Page last updated at 13:39 GMT, Thursday, 25 February 2010

Greece angers Germany in gold row

By Malcolm Brabant
BBC News, Athens

Greek Deputy PM Theodoros Pangalos: "I don't say they have to give back the money necessarily, but they have to say thanks"

Greek Deputy Prime Minister Theodoros Pangalos has accused Germany of failing to compensate Greece for Nazi occupation during World War II.

Mr Pangalos made the remarks during a wide-ranging BBC interview about Greece's financial difficulties.

"They [the Nazis] took away the Greek gold that was in the Bank of Greece, they took away the Greek money and they never gave it back," he said.

Germany has rejected the allegations, describing them as "not helpful".

Germany has been one of the harshest critics of Greece since it announced that its budget deficit was four times the eurozone limits.

Icy response

Mr Pangalos told the BBC: "This is an issue that has to be faced sometime in the future.

"I don't say they have to give back the money necessarily, but they have to say thanks. And they [the German government] shouldn't complain much about stealing and not being very specific about economic dealings."

Mr Pangalos' comments elicited an icy response from German Foreign Ministry spokesman Andreas Peschke.

"I must reject these accusations," he said.

"A discussion about the past is not helpful at all to solve the problems facing us in Europe today."

In 1960, Germany paid Athens 115m German marks in compensation for the four year long occupation, in which 300,000 Greeks died.

Mr Peschke added: "I'd like to mention that parallel to this, since 1960 Germany has paid around 33bn Deutsche marks in aid to Greece both bilaterally and in the context of the EU."

Earlier this month, an article in Germany's Stern magazine outraged Greece.

The author accused Greeks of frittering away German taxpayers' savings.

Then another German magazine, Focus, further antagonised Athens with a front cover that depicted a statue of the Venus de Milo making an obscene gesture under the title "Greek cheats."

'Offensive' coverage

Following publication of the articles, the German ambassador to Athens, Wolfgang Scultheiss, was summoned to Parliament for a dressing down by the speaker, Filippos Petsalnikos.

The speaker described the German coverage as "offensive" and "surpassing all limits".

The Mayor of Athens, Nikitas Kaklamanis, has also waded into the dispute. "You [Germany] owe us 70bn euros for the ruins you left behind," he said.

The Greek Consumers' Federation has called on shoppers to boycott German goods.

A former foreign minister, Mr Pangalos has a reputation for using undiplomatic language.

His comments are the antithesis of the charm offensive mounted by the Prime Minister, George Papandreou, and his Finance Minister, George Papaconstantinou, in a bid to win European support for Greece.

But Mr Pangalos has his finger on the pulse of Greeks who blame the country's predicament on outside forces such as the financial markets and the European Union.

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