EU Commission expresses ‘serious concern’ as Greece’s tax reform chief quits

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ATHENS, Greece – The European Commission expressed “serious concern” Thursday after Greece’s powerful public revenues chief — a position created in 2012 at the insistence of bailout creditors — resigned citing “personal” reasons.

The Finance Ministry said it had accepted the resignation of Harry Theoharis, who quit a year and a half into his five-year term.

But EU Commission spokesman Simon O’Connor said Theoharis had played a “key role” in improving Greece’s troubled public finances.

“The revenue administration plays a key role in the reform program and this development is a cause of serious concern,” O’Connor said in a statement.

“It is essential that the government ensures full continuity in the delivery of planned reforms to improve the efficiency of the administration, combat fraud and evasion, and secure increasing government revenues,” he said.

The official’s resignation came before a planned Cabinet reshuffle, expected within days, following the conservative-led coalition government’s weak showing in European parliamentary elections last month.

Establishing a secretary-general for public revenues in the finance ministry was one of the conditions set by Greece’s creditors to continue releasing rescue loans. The position was intended to boost independent decision-making and address the country’s poor record of inefficiency and political interference in tax administration.

While it is unclear how broad the reshuffle will be, there has been much speculation in Greece that finance minister Yannis Stournaras will be replaced.

The International Monetary Fund confirmed Thursday that Stournaras visited Paris earlier this week and met with IMF chief Christine Lagarde and Poul Thomsen, the fund’s mission chief for Greece.

The meeting had not been previously announced and IMF spokesman Gerry Rice gave no details on what was discussed, other than to say talks focused on “the way forward for Greece and issues of common interest.”

Stricken by a prolonged financial crisis, Greece has been dependent on rescue loans from the IMF and Euro currency nations since May 2010. In return, the country has had to impose a series of deeply resented spending cuts and reforms. Its progress in implementing reforms has come under regular review by the IMF, the European Central Bank and European Commission.

The IMF said its fifth review of Greece’s progress, which was planned to be issued Thursday, has been delayed until next week.

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Associated Press writers Elena Becatoros and Derek Gatopoulos in Athens contributed.

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