ATHENS, Feb 18 (Reuters) - 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 high ground.
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