Greece shackled by chaos of laws

Frequent legislative changes in taxation, insurance and other areas keep investors at bay

Greece shackled by chaos of laws

The thousands of laws currently in force in Greece constitute one of the biggest structural problems of its political system, impede growth, investment and the rule of law and remain a huge obstacle to the modernization of the public administration. 

Experts say the frequent changes in laws regarding areas such as taxation, insurance and other fields are the main reason why investors and funds avoid Greece, depriving it of the growth opportunities that it would have had if the legal framework was stable, clear and coded. 

In view of the mayhem, the government aims to conclude the codification of legislation which was started by the of Kostas Simitis’ Socialist administration some 20 years ago.

According to estimates of the Special Codification Committee, the number of laws issued in the post-dictatorship era after 1974 is about 5,000, while many more administrative or regulatory decisions were made in the same period. What’s more, the honorary president of the Council of State and a current advocate general of the European Court of Justice, Athanasios Rantos, has stated that a new law is passed in Greece every three days.

Tellingly, a study by experts on behalf of the diaNEOsis think tank showed that one in three bills that are put to a vote in Parliament, even if they concern the ratification of international conventions or European directives, include irrelevant provisions. In theory this violates the Greek Constitution but occurs all the same.

Provisions that are irrelevant to the subject matter of a piece of legislation, so-called last-minute amendments, regulate issues that are not only irrelevant, but often controversial, and sometimes serve as conduits for bribes. They include provisions that regulate issues that are on the verge of legality or others that are politically “dangerous.”

The bureaucracy, and the illegality this could spawn, can be a veritable nightmare for any business. For example, there are 27 legislative regulations for the operation of a dance school. Even legal professionals, experts, judges and other officials are unaware of the current legislation in sectors such as insurance and taxation. Indicatively, Parliament has voted through 37 tax bills over the last 17 years, an average of about two each year, when in the US by comparison, just 60 laws have been passed since 1861.

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