Progress on key legislation ahead of troika’s visit

Progress was made on a couple of key pieces of reform legislation on Thursday as it was announced that representatives of the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund, commonly known as the troika, are due to arrive in Athens on Tuesday for their latest inspection ahead of talks on a new bailout for Greece.

A significant breakthrough was made in terms of cross-party support for the Finance Ministry?s draft legislation known as the ?multi-bill.? The draft law paves the way for a number of economic reforms, including the liberalization of several closed professions, the merging of numerous state bodies and providing better payment terms for individuals and companies that owe money to the state.

New Democracy said on Thursday that it would back the legislation when it is voted on in Parliament on principle although it might object to some articles. Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos said that the bill would have to pass through Parliament by Thursday before Greece resumes negotiations with the troika on further financing of at least 130 billion euros to stave off bankruptcy.

?The country has to adopt a number of urgent measures so that it can meet its responsibilities,? he said.

New Democracy MP Costis Hatzidakis said that his party had a duty to back the legislation despite doubts about some aspects. ?The highest law for us at this crucial juncture is for the country to be able to stand on its feet until we settle the outstanding economic issues,? he said.

The Cabinet approved another key piece of legislation on Thursday. The draft law aims to improve the entrepreneurial environment in Greece by allowing the creation of free trade zones, which permits the transfer and handling of goods in certain areas without the intervention of customs authorities. The government hopes that this will help local exporters and will attract investment from foreign logistics companies.

The draft law also contains provisions for a reduction in the amount of paperwork businesses need to obtain operating licenses. Specifically, it makes it illegal for public servants to demand the same documents that have already been submitted to another government department. The bill also reduces the size of an investment needed for it to qualify for the fast-track process. Previously, it was 200 million euros but this is being brought down to 100 million.

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