Germans, who are making the largest financial contribution to the euro zone bailout for Greece, are growing increasingly impatient with the Greek “bottomless pit”, and since Greeks can’t do the job on their own they decided to take the situation in their own hands and send German tax officials to “help” Greek authorities. The preparations for the tax advice mission is being made under the auspices of the European Union and International Monetary Fund. The big question, however, is whether such assistance is wanted by the Greek people.
The article also refers to a confidential report from the European Commission, under which the mechanism of tax collection in Greece is facing serious problems. Tax evasion has basically turned into the most popular national hobby and tax evasion rates in major professions such as doctors, lawyers and engineers, who frequently declare income below the taxable limit, and entrepreneurs who do not pay VAT are the highest in Europe.
The magazine cites statements by the German Finance Ministers in two states, North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) and Hesse, who even lay out the criteria based on which the tax officials will be hired. The key factor to getting the job is the knowledge of English or even Greek. According to Wirtschaftswoche, most of the German tax collection volunteers come from NRW, Germany’s most populous state. But Hesse, one of the country’s richest states, where the financial capital Frankfurt is located, has also recruited many volunteers. “When it comes to helping Greece we should also think about the possibility of recalling retired German tax collectors who had experience helping (east Germany),” said Hesse’s finance minister, Thomas Schaefer. Other than the language skills and the experience, prospective candidates should be courageous and adventurous, as Greeks’ feelings towards Germany at the moment are not exactly friendly .
Greeks’ reaction to German help
The offer will most certainly fuel anger among Greeks who have already reacted furiously to earlier German calls for the appointment of a “budget commissioner” to monitor the Greek government’s management of its finances. Greek media have already started referring to a financial “German invasion” and made comparisons to the second world war, when Greece was occupied by both Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany and hundreds of thousands of Greeks died, some from starvation, others at the hands of collaborators and Axis soldiers.
Only ten days ago Germany was viewed with distaste by over 70 percent of respondents according to a poll conducted by the Epikaira magazine. Negative sentiments, escalating to downright hatred, dominate Greeks’ view of pro-austerity Germany, while 32 percent associated Berlin’s policies with the country’s Nazi past.
Asked to identify their main feelings on Germany, 41 percent of respondents named anger, indignation or fury, 30 percent ranged from disappointment and fear to revulsion, while positive sentiments were just 8.6 percent.
(Sources: Reuters, Proto Thema, Newsit, Ta nea)