Greece has threatened to hit Germany with a bill for tens of billions of pounds in outstanding reparations for Nazi war crimes during the Second World War.
The move is an indication of growing outrage in Athens at the strictures being placed on the Greek economy by EU paymasters led by Germany.
The finance ministry said yesterday that four experts would scour archives and determine by the end of the year how much is owed.
Economists say that if Germany had paid Greece what it is alleged to owe, it would dramatically improve the country’s likelihood of coming through its debt crisis.
Greece suffered greatly after being invaded by Hitler’s forces but, unlike every other country Germany went to war with, has not been paid compensation. Campaigners say the Paris Reparations Agreement of 1946 obliges Germany to pay Greece around £86 billion.
Deputy finance minister Christos Staikouras said: ‘The matter remains pending. Greece has never resigned its rights.’
However, he called for a ‘realistic and cool-headed’ approach to the issue, which seems certain further to sour relations between Germany and Greece.
Veteran Left-wing politician Manolis Glezos, a hero of Greece’s wartime resistance movement, said: ‘The current German government is pursuing a policy of subordination of Greeks, of crushing their freedom and financial independence.
‘Germany wants Greece to become little more than a financial protectorate, but the Greek people will not be so easily controlled.’
Greek officials have also tabled an official request for the return of archaeological treasures looted by Nazis during the occupation of Crete, Samos and areas in Northern Greece.
Germany’s foreign minister says Greece’s claim is ‘non-existent’.
The International Court of Justice in The Hague has previously ruled that Germany is exempt from being sued in overseas courts by Greek sufferers of Second World War atrocities.
Greek officials have this week been locked in talks with the country’s bailout creditors who are demanding a fresh round of austerity cuts.
Prime minister Antonis Samaras met officials from the EU, International Monetary Fund and European Central Bank who are examining proposals to ease the conditions of a £9.2 billion austerity package for 2013-14.
Greek president Karolos Papoulias warned yesterday that the Greek people had endured enough misery as the price of staying in the euro.
But he was optimistic that ‘things are moving in the right direction’ in negotiations with international creditors and European partners.
In Germany, influential magazine Der Spiegel claimed Chancellor Angela Merkel has made a U-turn to stop Athens leaving the euro after concluding that a Greek exit would be more costly to the German economy.
* The US’s prized AAA credit rating could be cut if it cannot get to grips with its budget. Credit rating agency Moody’s warned yesterday that it will act if the White House and Congress cannot agree on next year’s government spending package after the November presidential election.
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