BBC World Service

Some German tax experts to volunteer advice to Greece

Steve Evans Feb 27, 2012

Adriene Hill: Now to Europe, where some volunteer tax experts from Germany want to head to Greece for a series of tax collection how-tos. They say they’ll hold workshops to help Greece increase its revenue — as Athens grapples with budget cuts and austerity.

Greek tax officials aren’t happy with the idea. The BBC’s Steve Evans joins us from Berlin. Good morning, Steve.

Steve Evans: Good morning.

Hill: So will these volunteers actually go to Greece and try to do something?

Evans: I think they will go. Some may go. But you can imagine the resistance, can’t you? I mean, there may be some advice from governments outside about tax systems, about how to close loopholes and how to minimize illegal evasion. But there is not going to be, I don’t think, a high-profile group of tax inspectors arriving from Berlin or Frankfurt and landing in the full blare of publicity, and then fanning out, saying ‘We have come to show you how to do it.’ There’s a little bit of publicity going on in the German press, I suspect.

Hill: Why is this relationship between the Greeks and the Germans so fraught right now?

Evans: It’s fraught because largely, it’s German money and it’s German conditions put on that money. So all of that austerity, people on the street in Greece are blaming on the Germans. The Germans, in turn, see on their television screens people — Greeks — in Nazi uniforms and the Germans think, ‘Hold on a minute, we’re giving them the money, and now they’re ungrateful.’ The German government, then, is very, very sensitive to that idea that it’s starting to dictate terms, because Germany occupied Greece in the war, and there are people in Greece who remember the German presence in Greece and resent German conditions on their money.

Hill: The BBC’s Steve Evans, thanks.

Evans: You’re welcome.

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