Venizelos sees chance of working with ND

Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos suggested Tuesday that there is ?fertile ground? between PASOK and New Democracy that could lead to the country?s two biggest parties finding the consensus that has been sought by Greece?s lenders.

Venizelos met Tuesday with New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras to brief him on the major economic policy decisions the government is preparing for September. Exiting ND headquarters, Venizelos said he discovered ?much fertile ground where there is a convergence of views that can form the basis of consensus with New Democracy.?

The minister said his talks with Samaras were ?extensive and substantial.? ?We are not dealing with a party issue but a crisis that demands an honest and open cooperation between the government and New Democracy.?

Samaras did not make any public comments but ND sources emphasized that the two parties remain far apart on a number of issues, especially taxation. Another example given by the conservatives was the proposal for allowing owners of illegal properties to protect them from demolition. ND sources said that the conservatives? scheme would bring in up to 12 billion euros from fines over four years, whereas the government aims to collect 1.6 billion euros over two years.

However, tax issues are likely to come to the fore over the next few days as the government?s plan to raise value-added tax at restaurants from 13 to 23 percent looks set to meet with resistance from restaurateurs. Their union, POESE, which also represents a number of fast-food chains, issued a statement yesterday asking the government to reduce the VAT to 6.5 percent rather than raise it.

It also suggested that the businesses would stop passing their VAT takings to the government unless the policy is changed.