Shield on professions lifted

The Greek government took its first step toward deregulating the labor market by opening up several professions to competitive conditions, in line with European Union directives. A Cabinet meeting gave the green light to the proposed changes that will boost the country’s slipping competitiveness, according to Economy and Finance Minister Yiannis Papathanassiou. «This is a very important reform… that will contribute to lower prices for consumers, improved competitiveness of the economy, growth and a rise in employment, something of particular importance for young people,» Papathanassiou told reporters. The draft bill, to be submitted soon to lawmakers, deregulates key professions such as architects and accountants. The new law will allow lawyers and engineers to determine their fees, rather than charging within a range set by the government. Other changes will include dropping a regulation that forbids bakeries from opening next to each other, which effectively meant a minimum distance had to be kept between stores. The purpose of the deregulation is to allow freer movement of workers across the European Union by removing different obstacles imposed by national laws. Regulated professions, also known as «closed» professions, are estimated to cost the Greek economy some 4 billion euros every year, as they result in inefficient markets that ultimately weigh on consumers’ pockets. «After studies and talks, changes to closed professions not included [in this draft law] will follow,» added the minister, without giving further details. Pharmacists, bus drivers and notaries have been exempted from the current batch of changes. The Greek government, however, will be required to either deregulate all professions or explain its decision to the European Commission, according to sources.