Islanders protest plans to terminate VAT discount


Members of 19 professional and business associations on Lesvos occupied the offices of the General Secretariat of Aegean and Island Policy in Mytilene for three hours Wednesday to protest the planned revocation on January 1 of a special 30 percent discount on value-added tax rates that Lesvos and other islands enjoy.

The Lesvos protests led to most shops shutting for part of the day. Meanwhile, opposition MPs joined a protest held in solidarity at the island’s main port. Similar protests were held on Lemnos, Samos and Chios, where VAT is also set to rise to 24 percent from 17 percent on January 1.

The northern Aegean islands are the last group to lose the discount which was originally introduced to offset increased transportation costs. Those islands will follow Santorini, Myconos, Naxos, Paros, Rhodes and Skiathos, which lost the tax break in October 2015, and Syros, Thasos, Andros, Tinos, Karpathos, Milos, Skyros, Alonnisos, Kea, Antiparos and Sifnos, which have been without the discount since June.

Island officials are to join Regional Governor for the Northern Aegean Christiana Kalogirou in talks in Athens next week with Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and press for the right to retain the discount in view of the additional pressures imposed by the refugee crisis.