Greece bashes Germany again as loan talks begin

11th March 2015, Comments 0 comments

Greece on Wednesday renewed attacks on its top paymaster Germany as technical experts began talks on the crisis-hit country's new reform proposals.

The Greek justice minister threatened Berlin with asset seizures over war reparations claimed by Athens, a long-standing demand that experts say has debatable legal foundations.

Nikos Paraskevopoulos said he was "ready to approve" a Greek Supreme Court ruling in 2000 that ordered Germany to pay around 28 million euros to the relatives of 218 civilians in the central Greek village of Distomo who were massacred by Nazi forces on June 10, 1944.

Under the Supreme Court ruling, assets such as property belonging to Germany's archaeological school and the Goethe Institute could be seized as compensation.

"The law states that the minister must give the order for the Supreme Court ruling to be carried out.... I am ready to give that order," Paraskevopoulos told Antenna TV.

The move came days after Greek Defence Minister Panos Kammenos threatened to send migrants, possibly with jihadists hiding among them, to Berlin.

Keeping up the pressure on Germany, the Greek parliament late Tuesday unanimously approved a motion to reactivate a special committee to look into war reparations, reimbursement of a forced war loan and the return of archaeological relics seized by German occupation forces.

"We will approach the issue with the necessary sensitivity, with a sense of responsibility and honesty... We expect the German government to do the same," Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras told the chamber.

"We give no lessons on morality and we accept none either."

In a further dig at Berlin, he added, "As we are fulfilling our obligations, all the other parties should do the same."

German government spokesman Steffen Seibert said his country was "absolutely and constantly aware of its historical responsibility" for the suffering that Nazism brought to many European countries.

"But that does not change our stance and firm belief that the question of reparations and compensation payments ... has been finally clarified and settled," he added.

"We should focus on the current issues and the hopefully good future of our two countries."

The Third Reich forced the Greek central bank to loan it 476 million Reichsmarks during the war, which has never been reimbursed.

A German lower house of parliament report in 2012 put the value of the loan at 7.7 billion euros ($8.1 billion).

Many experts however say the dispute has effectively reached a judicial stalemate after a related adjudication between Germany and Italy by the International Court of Justice in 2012.

- The 'Brussels Group' -

Amid the war of words, technical experts in Brussels began emergency talks on extending Greece's huge bailout.

"The goal is to find a framework on how to proceed and a detailed timeline that includes specific data," a source close to the negotiations said.

"The 'institutions' want detailed data, and they will get that," the source said, using the Greek government's chosen term for the troika group of creditors -- the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

A Greek official later said the participants would now be known as the 'Brussels Group'.

Athens is arguing that the austerity programme that has plunged thousands of families into poverty should be relaxed, a demand opposed by Germany and other eurozone creditor nations.

The radical Syriza party swept to power in January on a clear pledge to refuse all dealings with the hated "troika" of EU-IMF auditors that saw through the tough reforms during two bailouts since 2010.

It quickly had to reverse course and agree to an extension of the 240 billion euro bailout programme for four months while it works out a new economic programme.

But the new Greek government has since faced criticism for failing to provide detailed enough reforms plans, which the eurozone says are an absolute minimum for Greece to receive critically needed rescue funding still available under the existing bailout.

This month alone, Greece must find some 6.0 billion euros to meet its debts -- including 1.5 billion euros to the IMF.

On Wednesday, Athens snapped up 1.3 billion euros offered by creditors in a new issue of three-month treasury bills, but at a higher interest rate of 2.7 percent.

Reports Wednesday said the Tsipras government was turning to its pension and agricultural assistance funds for emergency cash to pay government salaries during the negotiations with the troika.

"There are alternative scenarios" to raise money, junior finance minister Dimitris Mardas told Vima radio, without elaborating.

Greece will also tap into its bank rescue fund for a half a billion euros to survive the cash crunch.

On Monday, Eurogroup chief Jeroen Dijsselbloem blamed Greece for wasting precious time as the money ran out.

"We have spent two weeks discussing who meets who, where and in what format, and it's a complete waste of time," said Dijsselbloem, who is also Dutch finance minister.

In a new search for allies, Tsipras on Thursday will meet with OECD secretary-general Angel Gurria in Paris, followed by European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker and European Parliament president Martin Schulz in Brussels on Friday.

His Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis is also meeting with his French counterpart Michel Sapin later on Wednesday.

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© 2015 AFP

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