Athens merchants and industrialists yesterday asked the government for lower taxes and fewer social security contributions. The Executive Committee of the Athens Chamber of Commerce and Industry (EVEA) met Deputy Development Minister Giorgos Salagoudis to discuss ways to improve the competitiveness of Greek industries, in view of the low level of exports. EVEA President Drakoulis Fountoukakos gave Salagoudis a memo including the chamber’s demands. The memo says that tax reform is necessary in order to create a «friendly and competitive business environment.» Other demands include a streamlined procedure in setting up businesses, a partial deregulation of the labor market, lower social security contributions and measures to maintain existing industries where this is feasible. EVEA also calls on the State to support the setting up of new industrial enterprises. The memo also deals with training issues, taking a cue from the oft-repeated remarks by the European Commission that the Greek work force lacks essential skills. EVEA proposes a National System of Professional Education and Training, to be jointly managed by local chambers of commerce and industry and the State, that will provide employees with the necessary skills demanded by different industrial sectors. Salagoudis assured the EVEA delegation that the government is willing to cooperate closely with it, saying it considers EVEA one of its main partners.