Insisting that his government will never betray its commitment to social cohesion, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras reiterated Tuesday that islands of the eastern Aegean will be exempt from a value-added tax hike introduced as part of the country’s bailout commitments, as they are the ones, he said, that have borne the brunt of the ongoing migrant crisis.
“They are shouldering the burden of reception and hospitality, and, ultimately, the entire burden of Europe. Citizens on these islands must feel sure that the state is looking after them,” Tsipras said during a visit to Nisyros, where he announced a series of measures to assist the islands, including the improvement of ferry services and healthcare.
“Greece is an island country and we have to show our support to islanders,” he said.
His announcement last week in a televised address regarding VAT hikes on the islands, and a one-off supplement to low-income pensioners, had raised eyebrows in Brussels as the European Commission and the country’s international creditors had not been informed beforehand.
However, Tsipras, who was accompanied on his visit by Defense Minister Panos Kammenos and Shipping Minister Panayiotis Kouroublis, said his government would honor its commitments as an EU country, but appeared defiant, saying foreign technocrats were not aware of Greece’s particularities, as a result of its long coastline and the difficulties reaching the islands, especially during the winter.
As for the pensioners’ supplement, Tsipras said he was not about to ask third parties about how to dispose of money which came from a surplus.
“We decided that these revenues should be spent now before the year is over in order to support those that saw their pensions plundered,” he said, adding he could “never imagine that people would raise their voice in opposition.”