Series of social support measures planned in 2019, Vernardakis reveals

The government is poised to take a series of measures in 2019 that will provide further support to the “social majority” in Greece, Minister of State Christoforos Vernardakis revealed in an interview with the Athens-Macedonian News Agency (ANA) published on Sunday.

“We are already preparing a new law for the protection of primary residences but also settlement schemes for debts to the public sector and social insurance funds,” he said.

The settlement for social insurance contributions, in particular, would seek to offer a 120-installment payment scheme and “haircuts” of the original debt and fines of up to 90 pct, he clarified. Similar measures were also being prepared for overdue taxes, he noted, while 2019 will also see an increase in the basic wage and the abolition of the sub-minimum wage for young people.

Questioned about levels of tension in relations between Greece and Turkey, Vernardakis referred to an open line of communications between the government and neighbouring Turkey to ease tensions, while noting that foreign policy was the province of the prime minister and the foreign ministry.

He also called for the end of “austerity as the official dogma of the European architecture,” identifying this as the main culprit for a swing to far-right nationalism in Europe and noting that it had to be overthrown.

Turning to domestic politics, Vernardakis attack main opposition New Democracy and its leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis, saying that an ND victory in the elections “would mean a return to the policies that led the country to bankruptcy and the memorandums.”

Regarding SYRIZA’s cooperation with its partner in Greece’s coalition government, the Independent Greeks (ANEL) party, Vernardakis claimed that ANEL leader Panos Kammenos had become “trapped” by his inflexible positions regarding relations with FYROM, so that the productive partnership within the ruling coalition in the last four years was now drawing to a close.

“The cooperation as we knew it, in the form that we knew it, is reaching its end,” he said, while emphasising that early elections were not in the government’s plans.

Regarding the future for SYRIZA and the role of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras could play, Vernardakis pointed out that the party had succeeded in both extricating the country from financial assistance programmes and also establishing itself as the political system’s main pole against the right and far right.

“Today, from a position of strength and political leadership, there needs to be a major regrouping of the progressive democratic front. To give it a new identity, a new momentum, a new programme of governance… and Alexis Tsipras is a political and symbolic point of reference for such a regrouping,” he noted.