Split Decisions For Samaras

samarasGreek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras will have divided attention at a meeting of European Union leaders in Brussels on Dec. 20 where he will outline the country’s agenda when it assumes the symbolic, rotating six-month EU Presidency on Jan. 1 but keep one eye on Athens where the Parliament is set to vote on a key, unified property tax.

The measure, which extends taxes to farmers and other sectors while trying to combine it with a separate property tax surcharge that was put in electric bill three years ago – for what was supposed to be one year only – is just one test for the Premier as the lawmakers the next day will vote on whether to lift a ban on mortgage foreclosures.

There were doubters on both measures among Samaras’ New Democracy Conservatives and his partner the PASOK Socialists, who have only a four-vote majority in the Parliament but modifications to them have reportedly appeased would-be dissenters in the ranks.

Government lawmakers who have failed to support crucial bill have been ousted from their parties since the coalition came to power in June 2012 but, clearly, the margins for such actions are becoming ever narrower although the political unrest has been big Greek news.

“The draft law we are discussing has been totally transformed by the parliamentary groups that support the government,” said New Democracy MP Fevronia Patrianakou about the property tax. “The original plan was ill-conceived and unfair. We have succeeded in ensuring that the majority will pay less, in a fair way.”

In the meantime, Samaras was preparing to brief fellow EU leaders at a summit in Brussels about what priorities the Greek presidency will have. “Greece starts the EU presidency with positive results, a primary surplus and imminent recovery,” he told journalists in the Belgian capital. “It will be a presidency of hope – hope for more and better Europe.”

The property tax and mortgage ban lifting are key issues for Greece’s international lenders, the Troika of the European Union-International Monetary Fund-European Central Bank (EU-IMF-ECB).