In August 2018, after eight years of austerity measures and reforms under three economic adjustment programs, Greece exited its final, third international bailout program agreement, taking a significant step back to economic normalcy. Growth reached an estimated 2.1percent in 2018, up from 1.4percent in 2017. The government exceeded its 2018 primary fiscal balance target of 3.5percent of GDP, and Greek authorities successfully drew on international capital markets for the first time since 2014. Major challenges remain, however. At the end of 2018, Greece’s public debt was EUR348.94 billion, or more than 183percent of GDP, the highest debt-to-GDP ratio in the European Union (EU) by a considerable margin, and the state is required to maintain high primary budget surplus for many years. Unemployment rates remain the highest in the EU at 18.5percent in January 2019, and nearly 40percent youth unemployment.
In August 2018, the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) released a final EUR15 billion loan tranche to Greece under the framework of its third bailout program. Of this, Greece earmarkedEUR3.3 billion to prepay expensive IMF debt from its earlier bailout programs. The government allocated the balance of the disbursement, along with additional state resources, to create a liquidity buffer for Greece while it returns to full market access. The total buffer, estimated atEUR26 billion, should be sufficient to cover the country’s financing needs until at least the end of 2020. Greece remains subject to enhanced supervision by Eurozone creditors, and the government has committed to meet annual primary budget surplus of 3.5percent of GDP through 2022 and 2.2percent afterwards.
Capital controls, which the Greek finance ministry introduced in June 2015, were gradually eased following a recovery in private deposits. The finance ministry lifted nearly all capital controls on cash withdrawals and the movement of capital in October 2018. The ministry also raised the ceiling of capital withdrawals from banks abroad toEUR5,000 per month, as well as the allowable transfer amount from Greece to other countries fromEUR3,000 toEUR10,000.
In November 2015, as part of the implementation of the August 2015 ESM agreement, Greece recapitalized its four major banks for the third time in five years. This recapitalization included the participation of large U.S. and foreign hedge funds. The banking system of Greece remains saddled with the largest ratio of non-performing loans in the EU, which constrains the domestic financial sector’s ability to finance the national economy. As a result, businesses, particularly small and medium enterprises, still struggle to obtain domestic financing to support operations due to inflated risk premiums in the sector. In an effort to tackle the issue, and as a requirement of the agreement with the ESM, Greece has established a secondary market for its non-performing loans (NPLs). According to the Bank of Greece, Greek banks managed to bring down the total volume of NPLs from a peak of EUR 107.2 billion in 2016 to EUR 84.7 billion at the end of 2018. In 2018, Greek banks closed eight sales totaling a book value ofEUR13.9 billion. In addition to sales, the banks have exploited other ways to manage bad loans. For example, Alpha Bank, National Bank of Greece, Eurobank, and Piraeus entered into a servicing agreement with Italian servicer for the management of common non-performing exposures (NPE) of more than 300 Greek SMEs totalingEUR1.8 billion. Greece’s secondary market for NPL servicers now includes 15 companies including: : Sepal (an Alpha Bank-Aktua joint venture), FPS (a Eurobank subsidiary), Pillarstone, Independent Portfolio Management, B2Kapital, UCI Hellas, Resolute Asset Management, Thea Artemis, PQH, Qquant Master Servicer, and DV01 Asset Management. At least ten more licensees are pending approval by the Bank of Greece. A limited number of other companies have submitted applications and are awaiting approval.
In previous years, concerns over economic and political stability within Greece essentially froze most new investment and caused some existing investors to scale down or withdraw entirely from the Greek market. The success in the privatization of Greece’s 14 regional airports, investment in the tourism sector, and the construction of the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) demonstrated the opportunities that have existed in Greece even during the height of the economic crisis. Greece’s return to economic growth in 2017 and 2018 has generated new investor interest in the country. In January 2019, Greece successfully raisedEUR2.5 billion in a five-year bond sale at a yield of 3.6percent. Officials are expecting another bond sale seeking to raiseEUR5-7 billion euros.
Table 1 Key Metrics and Rankings
|TI Corruption Perceptions Index||2018||67 of 180||https://www.transparency.org/country/GRC|
|World Bank’s Doing Business Report “Ease of Doing Business”||2019||72 of 190||http://www.doingbusiness.org/data/exploreeconomies/greece|
|Global Innovation Index||2018||42 of 126||https://www.globalinnovationindex.org/analysis-indicator|
|U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, stock positions)||2017||$1,200||http://www.bea.gov/international/factsheet/|
|World Bank GNI per capita||2017||$18,090||http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GNP.PCAP.CD
1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment
Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment
The Greek government continues to state its desire to increase foreign investment, though the country remains a challenging climate for investment, both foreign and domestic. Despite the most recent EUR86 billion bailout agreement signed in August 2015 between the Greek government and its international creditors, under the auspices of the ESM, economic uncertainty remains widespread, though sentiment has been broadly improving since 2017.
Numerous additional structural reforms, undertaken as part of the country’s 2015-2018 international bailout program, aim to welcome and facilitate foreign investment, and the government has publicly messaged its dedication to attracting foreign investment. The Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) is one example of the government’s commitment in this area. In November 2015, the Greek government and TAP investors agreed on measures and began construction on the largest investment project since the start of the financial crisis, with the pipeline set to begin operations in 2020. Nevertheless, many structural reforms have created greater challenges to investors and established businesses in Greece. The country has undergone one of the most significant fiscal consolidations in modern history, with broad and deep cuts to public expenditures and significant increases in labor and social security tax rates, which have offset improved labor market competitiveness achieved through significant wage devaluation. Moreover, corruption and burdensome bureaucracy continue to create barriers to market entry for new firms, permitting incumbents to maintain oligopolies in different sectors, and creating scope for arbitrary decisions and rent seeking by public servants.
Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment
As a member of the EU and the European Monetary Union (the “Eurozone”), Greece is required to meet EU and Eurozone investment regulations. Foreign and domestic private entities have the legal right to establish and own businesses in Greece; however, the country places restrictions on foreign equity ownership higher than the average imposed on the other 17 high-income OECD economies. The government has undertaken EU-mandated reforms in its energy sector, opening much of it up to foreign equity ownership. Restrictions exist on land purchases in border regions and on certain islands because of national security considerations. Foreign investors can buy or sell shares on the Athens Stock Exchange on the same basis as local investors.
Other Investment Policy Reviews
The government has not undergone an investment policy review by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the World Trade Organization (WTO), or United Nations Committee on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), or cooperated with any other international institution to produce a public report on the general investment climate. Nonetheless, in March 2018, the OECD published an economic survey describing the state of the economy and addressing foreign direct investment concerns. The government has sought the OECD’s counsel and technical assistance to carry out select reforms from the recommendations and develop additional reforms in line with the government’s emphasis on the social welfare state.
Greece’s business registration entity GEMI (General Commercial Register) has the basic responsibility for digitizing and automating the registration and monitoring procedures of commercial enterprises. More information about GEMI can be found at . The online business registration process is relatively clear, and although foreign companies can use it, the registration steps are currently available only in Greek. In general, a company must register with the business chamber, tax registry, social security, and local municipality. Business creation without a notary can be done for specific cases (small/personal businesses, etc.). For the establishment of larger companies, a notary is mandatory.
The country has investment promotion agencies to facilitate foreign investments. “Enterprise Greece” is the official agency of the Greek state. Under the supervision of the Ministry of Economy and Development, it is responsible for promoting investment in Greece, exports from Greece, and with making Greece more attractive as an international business partner. Enterprise Greece provides the full spectrum of services related to international business relationships and domestic business development for the international market. Enterprise Greece offers an Investor Ombudsman program for investment projects exceedingEUR2 million. The Ombudsman is available to assist with specific bureaucratic obstacles, delays, disputes or other difficulties that impede an investment project. As reported by some business, Enterprise Greece, even with its ombudsman service for investments, is not very effective at moving investments projects forward.
The General Secretariat for Strategic and Private Investments streamlines the licensing procedure for strategic investments, aiming to make the process easier and more attractive to investors.
Greece has adopted the following EU definition regarding micro, small, and medium size enterprises:
Micro Enterprises: Fewer than 10 employees and an annual turnover or balance sheet belowEUR2 million.
Small Enterprises: Fewer than 50 employees and an annual turnover or balance sheet belowEUR10 million.
Medium-Sized Enterprises: Fewer than 250 employees and annual turnover belowEUR50 million or balance sheet belowEUR43 million.
The Greek government does not have any known outward investment incentive programs. Ongoing capital controls, though partially lifted, still impose restrictions or additional procedures for any entity seeking to remove pre-existing large sums of cash from Greek financial institutions.
Enterprise Greece supports the international expansion of Greek companies. While no incentives are offered, Enterprise Greece has been supportive of Greek companies attending the U.S. Government’s Annual SelectUSA Investment Summit, which promotes inbound investment to the United States, and similar industry trade events internationally.
3. Legal Regime
Transparency of the Regulatory System
As an EU member, Greece is required to have transparent policies and laws for fostering competition. Foreign companies consider the complexity of government regulations and procedures and their inconsistent implementation to be a significant impediment to investing and operating in Greece. Occasionally, foreign companies report cases where there are multiple laws governing the same issue, resulting in confusion over which law is applicable. Under its bailout programs, the Greek government committed to widespread reforms to simplify the legal framework for investment, including eliminating bureaucratic obstacles, redundancies, and undue regulations. The fast track law, passed in December 2010, aimed to simplify the licensing and approval process for “strategic” investments, i.e. large-scale investments that will have a significant impact on the national economy (see paragraph 1.3, Laws/Regulations of FDI). In 2013, Greece’s parliament passed Investment Law 4146/2013 to simplify the regulatory system and stimulate investment. This law provides additional incentives, beyond those in the fast track law, available to domestic and foreign investors, dependent on the sector and the location of the investment.
Greece’s tax regime has lacked stability during the economic crisis, presenting additional obstacles to investment, both foreign and domestic. Foreign firms are not subject to discrimination in taxation. Numerous changes to tax laws and regulations since the beginning of the economic crisis injected uncertainty into Greece’s tax regime. As part of Greece’s August 2015 bailout agreement, the government converted the Ministry of Finance’s Directorate-General for Public Revenue into a fully independent tax agency effective January 2017, with a broad mandate to increase collection and develop further reforms to the tax code aimed at reducing evasion and increasing the coverage of the Greek tax regime.
Foreign investment is not legally prohibited or otherwise restricted. Proposed laws and regulations are published in draft form for public comment before Parliament takes up consideration of the legislation. The laws in force are accessible on a unified website managed by the government and printed in an official gazette. Greece introduced International Financial Reporting Standards for listed companies in 2005 in accordance with EU directives. These rules improved the transparency and accountability of publicly traded companies.
International Regulatory Considerations
Citizens of other EU member state countries may work freely in Greece. Citizens of non-EU countries may work in Greece after receiving residence and work permits. There are no discriminatory or preferential export/import policies affecting foreign investors, as EU regulations govern import and export policy, and increasingly, many other aspects of investment policy in Greece.
Greece has been a World Trade Organization (WTO) member since January 1, 1995, and a member of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) since March 1, 1950. Greece complies with WTO Trade-Related Investment Measures (TRIMs) requirements. There are no performance requirements for establishing, maintaining, or expanding an investment. Performance requirements may come into play, however, when an investor wants to take advantage of certain investment incentives offered by the government. Greece has not enacted measures that are inconsistent with TRIMs requirements, and the Embassy is not aware of any measures alleged to violate Greece’s WTO TRIMs obligations. Trade policy falls within the competence and jurisdiction of the European Commission Directorate General for Trade and is generally not subject to regulation by member state national authorities.
Legal System and Judicial Independence
Although Greece has an independent judiciary, the court system is an extremely time-consuming and unwieldy means for enforcing property and contractual rights. According to the “Enforcing Contracts Indicator” of the OECD’s ‘Doing Business 2019” survey, Greece ranks 132nd among 190 countries in terms of the speed of delivery of justice, requiring 1,580 days (more than four years) on average to resolve a dispute, compared to the OECD high-income countries’ average of 582.4 days. The government committed, as part of its three bailout packages, to reforms intended to expedite the processing of commercial cases through the court system. In July 2015, the government adopted significant reforms to the code of civil procedure (law 4335/2015). These reforms aimed to accelerate judicial proceedings in support of contract enforcement and investment climate stability, and entered into force in January 2016. Foreign companies report, however, that Greek courts do not consistently provide fast and effective recourse. Problems with judicial corruption reportedly still exist. Commercial and contractual laws accord with international norms.
Laws and Regulations on Foreign Direct Investment
In August 2017, the Greek government passed Law 4487, which aims to create the legal framework for enhancing film production (movies, TV shows, and gaming software) through investment incentives. In particular, a film production company can receive (in the form of state subsidy) 25percent (fixed) of their expenses. The expenses can include salaries, copyright payments, renting a studio, equipment, transportation etc. The subsidy is tax-free and the investment (film production) should be budgeted overEUR100,000. Beneficiaries are either companies based in Greece or foreign companies that have an affiliated company in the country.
Investments in Greece operate under two main laws: the new Investment Law (4399/2016) that addresses small-scale investments and Law 4146/2013 that addresses strategic investments. In particular;
– Law 4399/2016, entitled “Statutory framework to the establishment of Private Investments Aid Schemes for the regional and economic development of the country” passed in June 2016. Its key objectives include the creation of new jobs, the increase of extroversion, the reindustrialization of the country, and the attraction of FDI. The law provides aids (as incentives) for companies that invest fromEUR50,000 (Social Cooperative Companies) up toEUR500,000 (large sized companies) as well as tax breaks. The Greek government provides funds to cover part of the eligible expenses of the investment plan; the amount of the subsidy is determined based on the region and the business size. Qualified companies are exempt from paying income tax on their pre-tax profits for all their activities. There is a fixed corporate income tax rate and fast licensing procedures. Eligible economic activities are manufacturing, shipbuilding, transportation/infrastructure, tourism, and energy.
– Law 4146/2013, entitled the “Creation of a Business-Friendly Environment for Strategic and Private Investments” is the other primary investment incentive law currently in force. The law aims to modernize and improve the institutional framework for private investments, raise liquidity, accelerate investment procedures, and increase transparency. It seeks to provide an efficient institutional framework for all investors and speed the approval processes for pending and approved investment projects. The law created a general directorate for private investments within the Ministry of Economy (formerly the Ministry of Development) and reduced the value of investments considered strategic. The law also provides tax exemptions and incentives to investors and allows foreign nationals from non-EU countries who buy property in Greece worth overEUR250,000 (USD285,000) to obtain five-year renewable residence permits for themselves and their families. In March 2019, the Greek government brought a bill to parliament expanding the eligibility criteria of the existing program. The new provisions granted non-EU nationals a 5 year residency permit provided that they invest at leastEUR400,000 in Greek companies or buy and hold Greek bonds through a Greek bank entity. The law created a central licensing authority aimed at establishing a one-stop-shop service to accelerate implementation of major investments. More about this law can be found online at and at
– Law 3908/2011 is gradually being phased out by law 4146 (above).
– Law 3919/2011 aims to liberalize more than 150 currently regulated or closed-shop professions. The implementation of this law continued in 2013 and 2014.
– Law 3982/2011 reduced the complexity of the licensing system for manufacturing activities and technical professions and modernized certain qualification and certification requirements to lower barriers to entry.
– Law 4014/2011 simplified the environmental licensing process.
– Law 3894/2010 (also known as fast track) allows Enterprise Greece to expedite licensing procedures for qualifying investments in the following sectors: industry, energy, tourism, transportation, telecommunications, health services, waste management, or high-end technology/innovation. To qualify, investments must meet one of the following conditions:
- exceed EUR100 million;
- exceed EUR15 million in the industrial sector, operating in industrial zones;
- exceed EUR40 million and concurrently create at least 120 new jobs; or
- create150 new jobs, regardless of the monetary value of the investment.
Other investment laws include:
– Law 3389/2005 introduced the use of public-private partnerships (PPP). This law aimed to facilitate PPPs in the service and construction sectors by creating a market-friendly regulatory environment.
– Law 3426/2005 completed Greece’s harmonization with EU Directive 2003/54/EC and provided for the gradual deregulation of the electricity market. Law 3175/2003 harmonized Greek legislation with the requirements of EU Directive 2003/54/EC on common rules for the internal electricity market. Law 2773/99 initially opened up 34percent of the Greek energy market, in compliance with EU Directive 96/92 concerning regulation of the internal electricity market.
– Law 3427/2005, which amended Law 89/67, provides special tax treatment for offshore operations of foreign companies established in Greece. Special tax treatment is offered only to operations in countries that comply with OECD tax standards. The most up-to-date list of countries in compliance can be found at
– Law 2364/95 and supporting amendments governs investment in the natural gas market in Greece.
– Law 2289/95, which amended Law 468/76, allows private (both foreign and domestic) participation in oil exploration and development.
– Law 2246/94 and supporting amendments opened Greece’s telecommunications market to foreign investment.
– Legislative Decree 2687 of 1953, in conjunction with Article 112 of the Constitution, gives approved foreign “productive investments” (primarily manufacturing and tourism enterprises) property rights, preferential tax treatment, and work permits for foreign managerial and technical staff. The Decree also provides a constitutional guarantee against unilateral changes in the terms of a foreign investor’s agreement with the government, but the guarantee does not cover changes in the tax regime.
Competition and Anti-Trust Laws
Under Articles 101-109 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU, the European Commission (EC), together with member state national competition authorities, directly enforces EU competition rules. The European Commission Directorate-General for Competition carries out this mandate in member states, including Greece. Greece’s competition policy authority rests with the Hellenic Competition Commission, in consultation with the Ministry of Economy. The Hellenic Competition Commission protects the proper functioning of the market and ensures the enforcement of the rules on competition. It acts as an independent authority and has administrative and financial autonomy.
Private property may be expropriated for public purposes, but the law requires this be done in a nondiscriminatory manner and with prompt, adequate, and effective compensation. Due process and transparency are mandatory, and investors and lenders receive compensation in accordance with international norms. There have been no expropriation actions involving the real property of foreign investors in recent history, although legal proceedings over expropriation claims initiated, in one instance, over a decade ago, continue to work through the judicial system.
ICSID Convention and New York Convention
Greece is a member of both the International Center for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) and the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards (1958 New York convention).
Investor-State Dispute Settlement
The Embassy is aware of a few ongoing investment disputes dating from more than ten years ago. Greece accepts binding international arbitration of investment disputes between foreign investors and the Greek government, and foreign firms have found satisfaction through arbitration. International arbitration and European Court of Justice Judgments supersede local court decisions. The judicial system provides for civil court arbitration proceedings for investment and trade disputes. Although an investment agreement could be made subject to a foreign legal jurisdiction, this is not common, particularly if one of the contracting parties is the Greek government. Foreign court judgments are accepted and enforced, albeit slowly, by the local courts.
In an effort to create a more investor-friendly environment, the government established in 2017 an Investor’s Ombudsman service. The Ombudsman is authorized to mediate disputes that arise between investors and the government during the licensing procedure. Investors can employ the Ombudsman, housed within Enterprise Greece, with projects exceedingEUR2 million in value. More info on the Ombudsman service can be found here: .
International Commercial Arbitration and Foreign Courts
As noted above, Greece’s independent judiciary is both time-consuming and unwieldy as a means for enforcing property and contractual rights. The government has committed to implementing significant reforms to the judicial system, aimed at speeding up adjudications and improving dispute resolution for investors.
Bankruptcy laws in Greece meet international norms. Under Greek bankruptcy law 3588/2007, private creditors receive compensation after claims from the government and insurance funds have been satisfied. Monetary judgments are usually made in euros unless explicitly stipulated otherwise. Greece has a reliable system of recording security interests in property. According to the World Bank’s 2019 Doing Business report, resolving insolvency in Greece takes 3.5 years on average and costs 9percent of the debtor’s estate. The recovery rate is 33.2 cents on the dollar. Greece ranks 62 of 190 economies surveyed for ease of resolving insolvency in the Doing Business report (from 57 in 2018).
5. Protection of Property Rights
Greek laws extend the protection of property rights to both foreign and Greek nationals, and the legal system protects and facilitates acquisition and disposition of all property rights.
Multiple layers of authority in Greece are involved in the issuance or approval of land use and zoning permits, which can create disincentives to real property investment. Secured interests in property are movable and real, recognized and enforced. The concept of mortgage does exist in the market and can be recorded through the banks. The government is working to create a comprehensive land registry — scheduled to be completed by 2020 — which is expected to increase the transparency of real estate management. Greece ranks 153 out of 190 countries for Ease of Registering Property in the World Bank’s Doing Business 2019 Report, down from 141 last year. Greece made registering property more burdensome by requiring a property tax certificate for registering a property transfer.
Foreign nationals can acquire real estate property in Greece, though they first need to be issued a tax authentication number. However, for the border areas, foreign nationals first require a license from the Greek state (Law 3978/2011). In another effort to boost investment, the government passed law 4146/2013, which allows foreign nationals who buy property in Greece worth overEUR250,000 (USD285,000) to obtain a five-year residence permit for themselves and their families. The “Golden Visa” program has been extended to buyers of various types of Greek securities, including stocks, bonds, and bank accounts, with a value of at leastEUR400,000. The permit can be extended for an additional five years and allows travel to other EU and Schengen countries without a visa.
Greece is a member of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property, the European Patent Convention, the Washington Patent Cooperation Treaty, and the Bern Copyright Convention. As a member of the EU, Greece has harmonized its intellectual property rights (IPR) legislation with EU rules and regulations. The World Trade Organization (WTO) Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) was incorporated into Greek legislation on February 28, 1995 (Law 2290/1995). The Greek government also signed and ratified the WIPO internet treaties, and incorporated them into Greek legislation (Laws 3183 and 3184/2003) in 2003. Greece’s legal framework for copyright protection is found in Law 2121 of 1993 on copyrights and Law 2328 of 1995 on the media.
Greece has been on the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) Special 301 Watch List since 2008. Although Greece harmonized its IP legislation with the EU rules and regulations, overall enforcement of IPR laws has been inadequate and ineffective, and rights holders continue to experience problems in Greece. Recently, the government improved IPR enforcement by establishing a special Committee to address online piracy and updated its Code of Civil Procedure, which improved the efficiency of civil infringement procedures. However, other outstanding IP challenges remain unresolved, including government use of unlicensed software, inadequate enforcement against counterfeiting and piracy, and an ineffective criminal justice system. IP related criminal investigations, prosecutions, and sentences, as well as customs seizures, are insufficient.
A law enacted in June 2011 (Law 3982/2011), which provides police ex officio authority to confiscate and destroy counterfeit goods, has been effective in some areas, but much remains to be done. Due to continued budget cuts because of Greece’s fiscal commitments, IPR enforcement efforts remain lackluster, including seizures of counterfeit goods, investigations, operational programs, and fine collections. Private sector companies have asked Greek authorities to require only storage of a sample of the seized goods in official government facilities to reduce the burden of having to pay for storage for long periods. This remains an issue of contention. Trademark violations, especially in the apparel and footwear sectors, are still widespread. According to the government, counterfeit products in Greece are mainly luxury bags, wallets, footwear, clothing, accessories, watches, cigarettes, spirits, cell phone batteries and accessories, sunglasses, toys, and spare car parts.
Greece is not listed on USTR’s 2018 Notorious Markets List.
Resources for Rights Holders
Embassy Point of Contact:
U.S. Embassy Athens
91 Vas. Sophias Avenue, Athens, Greece 10160
A list of local attorneys is available at athens.usembassy.gov/medical-legal.html
American-Hellenic Chamber of Commerce
109-111 Messoghion Avenue, Politia Business Center
Athens, Greece 11526
Phone: +30-210-699-3559, Fax: +30-210-698-5686
Web Site: www.amcham.gr
Resources to Report Corruption
Based on a research by Ernst & Young for calendar year 2018, Greece ranks third out of 41 polled countries on the corruption perception index. Reportedly, 81 percent of employees in Greek businesses consider that corruption is widespread in the country. Only 22 percent said they knew their business had a special hotline for denouncing corruption cases. Only two percent of Greek business employees have resigned from their post on the grounds of “unethical behavior.” Greece was the EU member state which saw the biggest decrease in annual rankings measuring perceptions of corruption, as it fell eight places on 2018 Transparency International’s Corruption perception index, from 59 in 2017 to 67. By contrast, the country improved since 2012, partly due to mandatory structural reforms. Despite these structural improvements, burdensome bureaucracy is reportedly slowing the progress. Transparency International issued a report in 2018 criticizing the government for improper public procurement actions involving Greek government ministers and the recent appointment of the close advisor to the country’s prime minister to be the head of the Hellenic Competition Commission, which oversees the enforcement of anti-trust legislation.
Bribery is a criminal act and the law provides severe penalties for infractions, although diligent implementation and haphazard or uneven enforcement of the law remains an issue. Historically, the problem has been most acute in the area of government procurement, as political influence and other considerations are widely believed to play a significant role in the evaluation of bids. Corruption related to the health care system and political party funding are areas of concern, as is the “fragmented” anti-corruption apparatus. NGOs and other observers have expressed concern over perceived high levels of official corruption. Permanent and ad hoc government entities charged with combating corruption are understaffed and underfinanced. Various polls have indicated public confidence in the government and in politician is low. There is a widespread perception that there are high levels of corruption in the public sector and tax evasion in the private sector, and many Greeks view corruption as the main obstacle to the economic recovery.
The Ministry of Justice prosecutes cases of bribery and corruption. In cases where politicians are involved, the Greek parliament can conduct investigations and/or lift parliamentary immunity to allow a special court action to proceed against the politician. A December 2014 law does not allow high ranking officials, including the prime minister, ministers, alternate, and deputy ministers, parliament deputies, European Parliament deputies, general and special secretaries, regional governors and vice governors, and mayors and deputy mayors to benefit from more lenient sentences in cases involving official bribes. In 2019, the parliament passed a new amendment to Article 62 of the constitution, which limits parliamentary immunity to acts carried out in the course of parliamentary duties. Under current constitution, parliamentary immunity applies to all acts conducted while in the office, irrespective if act is connected to the parliamentary duties. In addition, the parliament amended Article 86 of the constitution, abolishing the statute of limitations for crimes committed by ministers and to disallow postponements for trials of ministers.
On March 19, 2015, the government passed Law 4320, which provides for the establishment of a General Secretariat for Combatting Corruption under the authority of a new Minister of State. Under Article 12 of the Law, this entity drafts a national anti-corruption strategy, with an emphasis on coordination between anti-corruption bodies within various ministries and agencies, including the Economic Police, the Financial and Economic Crime Unit (SDOE), the Ministries’ Internal Control Units, and the Health and Welfare Services Inspection Body. Based on Law 4320, two major anti-corruption bodies, the Inspectors-Controllers Body for Public Administration (SEEDD) and the Inspectors-Controllers Body for Public Works (SEDE), were moved under the jurisdiction of the General Secretariat for Combatting Corruption. A Minister of State for combatting corruption was appointed to the cabinet following the January 2015 elections and given oversight of government efforts to combat corruption and economic crimes. The minister drafted coordinated plans of action and monitored their implementation, and was given operational control of the Economic Crime division of the Hellenic Police, the SDOE, ministries’ internal control units, and the Health and Welfare Services’ inspection body. Following the September 2015 national elections, the cabinet post of Minister of State for combatting corruption was abolished, and those duties were assigned to a new alternate minister for combatting corruption in the Ministry of Justice, Transparency, and Human Rights.
Legislation passed on May 11, 2015 provides a wider range of disciplinary sanctions against state employees accused of misconduct or breach of duty, while eliminating the immediate suspension of an accused employee prior to the completion of legal proceedings. If found guilty, offenders could be deprived of wages for up to 12 months and forced to relinquish their right to regain a senior post for a period of one to five years. Certain offenders could also be fined fromEUR3,000 toEUR100,000. The law requires income and asset disclosure by appointed and elected officials, including nonpublic sector employees, such as journalists and heads of state-funded NGOs. Several different agencies are mandated to monitor and verify disclosures, including the General Inspectorate for Public Administration, the police internal affairs bureau, the Piraeus appeals prosecutor, and an independent permanent parliamentary committee. Declarations are made publicly available. The law provides for administrative and criminal sanctions for noncompliance. Penalties range from two to ten years’ imprisonment and fines fromEUR10,000 toEUR1 million.
UN Anticorruption Convention, OECD Convention on Combatting Bribery
Greece is a signatory to the UN Anticorruption Convention, which it signed on December 10, 2003, and ratified September 17, 2008. As a signatory of the OECD Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Government Officials and all relevant EU-mandated anti-corruption agreements, the Greek government is committed in principle to penalizing those who commit bribery in Greece or abroad. The OECD Convention has been in effect since 1999. Greek accession to other relevant conventions or treaties:
Council of Europe Civil Law Convention on Corruption: Signed June 8, 2000. Ratified February 21, 2002. Entry into force: November 1, 2003.
Council of Europe Criminal Law Convention on Corruption: Signed January 27, 1999. Ratified July 10, 2007. Entry into force: November 1, 2007.
United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime: Signed on December 13, 2000. Ratified January 11, 2011.
Resources to Report Corruption
Organization: The Inspectors-Controllers Body for Public Administration
Address: 60 Sygrou Avenue, 11742, Athens
Telephone number: +30-213-215-8800
Email address: email@example.com
Organization: Transparency International Greece
Address: 4 Thetidos Street, 115 28, Athens
Telephone number: +30-210-722-4940
Email address: firstname.lastname@example.org
13. Foreign Direct Investment and Foreign Portfolio Investment Statistics
Table 2: Key Macroeconomic Data, U.S. FDI in Host Country/Economy
Table 3: Sources and Destination of FDI
|Direct Investment from/in Counterpart Economy Data|
|From Top Five Sources/To Top Five Destinations (US Dollars, Millions)|
|Inward Direct Investment||Outward Direct Investment|
|Total Inward||32,536||100%||Total Outward||19.354||100%|
|Switzerland||3,381||10.3%||China: Hong Kong||2.316||11.9%|
|“0” reflects amounts rounded to +/- USD 500,000.|
Table 4: Sources of Portfolio Investment
|Portfolio Investment Assets|
|Top Five Partners (Millions, US Dollars)|
|Total||Equity Securities||Total Debt Securities|
|All Countries||118.893||100%||All Countries||10.587||100%||All Countries||108.306||100%|
|United Kingdom||10.535||8.8%||Ireland||1.447||13.6%||United Kingdom||10.407||9.6%|