The mayors of the five eastern Aegean islands hosting thousands of undocumented migrants on Monday issued a joint statement accusing the government of making them “hostages” to the refugee crisis by linking it to the issue of their special value-added tax status.
In their statement, the mayors of Lesvos, Chios, Samos, Kos and Leros charged that the government has an “apparent fixation” with linking the refugee crisis to the reduced VAT status of the Aegean islands, which, they said, is a right protected by the Greek Constitution and European law.
The mayors said their fight against the planned revocation of the islands’ special tax status has been “intense and relentless,” has already reached the European courts and “will continue” until the favorable status is declared to be permanent for all Greek islands.
Last week, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras announced from an EU leaders’ summit in Brussels that the VAT rates on the aforementioned islands would not be raised to those that apply in the rest of the country, in line with original plans agreed between Greece and its international creditors.
Although Tsipras gave the impression that the move on VAT was not related to the agreement with Germany on returning migrants to Greece, it was widely regarded as a kind of trade-off.
In an interview with Kathimerini over the weekend, Germany’s Ambassador to Greece Jens Ploetner vehemently denied speculation of links between the agreement on migrant returns, the economy and the name deal signed between Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) as “baseless.”