Permit applications made easier for new business

The law is due to be changed so that fewer new businesses have to submit environmental impact studies, which are subject to a lengthy approval process before economic activity can start, sources told Kathimerini on Friday.

The Environment Ministry has drawn up new legislation that would drastically reduce the number of businesses needing to undertake such studies. The draft law is due to be put to the Cabinet next week and is set to be enacted by September.

The ministry estimates that under the proposed regulations, only 2,000 studies a year will have to be carried out. At the moment, some 21,500 are conducted. Although this is a significant reduction, Greece will still demand a larger number of studies than other European countries, such as the UK, where 334 are carried out on average each year, or Austria, which has an annual average of just 23.

The studies have often been seen as an unnecessarily lengthy and bureaucratic process in Greece as the vast majority are examined by local authorities rather than the ministry. On average, it takes officials 20 months to respond to an application from a business. This compares unfavorably with the European Union average, which is 10 months.

Businesses such as small hotels and any light industry would not need to complete environmental impact studies in order to apply for operating licenses. Other enterprises that will avoid the procedure in future include photovoltaic parks and wineries.

The ministry further intends to end the process that requires other ministries apart from that of Environment to sign off on applications, a process which adds up to three months to the waiting time.

The government also wants to set up a committee to examine applications from businesses that are potentially the most damaging to the environment so decisions on whether they can proceed are issued within six months of applications being submitted.

The proposed measures are in keeping with the government?s pledge to simplify procedures in a bid to boost investment and entrepreneurial activity.