March 10, 2015 / 8:05 PM / 2 years ago

Germany used legal tricks to avoid WW2 reparations: Greece

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras looks on before addressing lawmakers during a parliamentary session for the creation of a committee for claiming World War II war reparations at the parliament building in Athens March 10, 2015.Alkis Konstantinidis

ATHENS (Reuters) - Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras accused Germany on Tuesday of using legal tricks to avoid paying reparations for the Nazi occupation of Greece and said he would support parliamentary efforts to review the matter.

His comments are likely to heighten tensions between Athens and Berlin as Greece's new, leftist government struggles to persuade its euro zone partners to renegotiate the terms of a 240 billion euro ($260 billion) bailout.

Germany last month rejected renewed calls from Greece for war compensation, saying the issue had been settled at world power talks that led to German reunification in 1990.

But Tsipras said his government approved plans to revive a parliamentary commission to look into the issue.

"After the reunification of Germany in 1990, the legal and political conditions were created for this issue to be solved. But since then, German governments chose silence, legal tricks and delay," Tsipras told a parliamentary debate.

"And I wonder, because there is a lot of talk at the European level these days about moral issues: is this stance moral?" he said.

The campaign for war damages has been waged for decades both by former Greek governments and private citizens. But it has recently gained momentum due to painful economic measures imposed on Greece under the international bailout deal.

The Greek government has not officially quantified its reparation claims, and Berlin has long said that it has already honored all its war obligations, including a payment of 115 million deutschmarks (59 million euros) to Greece in 1960.

Tsipras said the 1960 deal only covered compensation for the victims of Nazi horrors, not the destruction wrought on Greece by the 1941-1944 occupation during World War Two.

Greeks have directed much of their fury over their bailout terms at Germany, the biggest financial contributor.

Relations have soured further since Tsipras won a snap election in January on the back of promises to end to the worst of the budget rigor. Berlin has insisted that past commitments must be honored.

Reiterating this tough line, German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said on Tuesday desperately needed aid would not be handed over until international lenders had agreed that Greece had delivered on its reform pledges.

Greek ministers bristled at his uncompromising tone.

"Mr. Schaeuble is the main supporter of failed policies in Greece and in Europe," said Nikos Pappas, a minister without portfolio who is viewed as close to the prime minister.

"His obsession and insistence on the same policy and style are incongruous with the course toward a united and democratic Europe," he told reporters outside the Greek parliament.

($1 = 0.9352 euros)

Writing by Crispian Balmer; Editing by Ruth Pitchford

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