Monday

22nd Jan 2018

Greek orthodox head defends Church over tax scandals

  • Mount Athos in Greece is off limits to women and is exempt from paying VAT (Photo: Konstantinos Kazantzoglou)

Taxes in Greece continue to slip through state scrutiny as some corporations, wealthy Greek-ship owning families, and the Greek Orthodox Church are either exempt or use loopholes to hide millions of euros.

In the first five months of 2012, the Greek ministry of finance registered a €300 million shortfall in collected taxes. The shortfall, notes the ministry, is primarily due to corporations having not submitted their taxes on time.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

Meanwhile, ordinary Greek citizens are on the front-line of a tax collection scheme that has channelled revenue directly from their electricity bills into the state coffers to help plug the country's debt.

Associate professor of economics Rapanos Vasileios at the University of Athens says that Greek ship owners are exempt from “some laws”. Most, he told this website, register their boats overseas like in the Cayman islands even if they fly the Greek flag.

He also said no study, to his knowledge, has ever been conducted to quantify the tax-rate of high-income individuals or ship-owning families in Greece.

The country’s largest property owner - Greek Orthodox Church – is under intense scrutiny following a real-estate scandal that apparently swindled millions of euros from Greek tax payers.

His eminence metropolitan Athanasios, the representative of the church of Greece to the European Union, told reporters in Brussels on Thursday (12 July) that allegations the Orthodox Church does not contribute its fair share to the Greek people in times of crisis are unfounded.

"Every revenue of the Church goes to the people according to the proofs in the documents that we can offer publicly and definitely there is transparency and everybody can see whatever is offered is not always received in a manner of gratitude," he said.

Athanasios said that local authorities are to blame for any irregularities that may have arisen from illegal appropriations of property.

"Unfortunately, it takes at least 20 to 30 years in the notoriously slow judicial system to resolve a matter of case of property. But anyway, we are here to help everyone, I assure you," he noted.

The around 2,600 monks residing at the Vatopaidi monastery in Mount Athos defied the Greek Ministry of Finance last year when it required the so-called autonomous territory pay property taxes on its commercial property.

Mount Athos, a 300 km2 peninsula in Greece, is off limits to women and is exempt from paying VAT. Its mandate prohibits “heterodox or schismatics to live on the Holy Mountain” and states its elected Abbot “must not have been convicted of malversation of monastic property.”

Its chief operator, Abbot Ephraim, is charged with money laundering and embezzlement in a land swap that saw valuable state land traded for less valuable property held by Vatopaidi.

The Hellenic court handed him a six-month suspended sentence in February 2012.

Another monk also took the blame, as well as a former judge from the area in northern Greece where the land swaps took place.

Ephraim, who posted €300,000 bail, was released after four months of detention in Korydallos prison. The former abbot is now residing at the monastery and is not allowed to leave Mount Athos.

The Greek edition of the International Herald Tribune reported that Ephraim called his conditional release "a miracle of the Virgin."

Mount Athos retains a special status in the EU's passport free Schengen rules, which was enshrined during Greece's accession to the European Union.

The European Commission, for its part, views the special status - which enables the monastery to bar women from entering the grounds - as part of the religious and cultural diversity of Europe.

"Commissioner Vassiliou, in her capacity as the commissioner responsible for education and culture, is the first to call for equal treatment of men and women, in all walks of life. At the same time, religious and cultural traditions need to be respected. We are a Europe of diversity and we should cherish that," her spokesperson told this website.

German coalition deal aims for 'Macron-lite' EU renewal

Merkel and Schulz clear the first hurdle of coalition talks, but the SPD's full membership backing is still needed. The likely coalition parties express support for Macron's eurozone reform ideas, but remain cautious.

News in Brief

  1. Abbas in Brussels to discuss Palestinian state recognition
  2. Exiled Catalan leader leaves Belgium for first time
  3. CSU politicians set to oppose concessions to SPD
  4. Greek mass protests against use of 'Macedonia' in name dispute
  5. Oxfam report reveals inequality as Davos elite gather
  6. Macron: France would probably have voted to quit EU
  7. Germany confirms attendance at air quality summit
  8. Nearly half of 'fixed' Dieselgate cars show problems

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Solutions for Sustainable Cities: New Grants Awarded for Branding Projects
  2. Mission of China to the EUTrade Between China, Belt and Road Countries up 15%
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersOresund Inspires Other EU Border Regions to Work Together to Generate Growth
  4. Mission of China to the EUTrade Between China, Belt and Road Countries up 15%
  5. AJC Transatlantic InstituteAJC Calls on EU to Sanction Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, Expel Ambassadors
  6. Dialogue PlatformRoundtable on "Political Islam, Civil Islam and The West" 31 January
  7. ILGA EuropeFreedom of Movement and Same-Sex Couples in Romania – Case Update!
  8. EU2017EEEstonia Completes First EU Presidency, Introduced New Topics to the Agenda
  9. Bio-Based IndustriesLeading the Transition Towards a Post-Petroleum Society
  10. ACCAWelcomes the Start of the New Bulgarian Presidency
  11. Mission of China to the EUPremier Li and President Tusk Stress Importance of Ties at ASEM Summit
  12. EU2017EEVAT on Electronic Commerce: New Rules Adopted

Latest News

  1. New Polish foreign minister tries to charm EU commission
  2. Middle East, Messi and missing MEPs on the agenda This WEEK
  3. Instagram and Google Plus join EU anti-hate speech drive
  4. EU wants 'entrepreneurship' in education systems
  5. UK loses EU satellite centre to Spain
  6. Pay into EU budget for market access, Macron tells May
  7. Ethiopian regime to get EU migrants' names
  8. EU to lend Greece up to €7bn more next week

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Jewish CongressChair of EU Parliament Working Group on Antisemitism Condemns Wave of Attacks
  2. Counter BalanceA New Study Challenges the Infrastructure Mega Corridors Agenda
  3. Dialogue PlatformThe Gülen Community: Who to Believe - Politicians or Actions?" by Thomas Michel
  4. Plastics Recyclers Europe65% Plastics Recycling Rate Attainable by 2025 New Study Shows
  5. European Heart NetworkCommissioner Andriukaitis' Address to EHN on the Occasion of Its 25th Anniversary
  6. ACCACFOs Risk Losing Relevance If They Do Not Embrace Technology
  7. UNICEFMake the Digital World Safer for Children & Increase Access for the Most Disadvantaged
  8. European Jewish CongressWelcomes Recognition of Jerusalem as the Capital of Israel and Calls on EU States to Follow Suit
  9. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Boost Innovation Cooperation Under Horizon 2020
  10. European Gaming & Betting AssociationJuncker’s "Political" Commission Leaves Gambling Reforms to the Court
  11. AJC Transatlantic InstituteAJC Applauds U.S. Recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s Capital City
  12. EU2017EEEU Telecom Ministers Reached an Agreement on the 5G Roadmap