Special zone plan is under way

The government is paving the way for negotiations with the European Commission regarding the creation of special economic zones (SEZ) in Greece, Development Minister Costis Hatzidakis confirmed on Tuesday in Athens.

The ministry has already commissioned a feasibility study that will be submitted to Brussels along with a request for the creation of areas with a special tax and industrial relations status. Along with the changes to the investment incentives legislation and the fast-track law for investment licensing, this is seen as crucial for bolstering competitiveness and attracting investment.

?SEZ will give a boost to the basis of the real economy,? said Hatzidakis, reiterating that the existing labor legislation will be fully respected. However he avoided setting a timetable or clarifying whether the SEZ will have a geographical or thematic character, or a combination of the two, as is the case in the proposal by the Capital Markets Experts company for the creation of a silk zone at Soufli, near the border with Turkey at Evros.

The minister did say that the negotiations for the creation of the zones will be very difficult, as neighboring countries have raised objections regarding regions such as Evros.

This forms part of the 10-point priority plan Hatzidakis announced yesterday aimed at boosting growth. Changes to the investment incentives law and the fast-track regulations will be completed within the next 15 days. The bill to be prepared will include subsidies of up to 80 percent for smaller companies and larger tax exemptions for major enterprises.

Public-private partnerships will be used for bolstering regional growth. Hatzidakis announced that the first project for the utilization of local authority property will be auctioned in September: the ski resort at Tria-Pente Pigadia, near Naoussa in Macedonia.

Hatzidakis further announced initiatives for boosting innovation, ministry organization mergers and the transfer of agencies that will cut operational costs by a total of 30 percent.