Greek consumers pay more

Despite being the poorest member of the 15-strong European Union, Greece is the sixth most expensive country as far as basic consumer goods are concerned, according to a report published yesterday by the EU Commission. Greece ranks higher than considerably richer countries, such as Belgium, the Netherlands, France, Germany and Austria – as well as relatively poor EU members such as Portugal and Spain – in the market price of food, as well as personal care and hygiene products. The report on the functioning of the internal market showed that Greeks have to buy the costliest cornflakes in the Union, but benefit from the lowest prices for instant coffee and bicycles. The cost of aftershave lotion, hair lotion, toothpaste and cosmetics was also considerably higher than the EU average. According to the report, it is impossible to attribute the differences in prices to factors such as transport costs, variations in national levels of value added tax or different income levels. The report noted that countries where competitiveness is high among retailers are as a rule cheaper for consumers, and cited the proper implementation of EU internal market regulations in national legislation as a basic precondition for the smooth functioning of a competitive market. Greece has one of the worst records in this field, and will now have to incorporate 81 directives into its legislation by spring 2003 – the most among all union members. «This delay cannot be exclusively attributed to negligence or other problems related to the workings of Parliament,» the report said. «The blame probably lies with other, much more serious factors related to the political environment of each country… or even a simple refusal to incorporate directives within national law.»