Does Germany have to pay reparations to Greece?

Greece demands from Germany reparations for the Second World War. So far, the federal government has blocked the demands. The legal situation is not clear.

A Bundestag report doubts the German rejection of Greek reparations claims for damages from the Second World War. “The position of the Federal Government is acceptable under international law, but by no means compulsory,” it says in a new progress report of the Scientific Services of Parliament, which was commissioned by the Left and the German Press Agency is present.

The Bundestag experts hint at a decision of the International Court of Justice in The Hague to provide legal clarity. However, the Federal Government would have to voluntarily agree to such a procedure because the dispute was more than 70 years ago.

War damage of 290 billion euros

At the beginning of June, Greece had officially asked Germany for a diplomatic note on reparations negotiations. The government in Athens – at that time under the left-wing Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras – had been invited to do so by parliament. A Greek expert commission has estimated the sum for the war damage caused by Germany at 290 billion euros.

For the Federal Government, however, the issue is legally and politically completed. She believes that the two-plus-four treaty on 1990 reunification “contains the final settlement of legal issues arising from the war.” In the contract between the Federal Republic, the GDR and the four former occupying powers USA, Soviet Union, France and Great Britain reparations are however not mentioned. Moreover, Greece was not involved in the negotiations on it.

Poland had declared resignation

The German refusal to pay further compensation also applies to Poland, which may soon claim as well. A Polish parliamentary commission wants to present its report by the end of the year. The ruling party Law and Justice (PiS) has repeatedly demanded compensation since 2017.

These demands, however, the Bundestag experts believe not justified. It says that “no valid legal lines of argument can be identified,” it says in its report. In contrast to Greece, in 1953 and then again in 1970, Poland expressly declared that they would refrain from reparations. From the Polish side, however, these statements are considered ineffective because they were made under pressure from the Soviet Union.

Unclear how new government behaves

From the point of view of the Bundestag reviewers, the Polish renunciation is still “binding under international law.” On the other hand, the Greek Government, in the context of the Two Plus Four Treaty, emphasized that it did not renounce reparations.

It is still unclear how the new conservative government of Greece under Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis is behaving on the reparations issue. In the election, the Conservatives had won the absolute majority of parliamentary seats. Mitsotakis is expected to make one of his first trips abroad to Germany.

Set the historical responsibility

A judicial clarification of the reparations question rejects the Federal Government. The Minister of State at the Federal Foreign Office, Niels Annen (SPD), had declared at the end of June, at the request of the left: “A referral of the International Court of Justice (IGH) with the question of Greek reparations claims is not intended by any side.”

The left calls on the federal government to respond to Greek reparations demands. “The assessment of the scientific service shows that the federal government can no longer escape the historical responsibility,” said the deputy Heike Hänsel. “There can not be a final policy.”

So far, the government has “completely failed on this issue – legally, politically, but above all morally.”

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