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The claim for reparations is a sign of financial frustration

24 March 2015 / 12:03:16  GRReporter
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Therefore, the thesis, especially of the US, was that reparations should be minimal and that the aim should be the recovery of Europe, and not trying to determine which country should pay and what it should pay. And a little later, in 1947, the Americans launched their plan for the financial and economic recovery of Europe, known as the "Marshall Plan." They believed that if the desire was for Europe to recover and become economically strong, the aim should be the recovery of all areas, and that a ruined Germany, for example, could not be required to pay reparations to other equally ruined countries, of course.

An exception was made only for the Soviet Union, which insisted on receiving reparations. Viewed objectively, the USSR had actually suffered the greatest damage and ultimately, the American and British delegations agreed that it should receive reparations, but only from its own occupation zone in Germany. Therefore, the Soviet Union actually exported hundreds of factories and other things from the East German occupation zone. The rest of the countries did not accept the thesis of reparations and this was one reason why their amounts were not so burdensome after World War II.

The second reason was that during the peace conference in Paris in 1946, Europe was already largely divided into spheres of influence. What Churchill would call the "Iron Curtain" had already formed. It had fallen over Eastern Europe, making it clear that the USSR would somehow dominate these countries.

This changed the attitudes to the sanctions imposed on the defeated countries. Henceforth, the Soviet delegation too was very opposed to demanding large reparations from those countries that were formerly allies of Germany and that already were in its area. It was not in its interest for Bulgaria to pay reparations to Greece that had remained on the other side of the Iron Curtain.

This created an entirely new situation. At one point, the winning countries favoured some of the defeated countries for the simple reason that they were already in their sphere of influence.

Therefore, the Soviet delegation was clear that no large sums should be demanded from Bulgaria. On the other hand, we have to admit that the US delegation very clearly showed that it was against reparations by estimating a relatively small amount of reparations due by Italy, about $320 million. I emphasize that this country, unlike Bulgaria, waged war on Greece.

Bulgarian war reparations and Greece

The amounts discussed in Paris were reasonable and Bulgaria was required to pay reparations to Yugoslavia and Greece. It is interesting to see how things developed after the two countries had fallen into different spheres of influence. By 1946, the conflict between Tito and Stalin had not exploded and Yugoslavia had been moving with the common Soviet bloc. In this situation, the Yugoslavs said that they had no claims for large reparations to be paid on the part of Bulgaria, but only for symbolic ones, thus significantly weakening the Greek position.

Therefore, the Greeks remained in isolation. Initially it was considered that Bulgaria should pay a sum of $125 million but after Yugoslavia and the Western war winning countries announced their position, the final contract determined that Bulgaria should pay reparations to the amount of $70 million, as follows: $25 million to Yugoslavia and $45 million to Greece.

Another favourable factor, a result of the failures after World War I, was the decision that reparations would not be paid in hard currency, such as US dollars or Swiss francs, as it was considered that this type of payment would take the defeated countries to a financial collapse. It was decided that reparations be paid in goods, which was a better option.

The problem of Bulgarian-Greek reparations remained over time. It was not immediately solved, as it followed the political relations between the two countries, which significantly deteriorated in the period 1947-1948. Greece was in the grip of a civil war, Bulgaria and Yugoslavia were accused of secretly supporting the communist resistance. In practice, once the royalist forces took power in Greece there were no diplomatic relations between Bulgaria and Greece for years. This was why no reparations were paid. Bulgaria refused to pay any reparations to a country with which it had no diplomatic relations.

This was the time of the Cold War. Contacts between the countries from the two blocs were generally very limited, they were mostly hostile. Bulgaria was almost fully under Soviet influence and virtually none of the decisions related to foreign policy were taken by the Bulgarian government. From this perspective, reparations were not a problem of immediate importance.

After Stalin's death in 1953 and especially after 1956, when Nikita Khrushchev started to send detente signals to the international community, changes occurred in the satellites of the USSR. They also began to "open" and Bulgarian-Greek relations very slowly started to recover. Of course, they had accumulated a lot of problems that had to be solved over time.

Bulgaria took the first steps to thaw the ice in 1956 when the two countries exchanged diplomatic representatives, but only at the level of attaches. For many years, Greece raised many problems, including reparations. After all, having attained convergence of positions, in 1964 they signed agreements that settled the controversial issues and reparations among them and having committed to solve them, the two countries restored their full diplomatic relations and exchanged embassies.

Tags: HistoryWorld War IIWar reparationsBulgarian-Greek relationsMollov-Kafantaris exchange of populations agreementGermany
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