A German MEP says Germany, France and the Netherlands will buy Greek bonds to help Athens deal with its debt. A senior German official has dismissed the claims.
Merkel and Papandreou are to meet in Berlin next Friday
A German member of the European Parliament announced Saturday that Germany, France and the Netherlands are planning to buy Greek bonds to help Athens cope with its debt crisis.
The claim, backed by a leading Greek newspaper, was made by MEP Jorgo Chatzimarkakis on Greek television, despite reports that a senior German official, who declined to be named, had dismissed the comments as "nonsense."
"Germany is planning to buy 5-7 billion euros ($6.8 - 9.5 billion) [of bonds] immediately," said Chatzimarkakis, a German of Greek heritage. He added that Germany's state-owned development bank KfW and France's state-owned Caisse des Depots would contribute. Earlier, big German banks Deutsche Postbank, Eurohypo and Hypo Real Estate said they would not be buying any more Greek government bonds.
Athens plans to issue its second round of bonds this year, possibly in early March, in order to make good on debt payments due in April and May. Greece needs about 20 million euros to prevent a default, which could have potentially catastrophic effects on other eurozone economies.
The Greek finance ministry and the European Commission declined to comment on the report, and there was no immediate comment from France's government.
Papandreou has said Greece will not seek World War II reparations
On Friday, both Germany and Greece sought to downplay rising tensions as Athens said it would not seek World War II reparations from Germany.
Several government officials and opposition politicians have pressured Prime Minister George Papandreou to renew demands that Germany compensate Greece for Hitler's occupation of the country. Germany claims it has already paid Greece billions of euros in reparations.
German Foreign Ministry spokesman Stefan Bredohl said Berlin and Athens had had a "slight disagreement," but that the German ambassador and the Greek parliamentary speaker had recently had an "amicable" meeting.
The rehash of the decades-old war reparations dispute came as the German government announced a March 5 meeting in Berlin between Papandreou and German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Greece may soon be in need of a government bailout, in which Germany would likely play a central role, and which many Germans strongly oppose.
Speaking to parliament, Papandreou said his government could not wait to address the deficit, and that he was optimistic the European Union would lend its support.
"We are asking the EU for its solidarity and they are asking us to meet our obligations," he said. "We will meet our obligations... We will demand European community solidarity, and I believe we will get it."
A Focus cover sparked much controversy
Calls for boycott
Parallel to the spat over war reparations, the Greek and German press have exchanged mocking words and images. The latest issue of German news magazine Focus featured an image of the Venus de Milo raising her middle finger on the cover. A Greek newspaper responded by printing an image of the statue atop the Victory Column in Berlin holding a swastika.
The Venus image led George Lakouritis, president of Greece's oldest consumer group INKA, to call on Chancellor Merkel to condemn the magazine. The group also distributed leaflets in central Athens and in front of the German-owned electronics store Media Markt calling for a boycott of German goods.
"The distortion of a statue of Greek history, beauty and civilization, from a time when there (in Germany) they were eating bananas on trees is impermissible and unforgivable," the group said.
Editor: Andreas Illmer