Development Minister Akis Tsochadzopoulos talks of convergence and curbs

1. Our current goal, since Greece joined the Economic and Monetary Union, is true convergence. Greeks know that the euro is a strong, stable currency. However – and this is our goal – it calls for more than just the convergence of prices, products and services with European standards; it also applies to incomes. We will achieve that by continuing with the same economic policy that created this impressive annual growth in the Greek economy, so that the positive economic outcome of that effort will be channeled more fairly to the people. The Convergence Charter, to be realized by 2008, the 13 regional Convergence Charters and the package of social measures are the first installment in that policy – that is, we have already begun to implement part of it – with specific measures to considerably increase incomes, particularly those of pensioners, to deal with unemployment, provide equal opportunities for all, and expand social policy, among other things. For a comparison of our policy with the neoliberal one, I remind you that from 1990-93, the average Greek lost one-eighth of his income, but since 1995 the average wage-earner has not only been compensated for his losses but has seen his income improve by over 15 percent. 2. With regard to the high cost of living, our policy is clear. The measures we are promoting are aimed at supporting the operation of truly free and competitive markets and supporting the consumer. These two political goals are firmly linked and together can guarantee transparency, sufficiency, security and low prices. Within that framework, we have created new institutions so that markets can function more effectively. We are continuing with frequent inspections and regional inspection teams and setting up supervisory authorities for individual markets (recently we passed legislation setting up an inspection authority for the insurance market); with the passing of a law for open-air markets, we have improved conditions under which products were being transferred from the producer to the consumer. We have already introduced the integrated prices monitor on digital screens in the markets of central Athens and Piraeus (as well as on the Internet) and these will soon be available in Thessaloniki and other cities. We have upgraded the telephone exchange at the General Secretariat for Commerce, boosted the Consumer Policy Department and the Competition Commission. Our goal is to make it easy for the consumer to find out what is happening in the market. In addition, we have upgraded the institutional role of consumer organizations and have instituted a new, independent Consumer Ombudsman. However, for these measures to be effective, cooperation between the State, businesses and consumers is necessary. We have already established a permanent forum for action on consumer issues, with the participation of all organizations involved. 3. By means of a new legislative framework, we have ensured the smooth operation and effective monitoring of the fruit and vegetable market from the producer to the consumer. We amended law 2323/95 to provide unified terms and procedures for all those involved in the trade. We have also secured uniform checks on the distribution of farm products so that we can monitor product price development at all stages in the process. Moreover, we have set up monitoring teams to ensure there are regular, dependable checks at production and market level. We are also imposing harsh fines in the event of infringements.