ATHENS – The government is considering the use of every tool at its disposal in the face of “unprecedented high prices,” government spokesperson Yiannis Oikonomou said on Friday, in an interview published by the online news site newsbomb.gr.
“The difficulties are huge. Whatever one does, there is this sense, [that] many people will not be able to cope. This is the reality,” Oikonomou added.
While the government was supporting people and allocating resources, society was struggling because the increases were excessive. He also highlighted the need to “be very careful how one uses taxation tools, because these bring in budget revenues that support social [policy].”
If the money was short, he pointed out, continuing welfare policies would require additional taxes or borrowing that would increase public debt.
“Nevertheless, these are extraordinary times. As the prime minister said, in the next 10 days we will announce a comprehensive support package,” the spokesperson added.
This will include measures that target the most vulnerable groups and would seek to mitigate rather than eliminate the impact of the price hikes, he explained.
Oikonomou noted that the government had used every opportunity, at every phase of the crisis, to do its best to support citizens, pointing out that both taxes and social insurance contributions were lower and hundreds of thousands of people had found work in the last two years.
“There is no category in Greek society whose income has not improved in the last two years,” he added, while noting that this was not enough to protect households from the impact of current events and the war in Ukraine.
Oikonomou stressed that the government will consider every measure proposed or decided by the European Commission, pointing out that the prime minister had also proposed extraordinary measures for all EU member states by capping the price of natural gas.
He also promised that the government will deliver on its promise for a higher minimum wage but in collaboration with businesses, so this does not drive up unemployment.
Regarding the upcoming meeting between Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Economou said that Greece and Turkey must continue to talk, despite their differences, while the expectations from the meeting were “realistic”.
“We are not going to this meeting with any illusions nor forgetting all that we know…on the other hand, as the prime minister said, however closed our door may be to any threats, the window for dialogue must always remain open,” he said, noting that the avoidance of further geopolitical upheaval in the Eastern Mediterranean was in the interests of both sides.
“High prices and the energy crisis will leave their mark on both countries,” he noted, while the unanimous condemnation and sanctions triggered by the Russian invasion made it harder for Turkey to “entertain strange thoughts”. He also pointed to the steps Greece has taken to enhance its deterrent and defensive capacity in the field, saying that Greece was entering this discussion with a self-confidence that stemmed from the fact that its views were firmly based in international law.
On the military equipment sent to Ukraine, Oikonomou said it was a choice fully aligned with the EU and that the weapons sent to Ukraine were not weapons of aggression to strike targets in Russia but arms to defend its cities, along with pharmaceutical supplies.
He concluded by saying that there were no thoughts in the government’s agenda regarding elections or changes to electoral law, adding that the elections will be won with the laws as they currently are.