Finance Minister George Papaconstantinou defended a draft bill introducing harsh penalties for tax evasion as "fair and measured" while appearing before Parliament's Economic Affairs Committee during discussion of the bill on Thursday.

"Tax offences threaten the existence of the financial system itself, they feed corruption, act like a bomb at the foundations of the country and the social state and render all Constitutional provisions a dead letter," Papaconstantinou stressed. The solution proposed by the government was "proportionate," with penalties that were fair and not excessive, he added.

Regarding the debt and deficit, Papaconstantinou predicted that it would take another three to four years to bring the deficit down to 3 percent, while the ultimate goal was a deficit around zero. Reducing the debt would be even harder, he added, warning that "everyone would be judged by their attitude, their choices and whether they had suggested alternative paths".

He underlined that the ministry's goal was a radical overhaul of tax inspection services, promising a thorough shake-up in order to find people that were capable and not afraid to do their jobs properly, uninfluenced by illicit or unlawful interference.