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Saturday 1 October 2016

Greece crisis: Islanders threaten referendum over tax

Published 09/06/2015 | 10:47

Greek odyssey: The whitewashed buildings of Mykonos Town are full of narrow lanes that are home to tucked-away bars and boutiques
Greek odyssey: The whitewashed buildings of Mykonos Town are full of narrow lanes that are home to tucked-away bars and boutiques

Greek islanders are threatening to hold a referendum on whether to veto proposals by the country's international lenders to scrap a reduced rate of value added tax for the islands, a regional governor said on Tuesday.

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Plans to increase VAT have been a sticking point in talks between the Greek government and its European and International Monetary Fund creditors, as the two sides try to hammer out a cash-for-reforms deal to unlock further aid. Athens argues the hike would hit tourism, its main source of revenue.

Yorgos Hatzimarkos, governor of a south Aegean cluster of islands that includes popular destinations such as Mykonos and Santorini, said his region had decided to hold a referendum with the backing of Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis.

A finance ministry spokesman said the two sides had met to discuss VAT rates but could not immediately confirm the details, nor what kind of legitimacy the referendum would have.

"It's something that's been agreed with the finance minister," Hatzimarkos told Skai TV. "It was his idea and proposal in order to shield the government against the pressures by its lenders."

It would take 12 to 14 days to plan the vote once the phrasing of the question was approved by the ministry, he said.

Greece has submitted alternative proposals to European creditors in a bid to reach agreement on fiscal targets and debt relief, a Greek government offical said on Tuesday.

"The Greek side will continue exchanging views with the lenders on a political level, awaiting their official response with interest," the official said in a statement.

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