Thessaloniki.- (GreekNewsOnline, ANA-MPA)
The government will push for a decrease of primary surplus targets but not immediately, only once Greece acquires political credibility, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said during his press conference at the Thessaloniki International Fair (TIF) on Sunday. The Prime Minister also claimed Greece will be the pleasant surprise in the Eurozone.
Asked to respond to criticism voiced by main opposition SYRIZA over the negotiation on reducing primary surplus targets, Mitsotakis said he was being absolutely consistent with everything he had said before the elections on this matter.
“This does not mean that I don’t put this on the table during talks and explain why the surpluses are outdated,” he added. High growth rates made the debt automatically more sustainable, Mitsotakis noted. “We have all the arguments for the reduction of primary surpluses on our side and we will do it,” the prime minister said.
On the tax cuts that he announced on Saturday, the prime minister said that all the measures announced for 2020 were costed and realistic and that Greece will not be taking its EU partners by surprise.
“I would not proceed to make announcements unless the measures were fully costed,” he said.
Elaborating on his announcements concerning taxes during the press conference at the Thessaloniki International Fair (TIF) on Sunday, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis noted that a reduction of taxes increases the general obligation for tax compliance.
The reduction of the entry-level tax rate for freelance workers will give them an additional income to declare their income, he said.
By 2021, he added, there will be sufficient fiscal space to reduce the solidarity contribution and the enterprise tax.
The prime minister announced that draft bill on agricultural cooperatives will be tabled within the month, noting the government’s intention to crack down “mercilessly” on illegal “hellenisation” of foreign goods.
He also said that citizens should be aware that, if there was an overperformance in terms of collecting public revenue, “we can always intervene and return this to citizens via tax cuts and support for the social state.”
Mitsotakis went on to assure pensioners that the government will respect court decisions for backdated pension increases: “We will examine the fiscal margins and carry out the returns over the course of time,” he said.
He also promised that no benefits will be cut and promised a “concerted approach” to issues concerning people with disabilities, saying that he had undertaken this personally and that the government will present innovative proposals in this area.
On labour issues, he said the government’s goal was to “support the people of labour and full employment and to oppose all forms of employer abuse.” He repeated that a reduction of social insurance contributions will begin on July 1, 2020 and his faith in free collective labour bargaining.
Regarding the Public Power Corporation (PPC) and the government plan for returning it to health, Mitsotakis said that the company’s liquidity needs to restored and some parts of it sold off.
“I want PPC to be a front runner in a liberalised energy market that uses renewable energy sources. We will make it profitable once more. We cannot exercise social policy via the PPC, it must be paid,” he said.
Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis referred to a decision to scrap the previous government’s plans for the Thessaloniki metro. According to Mitsotakis, the solution initiated by the SYRIZA government “was no solution”:
“It was not costed and it was extremely uncertain whether it was technically feasible, and it would have led to the paradox of having a ‘rump’ metro, without the Venizelos station. I spoke with all agencies and we are proceeding with the support of the city’s agencies,” he said.
He confirmed the immediate hiring of doctors, nurses and special education staff, noting that the government will not be bound by the 1:5 ratio for public-sector hiring “because we can move at higher levels”.
The prime minister also pledged that the Crete North Road Axis will be completed, possibly with revenue from the extension of other concession contracts to finance the specific project. He also repeated that the Korydallos prison will be relocated somewhere far from urban areas.
Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis criticised the Prespes Agreement signed with North Macedonia during the press conference at the Thessaloniki International Fair (TIF) on Sunday, saying that it was “nationally damaging,” but noted that it has been ratified and cannot be changed at will.
“I pointed this out when I spoke in Parliament before the elections. The agreement makes no provision for any process to change it, only to monitor its implementation and on this we shall be very strict,” he said.
He referred to the need to support Greek Macedonian products and the Macedonian brand and to “win the communications game” abroad, so that people hearing the word ‘Macedonia’ will think of Greek Macedonia.
No meeting with North Macedonia’s prime minister, Zoran Zaev, has been arranged at this time but such a meeting will at some point take place, Mitsotakis added.
As regards speculation about the government’s intentions concerning the electoral law, which leftist SYRIZA changed to simple proportional representation while in power, Mitsotakis described the new system as “disastrous” and said his administration would pass a law to ensure political stability, noting that a party with 40 percent of the vote should be able to form a government.
As for constitutional revision, which was started by the previous leftist government, Mitsotakis said it would be completed by year-end, noting however that any changes to the electoral law would be submitted separately.
Questioned about a recent spike in migration flows from Turkey, Mitsotakis said the problem was “complex” and that the European Union should continue to show solidarity toward countries on the bloc’s external borders and provide funding to Turkey to stem illegal immigration in line with an agreement signed between Ankara and Brussels in 2016.
He stressed also, however, that it’s Turkey’s responsibility to crack down on migrant smuggling. “We have an increased influx. We can’t have 500 people arriving in 14 boats,” he said in reference to the increase in daily arrivals from Turkey. “It’s Turkey’s job to stop them.”
As for threats by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to “open the gates” to a new wave of refugees if it does not receive international support, Mitsotakis remarked that his rhetoric “does not promote good-neighborly relations.” He added that he intends to meet Erdogan on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly later this month.
Meanwhile, the country’s slow-moving asylum process will be speeded up, he said, while also calling on EU member-states to shoulder some of the burden by taking in refugees, especially unaccompanied minors.
On the Parthenon Marbles, for which his government plans to request a loan from the British Museum, he stressed that the request for the loan to the museum would be phrased in such a way as not to jeopardize Greece’s ownership rights. The museum “will lose this battle, no doubt about that,” he said.