Ger­many and Greece sign ‘rec­on­cil­i­a­tion’ agree­ment

Financial Mirror (Cyprus) - - FRONT PAGE -

In an at­tempt to bridge cul­tural dif­fer­ences and break down na­tional stereo­types among young peo­ple, Berlin and Athens have de­cided to es­tab­lish a Greek-Ger­man Youth In­sti­tute, ac­cord­ing to a EurAc­tiv Greece re­port.

The “rec­on­cil­i­a­tion” agree­ment was signed etween the min­istries of ed­u­ca­tion of Greece and Ger­many and in­cludes a va­ri­ety of ac­tiv­i­ties like in­tern­ships, school and youth ex­changes as well as vis­its to places where the Nazi atroc­i­ties took place. Ac­cord­ing to sources, the In­sti­tute will be es­tab­lished as an in­ter­na­tional or­gan­i­sa­tion and will cost ap­prox­i­mately EUR 6 mln. It will be funded by both the Greek and Ger­man gov­ern­ments.

The fi­nan­cial cri­sis has cre­ated prej­u­dice among Ger­mans and Greeks and the two gov­ern­ments are mak­ing ef­forts to bring their peo­ples to­gether.

In the past, Ger­many has signed sim­i­lar agree­ments with Poland and France, aim­ing to heal the wounds of the Sec­ond World War.

“More than 3 mil­lion young peo­ple ben­e­fited from that. We had ten bilin­gual schools in France and in Ger­many”, said Si­grid Skarpelis-Sperk, for­mer So­cialDemo­crat MP and a lead­ing fig­ure in the ini­tia­tive, dur­ing the first meet­ing of the project in Bad Hon­nef in Ger­many.

“[Back then] we de­cided to change the re­la­tions with our neigh­bours. Not only shak­ing hands but also pro­mot­ing stub­born ideas for friend­ship,” she added.

ECO­NOMIC CRI­SIS

Many par­tic­i­pants were won­der­ing why the agree­ment with Greece has come so late, con­sid­er­ing the atroc­i­ties of the Nazi troops in Greece dur­ing the Sec­ond World War.

“Our goal is the rap­proche­ment of our so­ci­eties […] The project aims at bring­ing our young peo­ple to­gether as well as im­prov­ing the bi­lat­eral Greek-Ger­man re­la­tions,” noted the Greek Sec­re­tary Gen­eral for Youth, Pana­gi­o­tis Kanel­lopou­los.

He ad­mit­ted that the on­go­ing cri­sis “had an ef­fect” for the cre­ation of the In­sti­tute and that Athens “em­braced this ef­fort from the very be­gin­ning”.

Skarpelis-Sperk also ex­plained that the In­sti­tute was part of the ne­go­ti­a­tions for the form of the Ger­man Grand Coali­tion, as re­quested by the So­cial Democrats.

Asked about the “ru­mours” that Athens is a bit re­luc­tant to join the Ger­man ini­tia­tive, she said: “Maybe. In pol­i­tics and es­pe­cially in elec­tion times, one has sec­ond thoughts. With the agree­ments with Poland and France there were also peo­ple who were not will­ing to sit on the same ta­ble with Ger­mans. But in the end, th­ese in­sti­tutes were cre­ated in the in­ter­est of the peace­ful co­op­er­a­tion of young peo­ple”.

GER­MAN IN­DUS­TRY AB­SENT

The Ger­man for­mer MP was also sur­prised when she re­alised that the Fed­er­a­tion of Ger­man In­dus­tries (BDI) was ab­sent from the first meet­ing of the stake­hold­ers.

“BDI of course should have been in­vited […] it was an un­sys­tem­atic move”, she said, ex­press­ing the hope that it will par­tic­i­pate in the fu­ture events.

EurAc­tiv Greece un­der­stands that the con­tent of the ini­tia­tive has not been fi­nalised yet with many ad­vo­cat­ing a more “cul­tural” and “his­tor­i­cal” fo­cus while oth­ers, par­tic­u­larly from the Greek side, a more eco­nomic ori­en­ta­tion on youth en­trepreneur­ship.

Ac­cord­ing to sources in Ger­many, the “hot potato” of World War II com­pen­sa­tion will not be dis­cussed in the ini­tia­tive ac­tiv­i­ties. “There is no way to talk about war com­pen­sa­tion. This is not the proper plat­form to do so”, a source told EurAc­tiv Greece.

Greece’s de­mands for wartime repa­ra­tions from Ger­many – par­tic­u­larly in re­gard to loans dur­ing the Nazi oc­cu­pa­tion – are con­sid­ered an “open wound” in the Greek-Ger­man re­la­tions.

Ar­modios Drikos, Pres­i­dent of the Hel­lenic Na­tional Youth Coun­cil, told EurAc­tiv Greece: “The re-ap­proach of the Ger­man and Greek youth is the way out of the so­cial dead­lock and me­dia ma­nip­u­la­tion that have been pro­voked by the cri­sis. Only new gen­er­a­tions are able to tear down the prej­u­dice and think of our common fu­ture. The ac­cep­tance of Nazi atroc­i­ties will help us read com­monly the his­tory and look ahead, based on the ed­u­ca­tion and cul­ture, and not only on the num­bers of the fis­cal con­sol­i­da­tion”.

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