NEWS

EC envoy urges reform as PM seeks concessions

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On a lightning visit to Athens Monday, the European Commission’s Vice President Valdis Dombrovskis urged Greek authorities to press ahead with reforms while Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras sought concessions for the efforts Greece is being asked to make to address the refugee crisis.

“There is no time to lose,” Dombrovskis told reporters after talks with Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos and Economy Minister Giorgos Stathakis. “There is a need to work very actively to modernize the Greek state and economy,” he added. A successful review by creditors will improve Greece’s credibility and reboot the real economy, he said.

All three officials acknowledged that the matter of repossessions of primary residences was a sticking point. Tsakalotos said both sides agreed on the need to arrive at “an honorable compromise.” Noting that the creditors’ stance is that only mortgage-holders who are in real need should be protected, Dombrovskis added that efforts would be made to reach a compromise that “satisfies all sides.”

As regards another thorny issue, that of the possible imposition of a value-added tax on private education, Dombrovskis indicated that Tsakalotos was preparing a new proposal. The envoy indicated that the creditors did not have a problem with alternative measures if they did not undermine the fiscal targets that have been agreed upon.

In talks with Tsipras, Dombrovskis said enforcing the program quickly will enable Greece to return to growth. Behind closed doors, Tsipras is said to have pressed the EC envoy for concessions on the program, citing the pressures the country is facing due to an influx of migrants.