After four and a half hours of talks, Greek farmers left the government mansion saying that they will present the prime minister’s proposals to their unions to decide whether they would continue their protest actions.
Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has made concessions to the farmers who have blocked all major national highways and border checkpoints protesting against security fund reforms and tax hikes that affect their sector.
Not all farmers unions visited the Maximos Mansion for the talks. Some of them are holding their hard stance, claiming they would only start negotiations from scratch, asking the government to withdraw the draft bill altogether.
The Greek prime minister appeared more acquiescent than expected and made several concessions to farmers, who said they would transfer the government proposals to their peers to decide if they would accept them or not.
After the meeting, the prime minister’s office issued an official statement outlining 25 proposed measures that would ease the farmers’ tax and contributions burden.
On the security funds issue, the government proposed a five-year transition period for the existing farmers pension fund and a gradual hike on contributions until 2021. Also, the government gives farmers the option to pay 16 percent in contributions instead of 20 percent, but receive a lower pension upon retirement. Finally, farmers can use work stamps for paying their employees and the stamps will be written off as expenses.
On taxation, the government offered farmers tax cuts and raising the tax-free income limit.
Other measures proposed to farmers were the establishment of a Farmers Register that would include only those who have farming as their main occupation and the register will guarantee they would get a pension. Also, outstanding debts to the Public Power Company can be paid in 36 installments.
Tsipras also offered farmers financial aid for the installation of small photovoltaic systems through the Rural Development Programme for the reduction of production costs. Furthermore, he offered immediate compensations to farmers who lost revenues due to the embargo imposed on Russia by the European Union. He also offered quicker compensation procedures overall.
Other measures proposed were subsidies of up to 22,000 euros to young farmers under 40, expediting the return of value added tax, the establishment of a farmer’s card for receiving European Union subsidies faster, monitoring the market and battling corruption, obligatory books for registering expenses and subtracting them from income, a bill that would give incentives for the creation of farmer confederations, the establishment of a national network for agricultural policy and forming an agency for the development of public agricultural land.
Also, the prime minister proposed implementation of programs for the promotion of agricultural products, advisory structures throughout Greece, for the scientific and technical support of agricultural production.
Furthermore, Tsipras promised a special plan to support livestock farming in order to increase production. He said the government will support fishing with immediate measures that will ensure the possibility of regeneration of fish stocks and establish a global framework for sustainable management.
The government will also implement differentiated programs and interventions for agricultural production in mountainous, remote and island regions.
Finally, a gene bank is proposed with the aim of preserving, breeding, marketing and promotion of indigenous genetic material for farming.
Farmer union representatives said they will discuss the government’s proposals with their unions in meetings that will be held on Tuesday.