ATHENS Feb 18 Greek opposition lawmakers said
on Thursday that Germans should pay reparations for their World
War Two occupation of Greece before criticising the country over
its yawning fiscal deficits.
"How does Germany have the cheek to denounce us over our
finances when it has still not paid compensation for Greece's
war victims?" Margaritis Tzimas, of the main opposition New
Democracy party, told parliament.
"There are still Greeks weeping for their lost brothers,"
the conservative lawmaker said during a debate on a bill to
clean up the country's discredited statistical service.
Chancellor Angela Merkel's government has so far deflected
appeals to promise aid to heavily indebted Greece, despite fears
that failure to help Athens could threaten the euro.
Merkel's stance is backed by opinion polls showing that a
vast majority of Germans oppose a bailout, and Germany's biggest
selling daily Bild has lambasted Greece as a nation of lazy
cheats who should be "thrown out of the euro on their ear".
But Greek lawmakers from three left-wing and conservative
opposition parties said Germans had no right to claim the moral
Six deputies from the small Left Coalition party urged the
government to press Berlin over the reparations issue and blamed
German banks and politicians for Greece's crisis.
"By their statements, German politicians and German
financial institutions play a leading role in a wretched game of
profiteering at the expense of the Greek people," they said in a
written question to the government.
Responding to criticism that Greece fiddled its figures to
get into the euro in 2001, communist MP Nikos Papaconstantinou
asserted that Germany was not above using such tricks itself.
"As if we didn't know that Germany inflated the value of its
gold reserves to get into the euro," he said.
In 1960, Germany paid Greece about 115 million deutschemarks
to compensate victims of Nazi persecution. However, some Greek
pressure groups say this did not cover civilian victims of
reprisals and a forced occupation loan.
Finance Minister George Papaconstantinou refrained from
joining the attack on Germany.
"We all have our criticism as to how public opinion in one
or the other country perceives the Greek problem," he said
during the debate.
He added that New Democracy, which is allied with Merkel's
Christian Democrats in the European People's Party, should have
addressed any criticism to Germany while it was in government
until last October.
(Reporting by Harry Papachristou, editing by Paul Taylor)