Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras on Friday announced that a scheduled harmonization of VAT rates on five eastern Aegean islands with the rest of Greece will be suspended, citing the impact of the migrant/refugee crisis on their local economies – speaking shortly after an he and his Spanish counterpart agreed to take back specific asylum seekers from Germany.
Suspension of the measure will affect Lesvos (Mytilene), Hios (Chios), Samos, Kos and Leros.
Speaking after a European Council meeting in Brussels, Tsipras downplayed the agreement with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and instead said the initiative dated to a recent visit to Greece by EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker.
“I had touched on the need to suspend the increase in VAT rates for five islands, as a minimum show of solidarity for the burden they are bearing,” Tsipras told reporters, adding that the suspension – but not elimination – will be achieved via a legislative instrument.
In response to a press question, he said the suspension will continue as long as the refugee crisis persists.
Tsipras, along with Spanish PM Pedro Sanchez, on Friday agreed with Merkel that Greece and Spain, respectively, will take back registered third country asylum seekers who are intercepted at the Austria-German border.
The agreement is seen as a temporary measure to prevent the movement of asylum seekers between EU countries until Union-wide policies take effect.
"What we achieved here together is perhaps more than I had expected," Merkel told reporters at the end of the summit.