April in Athens: Taxes Turn to Reparations as Greece Asks Germany for €279 billion
Tis the season to pay taxes! Or should I say, to pay reparations?
Recently, the BBC announced that Greece has demanded €279 billion in reparations from Germany, which date back to the Second World War. Greek Deputy Finance Minister Dimitris Mardas published this figure on April 6th, 2015 after initially finding that Greece was owed only €162 billion in reparations. Greece’s demand for reparations obviously comes at a critical juncture for the country as it continues to grapple with its ongoing sovereign debt crisis, and the international community is suspicious of these estimates, and for good reason.
One reason for this is that Greece’s repayment of €448 million to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) was due on, April 9th, 2015, several days after Mr. Mardas’ findings. In addition, Greece has been conducting negotiations with the EU, IMF, and European Central Bank to potentially amend bailout terms and assuage tensions with dissatisfied lenders. Such talks would most likely offer explanations for delayed reforms on Greek monetary policy and rekindle hopes of redefining certain legislative and fiscal deadlines surrounding the €240 billion Greece still owes the Eurozone.
Yet the issue lies not in the economic struggles Greece is currently grappling with. After all, those suffering most from infrastructural instability are the Greeks themselves. What has turned the debate a bit sour is the fact that Germany has contributed considerable amounts, if not the highest, to Greek bailout. In early 2012, Chancellor Angela Merkel sat on the frontlines to approve a loan of €130 billion to prevent Greece from declaring bankruptcy. According to The Telegraph, the German Chancellor faced little to no resistance in the Bundestag in deciding to help Greece but would have to consider “political and public opposition” in the future. Her stance was that the Greek economy was, is, and will be crucial in the Eurozone’s collaborative scheme. This is a merited statement as Greece’s infrastructural wellbeing directly influences the stability of other countries tied to the Euro. Although the stereotype of the stingy German holds some truth, many people living and working in Germany today feel that their taxes are being awarded to a failing and irresponsible government rather than their country.
Funneling money left and right, though, is only one piece of the puzzle. The moral obligations Germany carries for the havoc wreaked by the Nazi Regime are close to insurmountable. Not only did Hitler and his regime destroy property and peoples, but it also inflicted emotional pain and suffering on innumerable amounts of victims; the scars of which have never healed. From those persecuted in the Holocaust to those fighting in armed combat, the tragic deaths that occurred in World War II indubitably expose Germany’s bleakest, darkest moment in history.
The truth is that some wounds cannot be treated with money alone. It is certain that Germany owes lives, hurt, and recovery to the citizenship of Greece. Accordingly, West Germany paid a sum equal to €115 million in 1960 to compensate for war crimes. In addition, the 1990 treaty assessed the legal framework that applied to the forced loan of $14 billion that Greece was holding the German government accountable for. Ultimately, the courts ruled that because this loan was not consensual, it legally qualifies as a looting of resources, which, as a circumstance of war, must not be repaid. Even if Germany ended up owing Greece the value of what the Nazis stole on top of the reparations determined during the Allied Commission of Paris in 1946, the bailout aid that Germany has granted over the past few years would have already covered these expenses.
Then again, life does not consist solely of numbers. If only there were a mathematical formula for grief, healing, prejudice and politics.
- Frederike Cardello