Greek parliament debates war reparations claim against Germany
By Renee Maltezou and George Georgiopoulos ATHENS (Reuters) - The Greek parliament will vote Wednesday on whether Greece should pursue billions of euros in reparations from Germany for the Nazi occupation during World War Two, an issue Germany says was settled long ago. Nevertheless, successive Greek governments have said Germany owes Greece.
By Renee Maltezou and George Georgiopoulos
ATHENS (Reuters) - The Greek parliament will vote Wednesday on whether Greece should pursue billions of euros in reparations from Germany for the Nazi occupation during World War Two, an issue Germany says was settled long ago.
Nevertheless, successive Greek governments have said Germany owes Greece. Wednesday's vote in the 300-seat house, however, will be the first official decision by parliament on the question, 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 that assessed the cost of the occupation at upwards of 300 billion euros - on the next legal and diplomatic steps Greece would take and put it to a vote in the evening.
"Greece should, and I think it has the means, negotiate so that Germany recognises ... the reparations, accepting that there is a moral, political and economic issue," said Deputy Foreign Minister Sia Anagnostopoulou.
"Greece paid one of the biggest blood and destruction tolls (in World War Two)," she said, promising to start a diplomatic campaign.
Despite the estimates, it is not clear how much money Greece would seek in reparations. Any move to formally seek reparations would probably be legally enforceable, but the issue is a deeply emotive one that will gain traction in an election year.
Greece emerged in the past year from a decade of austerity imposed by international lenders in return for bailouts that kept it afloat after the debt 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. German government spokesman Steffen Seibert repeated Berlin's view that the issue has long been settled.
"The question of German reparations has been conclusively settled, both legally and politically," he said. "We are, and I hope you can believe us, aware of our historic responsibility."
Germany invaded Greece in May 1941, raising the swastika over the Acropolis in Athens. About a thousand Greek villages were razed during the war 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.
($1 = 0.8846 euros)
(Additional reporting by Andreas Rinke and Thomas Escritt, editing by Michele Kambas and Larry King)
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