P. Moscovici: Tax rates were and will remain the responsibility of the government

European Commissioner for Economic and Financial Affairs Pierre Moscovici on Tuesday left the door open to lower budget surpluses after 2018 and supported the restoration of collective labour bargaing agreements.

Speaking to reporters, during a news conference at the offices of the European Commission in Athens, Moscovici said that “the course chart now is the memorandum. After 2018, we will not have a program and things might change. We will discuss all these”. Referring to collective labour bargaining agreements, he said: “some reforms were needed within the program. The Commission is adhering to European regulations. The labour market must be flexible and workers must have negotiating power. Social dialogue is needed and this means collective bargaining”.

Moscovici noted, however, that achieving a staff level agreement with all institutions was a precondition this week ahead of a December 5 Eurogroup meeting in order that partners then respected their commitments on debt. “If Greece adhere to its commitments, we must reach a total agremenet, including debt, before the end of 2016,” he said.

He clarified that a staff level agreement must also include the International Monetary Fund. “The IMF is a very important partner for Greece and the creditors. It is the safety, the collateral,” he said.

“We do not examine the possibility of a fourth program. We are currently at the third and this is too much already. We want to finish the program and to exit from it. I cannot exclude this (a fourth program) but this is not what we want in any case,” Moscovici said.

The European Commissioner set four preconditions for the country’s smooth course forward: a) growth without exclusion of social groups, b) equal contribution in tax payments, c) all political groups to adopt reforms and d) the country to be an active player in drafting its future also because of its geopolitical importance.

He said that the European Commission was not preoccupied with political developments in Greece. “For us one thing matters: the country’s stability. The program moves forward, the government of Alexis Tsipras moves on”, he noted.

Commenting on a proposal submitted by Greek Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos on lower budget surpluses to reduce taxes on SMEs, Moscovici said: “Tax rates were and will remain the responsibility of the government”.