Recently tensions having been rising between Greece and Germany. With Greece in €317 billion debt, according to the Jubilee Debt Campaign, and Germany being referred to as their biggest creditor this is perhaps not a surprising turn of events. Reaching its peak (one hopes) Greece claims that Germany owes them reparations amounting to €279bn.
This staggering amount was calculated by the a Greek parliamentary committee and covers what Greece feel are existing debts including the loan the Bank of Greece was forced to give the Nazis who occupied and archaeological treasures which were taken from the country. It has been argued that Greece suffered particularly harshly under Nazi occupation with one report saying it was ‘among the most savage’.
Therefore, it may seem as though this cannot be simply an attempt to get back at the country with which it is currently displeased. Greece has been claiming they are owed reparations from Germany for far longer than this recent demand. Although very high, the amount being demanded is based on calculations about what Greece’s losses would be worth today.
However, taking Greece’s debt into account, the timing seems suspicious. The amount demanded would more than double Greece’s GDP, while setting Germany back more than a tenth of theirs. Greek hostility towards Germany has grown as many feel that Germany is to blame for the forced austerity. Germany has already paid Greece reparations to the amount of 115 million marks in 1960 but Greece claims this was only ever meant to be an initial payment. As one might expect, Germany disputes this claim and insists that they have honoured reparatory obligations.
“It’s moral blackmail” according to Bela Anda (formerly the spokesperson for Gerhard Schröder when he was German chancellor). This sentiment is echoed in the outrage of Germany. It has touched on perhaps the most sensitive topic there is for Germany and been seen as merely an attempt to gain ‘leeway’ from its creditors. The demands were called ‘stupid’ by Germany’s Economy Minister and Vice Chancellor, Sigmar Gabriel, who dismissed them as having “nothing to do with World War Two or reparation payments”. The real issue, they argue, is being clouded over by “the fiery booze of anti-German rhetoric”.
Yet, still this issue is controversial in Germany with many members of the Left party stating that they believe compensation should be paid. One member, Annette Groth, argued that it was “Germany’s moral duty” to pay Greece for the suffering that was inflicted upon them during World War 2 even if international law is unclear.
Greece has not taken Germany’s refusal lightly. Greek Defence Minister has spoken out to the effect that Germany’s reticence would be met with Greece permitting migrants easy access to Germany, with explicit mention of ISIS members being “given papers and sent to Berlin”. Moreover, he argued that Europe, although the threat was seemingly primarily aimed at a Germany, would only have “itself to blame because of its attitude towards Greece with regards to the debt question.”