Gov’t softens its industrial licensing and zoning rules

The government yesterday dismissed misgivings by opposition parties over provisions of a draft bill hoped to facilitate the licensing of manufacturing enterprises, saying the bill is part of the government’s major drive to bolster Greek entrepreneurship. «The bill is targeting a radical reform of the complex and bureaucratic regime of regulations, the greater absorption of European Union investment subsidies, attracting foreign investment, supporting entrepreneurship, and the creation of new investment and jobs,» Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas told Parliament during the relevant debate. «[The year] 2005 is a year of changes, reforms and competitiveness. It is a landmark year in the creation of a new environment for investment and development… Our slogan is ‘Competitive Greece with Quality Everywhere,’» he added. Earlier, main opposition PASOK’s rapporteur Vassilis Kegeroglou described the bill, which eases the restrictions on the setting up of industrial units in the Athens basin, as «a step in the dark.» «You are seeking to create oases of efficiency only for certain categories of enterprises, tiptoeing between their requirements and the protection of the environment,» he insisted. The representatives of the Communist Party and Synaspismos Left Coalition focused on the environmental effects which the laxer measures will have on the city. Sioufas also said his ministry is completing the long-awaited draft bill on investment incentives which should become law early next month. Call for improvements Separately, Athens industrialists called for improvements in certain provisions of the bill. In a memorandum to the government, the chairman of the Athens-Piraeus Industries’ Association, Costas Yiannidis, listed several points needing attention: First, specific deadlines are needed for the issuing of ministerial decisions, certificates or approvals required as preliminary documents for certain procedures; Second, manufacturers in the Attica area should be allowed to add new equipment to their plants for manufacturing new products (change of activity); Third, the provision concerning «mergers» needs restatement, to make clear in which cases a firm is allowed to relocate a unit to another plant; Fourth, firms investing over 1 million euros should be allowed the right of appeal should a proposed scheme be rejected; Fifth, there should be a legalization of the extensions given to enterprises which violated the tight deadlines of the 1984 law which forbade them; and Sixth, the land use certificate should be waived for small enterprises that are not required to obtain an installation license. New zoning plans Meanwhile, responding to calls by the Federation of Greek Industries (SEV) for a properly planned environmental policy and organized zoning, Environment and Public Works Minister Giorgos Souflias announced on Monday the drafting of a new National Zoning Plan and the modernization of the Athens Zoning Plan. «Had there been a well-studied zoning policy in our country, we would have solved many problems connected with the environment and development,» Souflias told SEV’S general council. Odysseas Kyriakopoulos, SEV’s president, said the significance which the industry attributes to the issue is indicated by the appeal for a solution addressed to the government jointly by WWF Hellas, the Technical Chamber, the Architects’ Association and the Union of Municipalities. The basic principles of the National Zoning Plan were approved by the National Zoning Council in December 2003 but never turned into law. Now the ministry intends to leave out the more draconian clauses, such as the ban on construction up to 50 meters from the coast and the gradual ban of constructions outside town plans. Souflias said the appropriate funds have been approved from the EU-subsidized Third Community Support Framework, so the study for the new National Zoning Plan will be assigned within the next two months, to be completed by year’s end. Another immediate need is a change in the capital’s 20-year-old zoning plan, to cover pending issues such as the new airport and the Athens metro and to provide vital investment incentives in Attica. This would also settle the land use question of other sensitive spots, such as Goudi for Panathinaikos soccer club’s use, the old airport at Hellenikon, the plots around the Karaiskaki soccer ground, as well as Olympic installations and the Saronic coastline. The study for all this is almost complete, Souflias said, adding that along with sector plans for Attica, he will bring to Parliament a relevant bill in June. The ministry’s aim is to make the zoning legislation «realistic» and more flexible for citizens and investors by defining new land uses in the most appealing part of the country for investments. Mining enterprises Separately, the Association of Mining Enterprises (SME) called for a curb on new European Union directives on the environment so that member states and enterprises have time to adapt to the body of existing legislation. During a meeting with EU Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas, SME also called for a quicker finalization of the Natura network, which lists protected areas, and for special environmental studies that would limit indiscriminate and arbitrary bans on activity in protected areas. SME also asked for detailed specifications in a draft directive of the responsibilities of mining firms with respect to waste treatment.

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