KPAG • Rechtsanwälte

Greece Opens Its Doors to Overseas Business

Publiziert am 27.Mai.2013 von Abraam Kosmidis

Improvements in the European economy and recent internal developments within Greece suggest that now would be a good time for overseas companies looking to set up a business in Greece to start taking steps to bring these plans to fruition.

KPAG Kosmidis & Partners is a Greek law firm with lawyers who specialise in working with English-speaking businesses in Greece. Our lawyers are ideally qualified to help and advise international companies as they go through the process of establishing trade links with Greece, or setting up business operations within the country.

Positive economic picture

There are currently encouraging economic signs across the European Union, with recent figures released by the European Commission (EC) suggesting that the EU economy is starting to come out of the recession that was so dominant and damaging throughout 2012. Predictions are that the economy across Europe will stabilise in the first six months of 2013, with GDP growth starting to turn positive in the latter half of the year and then continuing to gain ground into 2014.

EC initiatives target Greece

As a business destination, Greece has recently been the focus of a great deal of attention from the EC. A recent EC initiative has seen the representatives of more than 138 European companies come to Greece to meet with Greek owners and managers of small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) about the prospects for future collaborations, including ventures such as trade partnerships, investment, and joint undertakings.

The EC notes that SMEs in Greece have faced a number of difficulties in the last few years; however the Greek government has implemented a number of reforms that have had a positive effect on the Greek economy and business opportunities within Greece.

Greek labour market

One of the areas targeted by reforms is the Greek labour market, which has historically suffered from high unemployment rates, caused in part by a rigid wage structure that was not in line with worker productivity. The Greek Government has attempted to tackle this problem through a number of reforms, including creating opportunities for firm-level pay agreements and reductions in minimum wages.

This improved labour market increases Greece’s appeal as a business destination, but there are undoubtedly a number of challenges involved in employing staff in an overseas country. Therefore, any foreign company looking to operate in Greece is advised to take advice from professional Greek lawyers to ensure they do not fall foul of any employment laws or regulations. Kosmidis & Partners Law Firm has lawyers who are highly experienced in Greek labour law and are available to advise all foreign businesses on any legal obligations with regard to their staff in Greece.

Greece looking to establish trade links

According to EC figures, Greek exports look set for another good year, making 2013 the fourth year in a row where exports have grown. The Greek Foreign Trade Board apparently has over 60 different trade initiatives organised for 2013, including the participation in a number of international trade fairs.

Through these initiatives, Greece is opening its doors to businesses looking to expand their international markets. At Kosmidis & Partners, our lawyers are ready to advise you in all aspects of doing business in Greece, including:

  • Setting up a limited liability company
  • Mergers and acquisitions in Greece
  • Greek competition law
  • Debt recovery, and
  • Tax law

The improving economic situation in Greece has not gone unnoticed. In a recent report produced by the World Bank on doing business in Greece, the country’s ranking improved from 89 to 78, a rise of 11 places, placing Greece in the top ten reformers worldwide.

European right to freedom of movement

As well as continuing to make its own internal reforms to increase foreign and domestic business opportunities, Greece, like all other EU Member States, continues to be subject to new laws and amendments coming from the EC and the European Parliament that are designed to reduce barriers to trade.

The EC has recently proposed a new measure to improve the application of EU law on people's right to work in another Member State.

According to EC figures, there were 6.6 million EU citizens living and working in a Member State other than their own in 2012. A further 1.2 million people apparently live in one EU country while working in another.

However, people working in another country can face a number of difficulties, and a Eurobarometer poll carried out September 2011 found that around 15% of EU citizens wouldn’t want to work in another Member State because there are too many obstacles to overcome. These obstacles include issues such as:

  • Differing recruitment conditions.
  • Access to certain posts is restricted by nationality conditions.
  • Differing working conditions in practice (such as pay and future career prospects).
  • Non-recognition of professional qualifications and experience acquired in other Member States.

EU legislation already exists to tackle these issues, but is not always adequately implemented in all Member States. The EC’s proposal would address this problem by requiring Member States to take a number of steps to improve the implementation of EU law.

László Andor, Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion, described the free movement of workers across the EU as a key principle of the EU's Single Market.

“Labour mobility is a win—win – it benefits both Member States' economies and the individual workers concerned,” he explained. “This proposal will help workers to overcome obstacles to working in another EU country."

Overseas companies that have set up business in Greece will usually have a number of options when it comes to staffing these businesses. One option could be to recruit local staff to work for them, or alternatively, the company could look at transferring staff from other office locations to work in its Greek operations.

The prospect of negotiating another country’s rules and regulations relating to the recruitment and employment of staff can at first appear rather daunting for companies, but using local Greek lawyers can help to make the whole process much more straightforward.

The lawyers at Kosmidis & Partners are highly experienced in all aspects of Greek business and labour law, and will be able to guide overseas businesses through all the necessary steps involved in setting up a local base of operations in Greece and employing the necessary staff.

Supporting International Businesses Operations

Publiziert am 23.April.2013 von Abraam Kosmidis

Like many other European countries, Greece welcomes business and investment from overseas, but for many small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) the prospect of operating outside the borders of its own country can be very daunting.

This uncertainty can be caused by a number of factors, including possible language difficulties, cultural differences, a lack of knowledge of the legal systems operating in other countries and the need to source local expert advice from professionals such as lawyers or accountants.

In the current economic downturn, going abroad to countries such as Greece to do business can offer a life-line to companies struggling to find a big enough customer base in their home country. Many businesses may also be finding that they have no choice but to operate abroad if they wish to remain competitive. The European Union has a population of around 500 million, making it one of the biggest marketplaces in the world and an ideal destination for ambitious companies that are eager to expand their business operations.

One particular fear SMEs may have about operating internationally is how to ensure they receive payment for the goods or services they provide to customers in another country. If payment is not forthcoming and a debt recovery situation develops, the company may be unsure how to go about finding a lawyer and taking legal action to ensure all money owing to it is recovered.

The European Commission (EC) is aware that these issues and concerns can create barriers to overseas business, and is taking action to promote the operation of SMEs across international borders.

International debt recovery

One such measure from the EC is the launch of a new initiative that aims to support SMEs in recovering debts across borders, by advising them how to make use of existing laws and mechanisms to effectively tackle overseas debtors. The campaign is running in Greece as well as the other 26 EU Member States, and also in Croatia.

"With this campaign we wish to encourage small enterprises to operate beyond their borders,” explained European Commission Vice President Antonio Tajani, who is responsible for Industry and Entrepreneurship. “Facilitating the recovery of cross-border debts is the key to addressing this issue at a time when Europe’s 21 million SMEs face particular obstacles to tapping cross-border markets.”

“Their uncertainties are mainly due to the lack of knowledge of existing mechanisms for reducing the risk involved in cross border contracts, insufficient credit management processes, or even cultural differences in doing business between different Member States," he added.

Using existing laws

There are already a number of laws in place across the EU that are designed to support businesses in dealing with cross-border disputes that could potentially lead to litigation.

These laws have been developed to help businesses resolve issues such as contractual obligations and to establish competent jurisdiction in the event of a dispute.

In determining cross-border contractual obligations in the EU, the principle of free choice of law applies. This principle says that:

“If no law is chosen by the parties, the law applicable to sales contracts in respect of movables, services, franchise or sales contracts will be determined by the domicile of the party providing the characteristic performance.”

In terms of competent jurisdiction, EU laws dictate that in a dispute, jurisdiction will usually rest with the court of the country in which the defendant is domiciled. If an SME is in a situation where it needs to enforce a cross-border claim in court, the court of the country in which the customer is domiciled will normally be deemed to be the competent court. However, in certain situations it may also be possible for the SME to take legal action in another Member State’s court.

Procedures are also already in place in EU Member States to help businesses in debt recovery across international borders.

Legal expertise at a local level

Each Member State may apply these EU laws and procedures slightly differently, and understanding these complexities can be challenging for businesses looking to operate internationally. Law firms in Greece such as Kosmidis & Partners Law Firm have English speaking lawyers that are fully qualified to help overseas businesses overcome these barriers. Our lawyers can advise companies operating in Greece in the interpretation and application of these laws to ensure any business transactions, including debt recovery, are conducted as quickly and efficiently as possible.

Improving trade mark registration

The EC has also recently taken action to improve the trade mark registration system across the EU.

Trade marks are an important legal tool, and a properly registered trade mark can become one of a company’s most important assets. It allows a business to distinguish itself from its competitors and gain a real competitive edge by:

  • enabling customers to easily identify the source of the goods or services,
  • providing customers with a guarantee of consistency and quality, and
  • assisting in a company’s marketing and advertising strategy by forming a key part of a company’s brand identity.

Failing to properly register a trade mark could have very serious consequences for a business. It could allow a competitor to seize the opportunity to register the trade mark for itself and use it to promote its own goods and services.

The level of demand for trade mark protection across the EU is very high. Figures from the EC show that there were approximately 540,000 trade mark applications made in 2011. The figures also show that, as of March 2013, there were around 9.8 million trade marks listed in registers throughout the EU.

In light of how important trade marks are for business, the EC has proposed a series of reforms that are designed to encourage business innovation by ensuring companies have greater trade mark protection against counterfeits.

"Trade marks were the EU’s first success in intellectual property rights,” said Internal Market and Services Commissioner Michel Barnier. “The harmonisation of Member States' laws in 1989 and the creation of the Community trade mark in 1994 paved the way for other tools for intellectual property protection, such as design protection and the unitary patent.”

“Today, 20 years later, I am very proud to announce that our trade mark system has stood the test of time. There is no need for a major overhaul: the foundations of our system remain perfectly valid. What we are aiming for is a well-targeted modernisation to make trade mark protection easier, cheaper, and more effective," he concluded.

The EC’s proposed revisions include:

  • Streamlining and harmonising the trade mark registration procedure across all Member States, and using the existing Community trade mark system as a benchmark;
  • Bringing the existing provisions up to date, and increasing legal certainty by removing any ambiguities and incorporating the case law that has been established over time by decisions of the Court of Justice of the European Union;
  • Enhancing the tools that are available to tackle the problem of counterfeit goods being transported across the EU; and
  • Putting measures in place to encourage greater cooperation between the trade mark offices located in each Member State and the EU trade mark agency (the Office for Harmonisation in the Internal Market). This would allow for a greater convergence off their practices and enable common tools to be developed.

According to the EC, these changes would make trade mark systems across Europe more accessible and efficient, and would therefore encourage business innovation and growth.

Kosmidis & Partners Law Firm has a team of highly experienced lawyers that are able to advise clients on all aspects of trade mark law in Greece, including the registration of a trade mark and how to seek damages in the event of a breach of trade mark protection.

Next steps

The EC’s trade mark proposals will now be passed to the European Parliament and the European Council for adoption. The EC hopes the new proposals will be adopted by the spring of 2014. Member States will then have two years to implement the new rules of the Directive into national law.

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