Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis announced €5 .5 billion ($5.6 billion) in emergency relief packages for 2022 and 2023 during a speech late Saturday at the 86th Thessaloniki International Fair (TIF).
“Division and demagoguery only breed defeat, while unity and truth only lead to victories," he said before announcing the measures his government is planning to implement.
He said that “after 12 years of memoranda, Greece has now regained its economic autonomy from financial supervision, while it plays a leading role in development and exports."
Mitsotakis said 2.3 million vulnerable citizens will receive €250 in December as he tackled the much-anticipated energy aid.
Greece, like the rest of Europe, has suffered the consequences of the Russian military operation in Ukraine which has sparked a European energy crisis pushing governments to take multibillion euro relief measures to help their citizens from rising costs.
Mitsotakis specifically said subsidies last year amounted to €174 million while this year it will reach €300 million.
The measures include relief for vulnerable citizens, an increase in housing allowance for students and €150 million in emergency subsidies to farmers to cover fuel increases and livestock feed and a discount on insurance contributions.
As of May 2023, minimum salaries will increase and pensions will also see an increase, he said, adding that wages in the National Health Service and armed forces will also be boosted.
The so-called ‘solidarity contribution’ will be permanently abolished while a lower VAT on several sectors will be extended. In construction, VAT is suspended until the end of 2024 to boost building activity.
"Either we give progress a second chance or we risk disaster a second time," he said.
"What we have achieved is not a given -- with one wrong move everything can be demolished," said Mitsotakis.
Earlier, hundreds gathered near the Fair which was barricaded with thousands of police officers.
Members from the two largest private and public unions, the General Confederation of Greek Workers and the Civil Servants Confederation marched chanting slogans against the energy rise and the increase in prices.
“The prime minister of wiretapping and high costs made his last speech at TIF today. In his swan song he tried with much effort and sweat to describe a bright Greece for himself and his friends who have plundered the public coffers,” main opposition party, Syriza, said in a statement after the prime minister's address.
“He made a pre-election speech, in case he convinces his own MPs and his party, who refuse to defend him in the morass that has suffocated the country's political life,” it said.
The left-wing Mera25 party accused Mitsotakis of being an "unrepentant, hopeless and dangerous prime minister in his own magical and oligarchic world."
The Greek communist party said “the long-awaited TIF package in view of the ‘difficult winter,’ announced by the prime minister, challenges the intelligence of workers and ordinary households. Not only does it not constitute substantial relief, but on the contrary it perpetuates and strengthens all those factors and mechanisms that are responsible for the high costs, energy poverty, the attack on the working class income, for all the problems.”