France says helping Greece on tax net 'worthy of the name'

15th September 2011, Comments 0 comments

France's budget minister said on Thursday that Paris would send experts to debt-wracked eurozone partner Greece to help it set up a "tax administration worthy of the name."

In undiplomatic language reflecting northern Europe's frustration over Greece's struggle to control its debt, Valerie Pecresse said Athens must meet its promise to carry out "privatisations and very tough spending cuts."

"A certain number of French tax officials and customs officers will go to help the Greek government to set up a tax administration worthy of the name," she told LCI television, promising Greece a "French-style" tax system.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel spoke out on Wednesday to reassure Greece that it still has a future in the eurozone, but made clear that it must stick to a harsh austerity plan.

Europe has kept Greece's shrinking economy alive by drip-feeding it slices of a 110-billion-euro ($150-billion) EU-IMF bailout, but has been concerned at the the pace of Prime Minister George Papandreou's reforms.

The rest of the package and the future of a second 159-billion-euro lifeline could be in doubt if richer eurozone members decide to pull the plug.

Greece owes around 350 billion euros and its economy is in freefall, shrinking by 7.3 percent in the second quarter as austerity measures began to bite and amid mounting public anger.

© 2011 AFP

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