty.
Germany has in the past apologised for Nazi-era crimes but has not been willing to discuss reparations.
Germany invaded Greece in May 1941, raising the Swastika on the Acropolis in Athens. During World War Two, about a thousand Greek villages were razed and tens of thousands of people killed in reprisals by Nazi troops, trying to crush Greek resistance.
The parliamentary committee assessed the occupation cost as at least 269 billion euros ($304 billion), rising to over 300 billion euros with the inclusion of an amount the Nazis forced the Bank of Greece to hand over in 1942, a year after they invaded Greece.
That “occupation loan” also helped bankroll Hitler’s military campaign in North Africa.
Germany has denied owing anything to Greece since it paid Athens the sum of 115 million deutschmarks in 1960 and considers the issue settled legally and politically.
(Reporting by Renee Maltezou and George Georgiopoulos, editing by Michele Kambas and John Stonestreet)