Draft bill to set framework for development of social economy A Labor Ministry draft bill now in the works and due to be tabled in Parliament in the fall provides for significant tax breaks for up to three years and exemption from social security contributions for «social cooperatives,» founded by individuals belonging to groups affected by high unemployment and socially vulnerable categories of the population, including women, the young, people with special needs, one-parent families and former addicts. The start-up capital for the cooperatives will be provided by the Manpower Organization (OAED), the European Social Fund or by founding members. The cooperatives will have the right to provide a wide range of products and services and to sign contracts with private and public enterprises. According to Deputy Labor Minister Lefteris Tziolas, the draft bill aims to provide a framework for the development of the «social economy» sector, which, going by the experience of other countries, has played a positive role in boosting employment and improving the quality of services. Separately, the government yesterday tabled an amendment giving priority in public sector part-time employment to people affected by mass layoffs, people with special needs, the long-term and older unemployed and mothers of many children. Marble industry hit by local reactions, imports and bureaucracy The Greek marble industry is facing serious difficulties in the face of rising imports and weakening competitiveness, the Association of Mining Enterprises (SMEE) has warned. According to the latest data of the National Statistics Service which it cites, exports (including granite) fell 14.3 percent to 377,840 tons in 2001, while imports last year rose to the value of 41.4 million euros from 31.2 million in 2001. According to SMEE, declining competitiveness is directly related to a lack of investment, mainly due to protests by local communities and time-consuming and complex licensing procedures. Enlargement business The Federation of Industries of Northern Greece (SVVE) and the European Business Information Center (EKPE) have been assigned by the European Commission the implementation of the program Border Regions Development and Economic Reinforcement, which concerns the tapping of business opportunities arising within the framework of EU enlargement. EKPE, in collaboration with the equivalent agency in Venice, Italy, will host at least 500 enterprises at two events in Vicenza in November and in Thessaloniki in May 2004, to promote contacts. SEKAP Xanthi-based cooperative tobacco-manufacturing firm SEKAP, largely owned by the Agricultural Bank of Greece, will face the prospect of liquidation if it does not urgently hold a share capital increase. The company is suffering from falling sales and profitability, mainly in ventures in Russia and Romania. Sportsunited Sports management consulting company Sportsunited, specialists in the development of business applications in the area of sports, has set up shop in Greece (Client Service: tel 210.942.5406, e-mail: [email protected]).