Merkel on refugee crisis deal with Greece; Die Welt links agreement with VAT hike postponement

5 July 2018
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German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Wednesday referred to an closely watched agreement between Berlin and Athens dealing with the refugee crisis, saying her government will attempt to sign similar agreements with other countries.

Speaking in the Bundestag during a debate on the federal budget, Merkel said that with Greece “we already have agreed that it is possible to immediately return refugees registered there (in Greece) from the area near the German borders.”

She also referred to the prospect of a transfer of registered refugees from Greece to Germany, part of a family reunification program.

Meanwhile, in a related development, Die Welt on Wednesday analyzed a recent decision by the Tsipras government to suspend the harmonization of VAT rates on five eastern Aegean islands that have borne the brunt of refugee flows arriving from the opposite Turkish coast.

In an article entitled “Are Tsipras’ ploys with VAT related to Merkel’s refugee agreement in the EU?”, the paper notes that the “Greek government is constantly postponing the imposition of a unified VAT (rate)… at the same time the talk at the European Council is that Germany is turning a blind eye (on the VAT postponement) because it needs Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras for an agreement on the refugee crisis, because without Athens it may not be possible to achieve a deal in Brussels.”

Although the decision to postpone the measure – officially until Jan. 1, 2019 – was eagerly promoted by the poll-trailing Tsipras government, the paper claims the development caused irritation with other EU partners.

According to EU sources, the issue was broached with the Greek delegation participating at the Eurogroup work group sessions on Monday.

The same sources claimed that Tsipras presented his plan to Merkel to maintain a lower VAT rate on the specific islands, and left with the impression that the German chancellor agreed to the initiative. However, the paper cites the sources as saying that Merkel simply heard the plan but did not respond.

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