“Greece and Germany share a common future as part of their European course,” Greek President Karolos Papoulias told his German counterpart Joachim Gauck on Thursday, after an official welcome ceremony at the Greek presidential mansion.
Papoulias said he paid particular attention to Gauck’s recent statements at a meeting on security in Munich, highlighting the new responsibilities of all parties for international security. “Germany can play an important role in that direction, so can Greece in its region. We stand side-by-side on the path of peace,” he pointed out.
The Greek President also went into the issue of German war reparations during the joint statements made by the two men after their meeting. “I want to point out that Greece never gave up on its claims,” said Papoulias, adding, “Solving the problem and beginning negotiations as soon as possible is of the utmost priority.”
In his remarks, the President of the Federal Republic of Germany thanked Papoulias for the invitation and his strong friendship. In relation to the German reparations, Joachim Gauck said that the German government holds a specific position on the matter and that he, as a member of this government, cannot express a different opinion. The German President noted, however, that during tomorrow’s visit to Ioannina, where he will be accompanied by Papoulias, he will try to find the words to express the guilt felt by Germany for the atrocities done to the people living there.
Gauck mentioned that, apart from a physical dimension, this guilt also has a moral dimension, and that he will put his efforts into demonstrating “the path we ought to take,” he said, “since in Germany we have taken a wrong way, many things have passed into oblivion and, therefore, many of the German atrocities should be remembered.”
“I would like to talk with people about a different, modern Germany, as the two people’s ties have a long history. This history yesterday was confirmed in Acropolis,” Gauck said, adding “I want you to know, when I was fifteen in what was then a communist and dictatorial East Germany, I learned ancient Greek.”
The German head of state also expressed his pleasure at being accompanied tomorrow by the Greek President who, as Gauck said, fought against the invaders from whom his country suffered a lot. Papoulias, openly touched with emotion, concluded the Greek-German meeting with the customary handshake.