President Karolos Papoulias on Thursday raised two controversial issues with his visiting German counterpart Joachim Gauck – Greece’s ongoing demands for WWII reparations from Germany, as well as the return of a forced loan given by the Bank of Greece to the Nazis – but failed to elicit the desired response.
Gauck, who met with Papoulias amid high security as protests were banned in the city center, said he was not in a position to differentiate his stance from the official position of the German government, which has repeatedly said there is no case for the reparations Greece is seeking. “I believe the legal course for it is closed,” Gauck said after Papoulias declared that Greece “has not relinquished its claims” relating to WWII reparations. The German president acknowledged, however, that his country carried a “moral responsibility” for dozens of massacres carried out by Nazi soldiers during the war and offered to set up a special fund to boost German awareness of Nazi war crimes in Greece. Without providing details, Gauck said the fund would “dispense substantial sums to make Germans confront that part of their past.”
Earlier, at a lunch with Gauck, Papoulias is said to have pressed the Greek case for reparations, saying it was “a paradox” that Greeks are saddled with painful austerity measures and commitments while Germany refuses to discuss “responsibilities” arising from WWII. “Your position that ‘there is no issue’ is something that you claim. It cannot be unilaterally projected as a final conclusion,” Papoulias was quoted as saying.
The two men are on Friday to travel to Ioannina in northwestern Greece for a visit to the village of Ligiades, where Nazi forces executed 92 people in October 1943.
Gauck also met on Thursday with SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras and leftist MP and war hero Manolis Glezos, who both also pressed him on the reparations issue. Tsipras stressed that Germany should have a greater sense of responsibility as Europe’s leading economic power, noting that the austerity measures championed by Berlin in Greece and other Southern European countries have “splintered and divided Europe.”