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Tit-for-tat sours Greek-German relations

Thursday, March 12, 2015 - 02:28

Germany rebuffs Greece's call for WW2 reparations - while Greece demands an apology for an 'insult' from Wolfgang Schaeuble. As David Pollard reports, souring relations between Berlin and Athens are darkening the mood of negotiations over Greece's bid to extend its 240 billion euro bailout.

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A postcard-sized protest poster. Not to say 'wish you were here'. It appeared in Greece in 2011 - when the debt crisis was stoking resentment at what many saw as a bullying EU under paymaster, Angela Merkel. It plays to other resentments too. Prime minister Alexis Tsipras this week backing a committee to investigate damages relating to World War Two. It's just coincidence the issue is resurfacing when German-Greek relations are stretched again. Say reparations experts like Professor Stelios Perakis. But adding: it wouldn't matter if it weren't, for an issue of such resonance. SOUNDBITE (English) UNIVERSITY PROFESSOR OF INTERNATIONAL AND EUROPEAN RELATIONS AND EXPERT ON WAR REPARATIONS, STELIOS PERAKIS SAYING: "This is not a question to forget, it is an obligation, it is a legal obligation, it is a moral obligation." In what's becoming a tit-for-tat exchange, Germany's brushed off the reparations issue as 'resolved' A Merkel spokesman says the focus should be on current issues - and future. Greece points to a legal ruling they say could allow German state-owned property to be seized - like the Goethe Institute in Athens. Compensation for victims of Nazi atrocities. As here - Distomo in southern Greece lost over 200 of its villagers in 1944. Their pictures hang alongside those of their aggressors in a local mausoleum. It's doing little to soothe strains over Greece's debt negotiations. Those too taking a new battering as Greece demands an apology from the German Finance Minister. Greek media claims Wolfgang Schaeuble labelled his counterpart Yanis Varoufakis ''foolishly naive''. Germany's Bundesbank chief, Jens Weidmann, has also joined the fray. SOUNDBITE (German) BUNDESBANK PRESIDENT, JENS WEIDMANN, SAYING: "Governments and parliaments have to decide whether they are willing to continue to expand the Greek risk and the financial needs of the Greek state, despite the palpable uncertainty regarding the government will to reform. I see this mission less than ever in the euro system." There is an optimist's view: that the reparations issue is a sideshow in a play that will, ultimately, have a happy ending. Says Nick Beecroft of Saxo Bank. SOUNDBITE (ENGLISH) NICK BEECROFT, SENIOR MARKET ANALYST, SAXO BANK, SAYING: ''The fact is that the population doesn't want to leave the euro, the rest of the euro zone doesn't want Greece to leave, so it'll be cobbled together again.'' Pessimists say a decades long campaign for war damages by former Greek governments and private citizens shows little sign of slowing.

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Tit-for-tat sours Greek-German relations

Thursday, March 12, 2015 - 02:28