ECONOMY

Cross-border shoppers hit trade hard

An estimated 600,000 border crossings by consumers into countries neighboring Greece every month causes a drain of about 500 million euros a year and a proliferation of Greek shop closures, the National Confederation of Greek Commerce (ESEE) said in a statement on Thursday.

ESEE said about one in four commercial businesses in border areas has shut down and more than 1,500 Greek businesses have relocated to neighboring states in the last 12 months.

The most affected districts are Florina, Lesvos, Thrace and Kos.

Cross-border shoppers mainly go after clothing and footwear, as well as alcoholic drinks, tobacco and gasoline, whose prices in Greece have risen steeply due to repeated tax hikes, as well as food. Many gasoline stations in eastern Macedonia, for instance, have shut down because gas on the Bulgarian side of the border costs 50 cents less per liter, while Florina residents cross into the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia for dental treatment as well as gasoline.

ESEE proposes tax cuts for businesses and lower value-added tax rates in border regions.