Merkel says Germany recognises Nazi crimes
ATHENS — Germany recognises its historical responsibility for crimes committed by the Nazis in Greece, Chancellor Angela Merkel said yesterday on her first visit to Athens since 2014.
“We recognise our historical responsibility. We know how much suffering we, as Germany in the time of Nazism, have brought to Greece,” she said.
“That is why it’s a lesson for us to do everything to have good relations with Greece, and to lend each other support for the prosperity of both countries.”
Tensions linger over wartime reparations for the World War II Nazi occupation of Greece, with Berlin arguing the issue was settled in 1960 in a deal with several European governments.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Thursday heaped praise on Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras in a show of post-austerity solidarity during a visit to Athens, lending diplo- matic support for a name change for Greece’s neighbour Macedonia, which is still a divisive issue in Greece.
Merkel’s arrival was in marked contrast to her last official visit to Athens in 2014 when she faced angry anti-austerity protests.
“Through co-operation, we can all have a better future rather than through nationalism, which frequently led Europe to disaster,” Merkel said.
“We Germans know particularly well what these disasters mean, because of the bleak history of National Socialism.”
Merkel congratulated Tsipras on his “decisive action” on Greece’s name row with Macedonia.
The former constituent part of Yugoslavia shares the name of a northern Greek province.
Tsipras and Macedonian counterpart Zoran Zaev have agreed in principle for Skopje to change the name of the country to “the Republic of North Macedonia.”
But Skopje lawmakers still have to vote through a move which entails four constitutional amendments and requires two thirds support in parliament.
The name deal will permit the Republic of North Macedonia to join NATO and the EU, the German chancellor said and “is in the interest of all of Europe.”
Tsipras described it as “a model accord” which will bring stability and growth to the region.
“Greece was part of the problem and has become part of the solution,” he said after two hours of talks with Merkel.
Also in 2014, ex-president Joachim Gauck sought public forgiveness in the name of Germany from relatives of those murdered by the Nazis in the mountains of northern Greece.
Merkel was to hold talks with conservative opposition New Democracy party leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis, an EU parliament ally of her Christian Democrats, and meet President Prokopis Pavlopoulos.
Tensions were high between Berlin and Athens during the eurozone sovereign debt crisis when Merkel’s government insisted on tough austerity measures for Greece in return for international bailouts.
Tsipras was a fervent opponent of the austerity measures when he came to power in 2015, but changed tack six months later under pressure from the European Union.
His message on Thursday was of tolerance and unity.
“The major danger today for Europe is not political differences between forces that believe in Europe, but the emergence of anti-European powers that threaten it. “— AFP