Businesses on Northern Aegean islands protest planned tax hikes
by Anthi Pazianou
MYTILENE, Greece, Nov. 30 (Xinhua) -- Stores and public services on the islands of the Northern Aegean remained closed on Wednesday in protest of the government's plan to abolish the reduced rate of VAT for islanders in January 2017.
For three decades the Greek state had granted islands a special taxation status to help local economies. In the context of the latest rounds of austerity measures introduced under the bailout program, these exemptions are abolished next year.
A total of 54 trade unions of the Northern Aegean islands of Lesvos, Chios, Limnos and Samos called Wednesday's mobilization. They were backed by unions representing public servants and academics teaching on the islands.
The local societies request the exemption of the islands from the increase of the VAT rate from 17 percent to 24 percent, citing "economic and national reasons."
Protesters who participated in a three-hour symbolic sit-in protest of the General Secretariat of the Northern Aegean and Island Policy on Lesvos, requested a meeting with the Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras.
Islanders ask the government to take into account the additional difficulties the region is facing since 2015 due to the refugee crisis. More than one million people have landed on the islands' shores seeking refuge in Europe over the past two years.
"The government's stance towards the islands is unacceptable if we consider the huge load islanders have been carrying in recent months- the refugee issue," Panagiotis Paparisvas, the president of the Trade Union of Mytilene, told Xinhua.[ Editor: 刘家铭 ]