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C 261 E/76 Official Journal of the European Communities EN 18.9.

2001

(2001/C 261 E/078) WRITTEN QUESTION E-0285/01


by Ioannis Marínos (PPE-DE) to the Commission

(9 February 2001)

Subject: Fuel tax in Greece

On 22 December 2000, Commissioner Bolkestein, replying on behalf of the Commission to my question


to the Commission (E-3423/00) (1), was kind enough to provide detailed information on the tax in force
for various liquid fuels in Greece, confirming that in certain cases (particularly with regard to fuel for
industrial use) the Greek Government imposes a much higher rate of tax than the minimum provided for
by the Commission.

In addition, I would like know what grounds the Commissioner has for his view that this high level of tax
does not necessarily reduce the competitiveness of Greek industrial products, since it is a fact that Greece
is the worst of the 15 EU countries in terms of competitiveness.

The Commissioner also rightly emphasises the complex nature of competitiveness, and as an example
refers to the impact of the level of social security contributions. Can the Commission say whether the level
of contributions in Greece is in fact the highest of the EU countries (with illustrative data for each of the
15 countries), what other factors contribute to the poor international competitiveness of Greek products
and what changes should be made to bring about a drastic improvement in competitiveness? Finally, could
the Commission say whether, in view of its low level of international competitiveness, Greece’s member-
ship of EMU will have adverse effects, and if so, what these will be?

(1) OJ C 174 E, 19.6.2001, p. 52.

Answer given by Mr Bolkestein on behalf of the Commission

(9 April 2001)

The ‘Structure of the taxation system in the European Union, 2000 edition’ published by the Commission,
gives social security contribution as a percentage of gross domestic product (GDP) for all 15 Member
States. The annex presents the figures for years 1997 and 2000, which is being sent direct to the
Honourable Member and to Parliament’s Secretariat.

According to this measure, in comparison with the other Member States, Greece does not have the highest
percentage.

With social security contributions representing 10,8 % of the GDP in 1997, Greece is underneath the
European average, which is 15 %.

The international competitiveness of a small open economy like Greece’s is affected by several domestically
generated factors including: the overall macroeconomic situation, the conditions prevailing in the product
and labour markets, and the institutional and regulatory framework in place, which affects the business
environment, and in particular the administrative burden on companies, the efficiency of the public
administration and the system of corporate taxation.

In the run up to Economic and Monetary Union (EMU), Greece has made remarkable progress in
correcting macroeconomic and fiscal imbalances. A number of structural reforms has also been introduced
in recent years and their impact on the economy has been positive. A sign of the government’s
commitment towards increased competitive market conditions is the recent decision to allow the sale of
majority stakes in partially privatised public companies. A comprehensive tax reform is under preparation
and steps are being taken to review the conditions for access to some service professions in order to
increase competition. However, the remaining problems in several areas and the need to prepare for future
challenges require an intensification of the reform efforts.
18.9.2001 EN Official Journal of the European Communities C 261 E/77

In the labour market, the relatively high rate of unemployment suggests that the results of the reforms
implemented so far have been modest and a bolder attitude is required, taking into account the remaining
rigidities and the government’s objective to drastically improve the employment situation.

In the product markets, raising the still low productivity record requires the continuation of efforts for
improving the functioning of the markets, increasing competitive market conditions and promoting the
development of a knowledge-based society.

As an EMU member since 1 January 2001, Greece has no more monetary and exchange rate policy
instruments at its disposal. On the other hand, economic operators should benefit from reduced monetary
and exchange rate uncertainty and from lower interest rates implied by accession to the euro zone. Thus,
in order to fully benefit from the opportunities offered by EMU participation, it is crucial that an optimal
use is made of the other economic policy instruments available, namely appropriate fiscal, incomes and
structural policies.

(2001/C 261 E/079) WRITTEN QUESTION E-0286/01


by Glyn Ford (PSE) to the Commission

(9 February 2001)

Subject: Counterfeiting of euro currency

What steps is the Commission taking to ensure that when the euro currency is introduced shopkeepers
and traders have very clear guidance as to the nature of the new notes so as to avoid the possibility of
counterfeiting? Is the Commission cooperating with the Member States in a programme to control the
availability and exchange of black-market cash during the transition from national currencies to the euro?

Answer given by Mr Solbes Mira on behalf of the Commission

(2 April 2001)

The European Central Bank (ECB), the national central banks, the Commission and the Member States are
currently conducting communication campaigns with respect to the euro designed for the general public
as much as for specific groups.

Particularly as of September 2001 the campaigns will focus on the characteristics of euro banknotes and
coins, allowing users to recognise them correctly and avoid counterfeits.

For the overall protection of the euro banknotes and coins from counterfeiting, a high level of protection
has been achieved. Security features correspond to the highest technical standards. Furthermore, the
proposal for a Council Regulation laying down measures necessary for the protection of the euro against
counterfeiting (1), on which a political agreement was reached in Council on 12 February 2001, aims at
establishing, in particular, procedures for exchanging information on counterfeits and counterfeiting and
for cooperation involving the Member States, the Commission, the ECB and Europol.

In addition, the Commission is currently preparing a proposal for a training and assistance multi-annual
programme for the protection of the euro against counterfeiting and legislative mesures for supervising
cross-border transportation of cash -inter alia- in order to control availability and exchange of black-
market cash. This proposal would aim, in particular, at strengthening legislation on controls and allowing
the exchange of information.