It was Friday afternoon, November 17, 1995, when I was dialing the phone number of the residence of the -then- prime minister Andreas Papandreou. I wanted to talk with him about... a serious issue: the forced loan taken out by the Bank of Greece in March 1942 from the Third Reich.
The newspaper "Investor", which was directed by me, last Saturday revealed exclusively that the Greek government by note verbale requested the united Germany's Helmut Kohl to return the occupation loan (38 million gold sovereigns), which was calculated 17 $ billion or 4 trillionDR at the rate of drachma - U.S. dollar at the time.
I remember the details of the call because I had the sad privilege of being the last reporter who spoke with Papandreou before entering, two days later, at the Onassis hospital, which basically meant the political and biological end of the founder of PASOK.
Let me note here that at that time Papandreou was politically cornered by internal party contests like the "group of 4" (Simitis, Pangalos, V. Papandreou, Fri Avgerinos), scandals and scandalous behaviors of his "courtyard", especially his wife Dimitra Liani.
The note is necessary so as to go to the climate of the time and understand my text in its entirety, which is reproduced unchanged, apart from historical significance-may explain the current "noise" surrounding the German occupation loan and compensation dues:
Determined to assert from Germany the forced occupation loan taken from the Bank of Greece, worth about 4 trillion. GRD is the Prime Minister, even after the rejection by the German Foreign Ministry of the government's note verbale.
Indeed, in a statement to the "Investor" stresses:
"The issue of repayment of the loan is very clear. There is nothing that questions claim of them. Distinguishes it from war damages, which is broader and another texture issue. The claim of the occupation loan repayment should not be associated with the good relationships we have with Germany. We do not want to create problems in these relationships, but our request is fair and we stick to it. "
When I asked Mr. Papandreou, to describe his thirty years ago meeting with the then Chancellor of West Germany on the issue of the loan, he said:
"I went to Bonn in 1965 and met Chancellor Ludwig Erhard to discuss, as I was instructed by the Cabinet of the Government of my father, George Papandreou, the issue of reparations and the return of the loan."
Mr Erhard acknowledged that our claims were rightful, but he told me that he could not do anything until there is a peace agreement. He did not agree to exactly return to us the loan, but clearly recognized the right basis of our claim, the satisfaction of which was referred in the future tense, after signing a peace agreement (then, Germany was divided into East and West).
The Prime Minister, during our conversation, having praised the attitude of "E" to make headline the issue of the loan ("Investor" first and exclusively in the previous sheet of 11 November, revealed that the government delivered a note verbale to Germany seeking the return of the occupation loan 4 trillion. drs) expressed his bitterness on the way such important issues are treated.
"Policy is sinking into decline. Dealing with small, trivial and personal, rather than focusing the interest and efforts in large and important problems of society and of the country. And the issue of the loan repayment is important and of national importance "
he said, sending a message to multiple recipients, and certainly those with actions and statements which preserve the climate of morbidity and decline prevailing lately.
The way but mainly the style with which Mr. Papandreou me expressed his views really made an impression. A drop of bitter misery for policy and a spark of excitement for the subject of the loan.
As I listened, my voice entangled with my thought that reminded me of what a close associate of him had told me.
"With Papandreou anyone can debate long on strategy and large-political problems
involving the whole country-. The daily and the current freeze and make him typical and rather distant interlocutor. "
The partner of the Prime Minister perhaps is right, but he never gave me a convincing answer to the responsibility of Mr Papandreou for the current decadence of policy. So be it.
And let's come back to the occupation loan claim, the political aspect of which this note aspires to approach . First, the rejection- with the typical "German" way and style of the Greek-note shows rather panic . The government of Mr. H. Kohl knows well enough that the request of the government of Mr. Papandreou is an "aggressive" diplomatic action.
The Germans-even if they do not know-believe-correctly-that Greece, posing formally for the first time the issue of the occupation loan repayment, aimed at much more than the actual loan repayment.
He wants to convert the loan to a "balance beam" of the Greek-German relations. Upgraded to a transnational-and not only relative to Germany. Converted from a kick eating dwarf from the giant to partner with rights and at least a word to say.
Henceforth there is a bargaining chip that can be retrieved and utilized. It would be easy and perhaps desirable for German diplomacy to repay the loan (part or all cash or other offsets, does not matter) and "clean" once and for all with Greece, sending it into the place it was.
But it would open the appetite of other states to claim reparations from Germany.
The best for our "northern friends' would be a secret-as with Belgium- settlement. But that would ruin the diplomatic and political weapon of Greece and prove that the energy of the note verbale was done without planning and strategic view across the abutting relations between the two countries in the European Union, the Balkans and southeastern Mediterranean basin.
"The Prisoner's Dilemma", appears to be facing in this case Germany, but the government must not be provoked to the "arrogant recklessness." Now the tones must fall.
Impressions are also won, while the Hague, and in an extreme case, the ECJ (European Court of Justice) always exist.
The step was taken and can not stay suspended because of public and "private" threats of the German side "for pending tasks of in its region and in Europe." It must be completed. To step steadily, and when needed, to do the next one.
For the history note that Andreas Papandreou was the only prime minister who raised formally with note verbale, the issue of the return of holders.
By ordering the then Foreign Minister and current President of the Republic Kar. Papoulias prepared a note verbale, which undertook to deliver to the German Foreign Office the then our ambassador to Germany Mr. Bourloyannis.
The note was rejected by the then Chancellor Helmut Kohl and the next Prime Minister Simitis and Karamanlis, did not bring up the issue again.
Today, and under the circumstances of tension between Greece and Germany, so far at least, and the negative attitude of the Germans to the "European rescue plan "of our country, it is also difficult, if not" suicide "to be politically-put.
Later, in less turbulent times the Greek government could reintroduce the issue, hoping perhaps not the payment of money, but in response to the request by some other methods.
For example, a part could be offset with an obligation of the Germans of carry out major projects in our country, such as the modernization of the railway network, which was however rather taken by the French, strengthening our military machine, the repayment of a part of our external debt, which especially in the current financial context would be "God's gift", etc.
For the History also note that before Papandreou the issue had been put by Ant. Samaras (Foreign Minister LD) on April 18, 1991, in a way of an oral question but then German Foreign Minister Mr. Genscher, during talks in Athens and received a negative answer.
Interesting is the history of the occupation loan, and the amount which is calculated today. In 1942, in order to reinforce Rommel's companies in Africa, the occupying forces of Nazi Germany took from the Bank of Greece a forced loan-signed in Rome on 14 March 1942 to 38 million gold coins (other calculations based the U.S. state requirement 135.8 million USD year 1947).
For the first time the repayment of the loan came up at the Paris conference (December 1945 - January 1946) by the Greek delegation member Professor John Smparounis.
The loan was not returned ever since 1953 with the signing of the Treaty of London. The payment of German reparations was postponed until it would definitively be settled the so-called "German question" (integration, ie, of the two Germanies).
Greece, in 1964, during the government of George Papandreou, sends in Bonn Prof. Angelos Antonopoulos and in 1965 the then Minister for Coordination Papandreou to discuss the settlement of the problem. The then Chancellor Ludwig Earhard replied (as Papandreou revealed in parliament on 05.28.1991) that
"the loan will be paid back when the issue of Germany will be "closed"(integration, ie, of the two Germanies).
The Berlin Wall falls, the two Germanys are consolidated, but the Kohl government refuses the Greek legal requirement on the basis that "the Treaty 4 +2" (USA, Russia, France, Britain + W. Germany - East Germany) that unifies the two Germanys constitutes a peace treaty.
The tricks of the Germans are legally untenable, as it is opined by valid scientists. The amount of the loan that Germany must now return will take enough budgets to be determined.
The authoritative version, however, is that of Professor A. Angelopoulos, who on 3/5/1991 estimated at 15 billion dollars. With 3% interest rate for 1995 was 16.8 billion, or about 3.7 trillion drachmas.
I do not know how much it can be valued today, since rates change, existence of a common European currency (euro), frequent interest rate changes, but it is not hard to find if a team of experts jointly be established for this purpose.
But certainly the representative of the German Foreign Ministry, Mr Andreas Pesche is not right when he claims Germany has fulfilled its obligations towards Greece.
The truth is that the issue is not resolved and still exists. It is a different matter and it is a wrong tactic to be associated with the current economic and fiscal crisis, or in the "noise" of days in response to the bad behavior towards Greece in the German press.
The issue should in the appropriate time be reviewed in a sober way with creative approach to each other to contribute to the further development of bilateral relations between the two countries for the benefit of both within the European family.
POSTSCRIPT: This text was posted on the "Investor's World" three years ago on February 28, 2010, when the then government of George Papandreou had begun talks to bring the country in a memorandum. I thought that this chronic claiming of Greece had to be put on the table of negotiations with Germany of Merkel-Schäuble to offset the pressures, but also to a favorable loan plan. I think I have nothing more to add today that the debate is regaining publicity. My conversation with the then Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou, about 18 years ago, I think other than historical value has political significance for how far the Government of Ant. Samaras to move on the issue of claiming the forced loan and the owed German reparations.