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Demonstrations banned for Gauck's visit

German president to visit Ioannina on Friday to scenes of wartime crimes

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Police ban all demonstrations in a large part central Athens from 8am to 7pm on Thursday, on the occasion of the visit of German President Joachim Gauck to Athens

German President Joachim Gauck (Photo: Reuters) German President Joachim Gauck (Photo: Reuters) All outdoor demonstrations and protests have been banned in a part central Athens from 8am to 7pm on Thursday, on the occasion of the visit of German President Joachim Gauck to Athens.

Police said this was necessary "for reasons of public safety and non-disruption of socioeconomic life". In the past, much larger bans on demonstrations were imposed for the visits of German Chancellor Angela Merkel and her finance minister, Wolfgang Schaeuble

Gauck arrived at Athens airport on Wednesday afternoon, where he was received on behalf of the government by Culture Minister Panos Panagiotopoulos.

Prior to beginning his official meetings on Thursday, Gauck will visit the Acropolis Museum and the archaeological site and lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

His official schedule includes meetings with Foreign Minister Evangelos Venizelos and Syriza leader Alexis Tsipras.

Gauck is visiting at the invitation of President Karolos Papoulias. On Friday, the two heads of state will visit the city of Ioannina, in the northwestern Epirus region, from where German troops deported the Jewish community on 25 March 1944. Of the 1,850 deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau, only 163 would survive. The German president is expected to visit the local synagogue and meet with members of the local Jewish community.

Afterwards, the leaders will visit the village of Ligkiades, the site of a massacre of 92 people by German troops on 3 October 1943, where he will lay a wreath.

He will depart for Berlin on Friday evening.

Wartime debts

During his visit, Gauck is certain to encounter demands for Berlin to pay compensation and repay loans stemming from Nazi Germany's brutal occupation of Greece during the second world war.

But in an interview with Kathimerini daily published Wednesday, he refused to discuss demands in Greece that Germany should pay reparations for second world war atrocities. However, he accepted that his country bears an undeniable "moral burden" for what happened.

Germany insists it has settled all wartime reparations issues.

Additionally, Nazi Germany forced the Greek central bank to issue a loan in 1942 that was never paid back and that would today be worth several billion euros. Thus far, Germany has claimed it has already sufficiently repaid Greece for the damages, rendering its remaining claims invalid or lapsed.

But the government insists the issue remains open, at least on paper.

Syriza says Papoulias should raise the issue with his German counterpart, while the populist right-wing Independent Greeks accused Gauck of coming "not as a partner but as a conqueror".

Last month, Berlin rejected a demand last month by Greek Jews for compensation over a wartime ransom extracted to free Jewish slave labourers - who were subsequently deported and murdered in the Nazi death camps.

 

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