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Overseas Businesses Rely on Local Professional Advice in Greece

Publiziert am 17.Juni.2013 von Abraam Kosmidis

The importance of local professional knowledge for businesses looking to expand their operations overseas in countries like Greece has been highlighted in the results of a recent survey carried out in the UK.

The survey, which was carried out by the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), contacted over 4,500 businesses to gain their views on exporting and overseas trade.

It found that the number of firms that reported carrying out exporting activity is continuing to increase, but that some fundamental barriers existed that were preventing a greater number of businesses from taking advantage of an overseas market. These barriers include business owners lacking the knowledge on how to take their firms’ goods or services to another country, and not enough business owners or managers possessing sufficient foreign language skills.

Kosmidis & Partners are a firm of English speaking lawyers based in Greece that can help firms overcome these obstacles. Our lawyers have all the necessary skills and experience to assist overseas businesses looking to establish trade links with Greece, or set up a base of operations here.

Lack of knowledge on operating overseas

Areas of knowledge that business owners felt they were lacking and that were preventing them from operating overseas included:

  • A gap in commercial knowledge, such as financing and negotiating bureaucracy in other countries.
  • How to get the product or service to an overseas market. This lack of knowledge was particularly a problem for IT, manufacturing and media firms, according to the survey.
  • Lack of confidence – 58% of firms that were not currently exporting their goods or services said this was because they didn’t feel their product was suitable for export. According to the BCC, this suggests a lack of awareness of the opportunities to be found in a global market.

Lack of language skills

There is no doubt that not being able to speak the language of the country that has been identified as an ideal target market can be a daunting prospect.

The BCC survey found that 62% of businesses that would like to trade internationally feel their lack of ability to speak or understand another language is preventing them from doing so.

Some business owners reported having a degree of knowledge of a foreign language, but not many considered themselves to be proficient enough to conduct business deals in this language.

Local professional advice is available

Although a lack of knowledge and inability to speak the local language can provide a barrier for firms looking to expand overseas, these barriers are not insurmountable. Once an overseas target market has been identified, there will be local professional services such as lawyers and accountants available to help businesses negotiate their way through the rules and procedures of operating in that country.

The benefits to be found in expanding overseas can be invaluable for businesses, both in terms of tapping new and potentially lucrative markets, but also in terms of new contacts and trade links that can be established, even if they don’t immediately lead to increased sales.

“The overseas market may seem daunting to a non-exporter, but the rewards that these companies get in return can be outstanding, as I see first-hand from the successful businesses that I meet every day,” commented John Longworth, Director General of the British Chambers of Commerce.

“It is critical that firms understand the challenges and opportunities attached to the export market. Helping companies forge new connections, through trade promotions and incentives, will help companies to think internationally,” he added.

When it comes to setting up an overseas base of operations, experienced commercial lawyers with local knowledge are essential, as they will be able to advise businesses of the national laws and rules governing business issues such as:

  • Forming a Greek limited liability company
  • Operating branches of an overseas company in Greece
  • Mergers and acquisitions involving Greek companies
  • Tax law
  • Labour law
  • Debt recovery

The English speaking lawyers at Kosmidis & Partners are experienced in all these areas of commercial operations in Greece, and can offer invaluable advice and assistance to overseas organisations looking to conduct business in Greece.

More people are looking to work overseas

It’s not just businesses that are setting their eyes on moving overseas; many people are also looking to move abroad to further their career.

The latest figures from Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union, have shown that in 2012 there were  in excess of 15 million foreign citizens working in the 27 EU member states, and they accounted for around 7% of all employees in these countries.

These foreign citizens included over 6.5 million citizens of a different European Union Member State and 8.6 million individuals from non-EU nations.

This increased mobility can be very beneficial for businesses because it can provide a much wider pool from which to select the most experienced and best qualified employee.  However, it can also present a number of pitfalls for unwary businesses, as different rules may apply depending on whether a national or foreign citizen is being hired. Local legal knowledge is essential to ensure compliance with the correct labour laws and also to ensure any immigration issues are taken into account.

Greece proactively seeks investment

Greece welcomes foreign firms that are looking to do business overseas and has recently been proactively involved in a series of initiatives to encourage foreign investment.

Most recently, the BBC reports that the country has been involved in a two-day Greek Investment Forum in New York, where representatives from over 20 different companies, including a number of Greece’s biggest banks and energy companies, have been promoting the benefits Greece can offer as an investment destination.

The event has apparently been very successful, with around 400 potential investors already registering their interest – double the number that expressed an interest at a similar event held last year.

Speaking to the BBC, Yanos Gramatidis, president of the American-Hellenic Chamber of Commerce, explained why he thought this year’s event had been so successful. He said that investors „understand that now a Grexit (Greek exit from the eurozone) is not an option, this is the time to grab an opportunity as if we were an emerging country.“

If you are looking to expand your business operations overseas, then Greece must rate highly on any list of potential destinations. Contact the lawyers at Kosmidis & Partners today for expert legal advice on how to go about doing business in Greece.

 



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.



Greece: Taxation Versus Revenue Targets

Publiziert am 15.Februar.2013 von Abraam Kosmidis

Taxation Versus Revenue Targets: A Delicate Balancing Act for Greece

Greece has been capturing the headlines in Europe and across the globe for all the wrong reasons. The country’s economy has spiraled to the worst it can ever get amidst an increasingly fragile political situation. Foreign debt has degenerated into an endless crisis that has pushed Greece to the walls, to an extent that almost prompted its political leadership to mull over the possibilities of quitting the EU altogether.

The EU and the IMF have been at the forefront of assisting the country in implementing economic reforms that that will reignite economic growth. The economic recovery measures have largely been focused on government spending cuts and the raising of taxes for purposes of stimulating the economy, while at the same time addressing the growing budget deficits. However, these measures have been too unpopular with the public and they have sometimes triggered widespread street protests and unrests.

All the same, Greece has continued to wade through the harsh economic conditions with all its hopes pegged on the EU. As such, the political establishment has agreed to implement most of the EU and IMF-sponsored economic policies albeit with repercussions that are hitting the populations hard.
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Law to accelerate formation of companies in Greece

Publiziert am 13.Mai.2011 von Abraam Kosmidis

Law 3853/2010 made provision for simplification and acceleration of the procedures for forming a company in Greece, with the aim of processing investment projects quicker and more effectively. This law was essentially implemented by ministerial order no. K1-802 of 23.3.2011, which specified the implementing provisions, procedures and requirements for rapid and more cost-effective formation of companies in Greece.

The fundamental concept behind the law is setting up of a service, a „one-stop shop“, to which parties interested in starting up a business in Greece can turn and which can circumvent the time-consuming, bureaucratic procedure, involving various authorities and public agencies, that was previously necessary.

To set up general and limited partnerships, it is anticipated that the local Citizens Service Centres (KEP) and the General Commercial Registries (GEMI) based in the Chambers of Commerce will operate as what are known as „one-stop shops“, whereas notaries will be accredited „one-stop shops“ for formation of limited liability companies. Kosmidis & Partners works closely with notaries to offer this service.
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Kosmidis and Partners was awarded with Finance Monthly Law Awards 2011

Publiziert am 5.Mai.2011 von Abraam Kosmidis

Kosmidis and Partners was awarded with the Finance Monthly Law Awards 2011 award, as the Real Estate Law Firm of the Year, Greece.

Finance Monthly Law Awards 2011

The award was the result of a voting process carried out by “Finance Monthly”, during which over 36,000 contacts were invited to vote, many of them renowned multinationals.



Setting up a Limited Company in Greece

Publiziert am 22.Januar.2010 von Abraam Kosmidis

Setting up a company limited by liability (LTD, Ltd  or Ltd.) in Greece starts generally with drafting of the Articles of Association.

Firstly, to set up a company limited by liability in Greece, all the shareholders need a Greek tax reference. The first company Articles of Association can then be drawn up and authenticated by a notary. Above all, in addition to the particulars of the shareholders and the company name, the Articles of Association include the company’s seat and object. The founding capital must also be registered. This includes the individual partners‘ investments and potential bigger investments by individual founders. According to the Greek Companies Act the Articles of Association must also establish in writing the company’s duration. The issue of management of the company must also be regulated. As when founding a company limited by shares, representation by a Lawyer admitted in Greece is mandatory when signing the Articles of Association.
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2010 Tax reforms in Greece

Publiziert am 22.Januar.2010 von Abraam Kosmidis

In the last week before Christmas the Greek Parliament instituted discussion of a new tax law reform. In a written statement on the Internet as early as 18.12.2009, the government published the key measures from the new tax policy and presented them to Parliament on 22.12.2009. The aim of the tax reform is to introduce a fair and efficient tax system, which is intended to simultaneously improve or even eradicate the weaknesses and defects in the tax system which has prevailed in Greece to date.

The following government findings paved the way and were decisive for the major tax reform in Greece:
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Planned new regulations for solar cell equipment in Greece

Publiziert am 22.Januar.2010 von Abraam Kosmidis

The Greek government intends to put forward a draft law on reducing bureaucracy and simplifying licensing and exploitation procedures for renewable sources of energy.
The draft makes provision for incentives and measures to promote the development of „green energy“, which the Prime Minister described as a „one-way street“ for combating the crisis. For her part the Environment minister pointed out that „The aim of the draft law is to increase generation of power from renewable sources of energy to 20% of total power production by 2020 and 40% of power production from electrical energy.“ Greece currently produces only 6.7% of its power from renewable sources of energy, such as solar cells.
The new draft law aims to fundamentally reorganise the regulatory framework for licensing renewable energy projects, create the necessary structures for project implementation in areas with increased renewable energy potential, modify the existing legal framework for special utilization, introduce a comprehensive bundle of incentives, stipulate prices within the renewable energy field, and motivate creation of renewable energy-gross-CHP.
Another important point is reduction of the time the licensing procedure takes from the current 3 to 5 years to 8 to 10 months. The process for grant of a power generation licence will furthermore be separated from environmental licensing. As a result the preliminary process for auditing the environmental conditions and the process for granting permits under nature protection law will be standardised.
The aim is also to set up an independent office for which the Environment minister will be directly responsible and which is intended to serve as an information and service coordinating body for investors for „green energy“ projects.
Even if Greece were the European leader in the field of wind power, the market for investment in this field is hardly saturated, so investors will still find plenty of scope for activities and investment in this sector. For comparison, the following total wind power capacities have been installed to date (2008 figures):
Greece 985 MW
Spain 16,756 MW
Germany 23,903 MW.

For more information please see:
Why to Invest in Photovoltaics in Greece
Photovoltaics and Renewable Energy Sources in Greece