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MPs to vote on property tax as PM unveils Greek presidency plans in Brussels

Prime Minister Antonis Samaras responds to questions from the press in Brussels on Thursday.

The government’s attention will be divided between Athens and Brussels on Friday as MPs are due to vote on the new, unified property tax, while Prime Minister Antonis Samaras presents to his European Union counterparts Greece’s plans for the EU presidency, which it will take over on January 1.

Friday’s property tax vote is the first of two tests in Parliament for the coalition as lawmakers are also due to cast ballots on a new framework for home foreclosures Saturday.

Even on Thursday, there were still doubts about how two coalition MPs would vote on Friday. Given that the government has just 154 of 300 seats in Parliament, this is a concern for Samaras and his advisers. Government lawmakers who have failed to support crucial bill have been ousted from their parties since the coalition came to power in June 2012 but, clearly, the margins for such actions are becoming ever narrower.

However, the government has made an effort to appease its lawmakers in recent weeks by making changes to the tax bill. This was reflected during Thursday’s parliamentary debate. “The draft law we are discussing has been totally transformed by the parliamentary groups that support the government,” said New Democracy MP Fevronia Patrianakou. “The original plan was ill-conceived and unfair. We have succeeded in ensuring that the majority will pay less, in a fair way.”

Nevertheless, a number of coalition MPs put forward suggestions about changes that they would like to see to the tax bill before it is put to a vote on Friday.

In the meantime, Samaras was preparing to brief fellow EU leaders at a summit in Brussels about what priorities the Greek presidency will have. “Greece starts the EU presidency with positive results, a primary surplus and imminent recovery,” he told journalists in the Belgian capital. “It will be a presidency of hope – hope for more and better Europe.”

At Thursday night’s dinner, the EU banking union was one of the main topics of conversation. Leaders are due to rubber-stamp its details Friday and it will be up to the Greek presidency to bridge the differences between what has been agreed and the European Parliament, which also needs to approve the new framework but is known to hold reservations about several aspects of the deal.

ekathimerini.com , Thursday December 19, 2013 (21:20)  
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