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Greece

Greece offers tax breaks to farmers angered by pension reforms

Greek farmers take part in a demonstration against planned pension reforms in front of the parliament building in Athens

Greece offered concessions on Monday to farmers angry over pension reforms, following a month of protests when farmers intermittently blocked many Greek roads.

European Union nations want Greece to reform its generous state pension system and improve tax collection after the European bloc had to bail out Greece’s cash-strapped government with an 86 billion euro loan.

The reforms demanded that farmers pay higher income tax and triple their social security contributions from the current 7 per cent to 20 per cent by 2019.

On Monday, the government sought to soften the deal by offering tax breaks and a longer, five-year transition period for the higher social security contributions.

“The government reiterates that it will support the farming sector with every available means,” said government spokeswoman Olga Gerovasili. “We hope that a dialogue with farmers representatives is productive, sincere and effective.”

Many professional farmers could also qualify to pay only 16 per cent into a pension instead of 20 per cent, Gerovasili said in a written statement.

There would also be a ‘tax easing’ for a large majority of farmers, and a tax-free threshold would be established, she said, without elaborating.

“A combination of these proposals means that the tax burden will be lessened on 90 per cent of farmers, compared to what exists today,” she said.

Farmers’ representatives met with Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras for almost five hours. But people at the meeting said farmers, who are an influential voter base, were lukewarm on the government offer.

“That is like slow death,” said one farmer present at the meeting. He spoke on condition of anonymity because farming groups had not yet discussed the proposals.

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