Greece to Vote on Tax Help for Migrant Islands

(AFP) – A Greek parliament vote on a special tax allowance for Aegean islands struggling to accommodate thousands of migrants has been pushed to Wednesday, the chamber said.

The vote scheduled to be held late on Monday will be held on Wednesday evening after an opposition party called for a show of hands on the bill.

The tax allowance is part of state handouts that have caused a row with the country’s creditors.

The measure keeps until 2018 the maximum sales tax threshold at 17 percent, compared to 24 percent in the rest of the country.

It will apply to the eastern Aegean islands including Lesbos, Chios, Samos, Leros and Kos, which saw a huge flow of refugees and migrants last year and still hold over 16,000 people in overcrowded camps.

The measure was announced earlier this month — alongside a one-off bonus to the poorest of pensioners — after the government found itself with a 1.0-billion-euro ($1.06-billion) tax surplus.

Leftist Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said it was his administration’s policy “to return every single euro of surplus to the weakest”.

But Greece’s international creditors said they had not been fully informed of Tsipras’ intentions ahead of the announcement.

In response, a spokesman for Eurogroup head Jeroen Dijsselbloem on Wednesday said the eurozone was suspending a recently-announced debt relief scheme for Athens.

This in turn caused a row with France, whose finance minister said the Eurogroup’s announcement was “not collective” as it had not been unanimously adopted by the 19-member club.

Greece is in the middle of a fiscal evaluation by the creditors to unlock fresh funds from its 86-billion-euro bailout.

“We think that with a constructive attitude on all sides, a technical level agreement will be found in the next few months,” European Commission vice-president Valdis Dombrovskis told the Greek daily Kathimerini in an interview.

In that perspective a second examination of Greece’s budget plan “will be concluded by the start of 2017,” he added.


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