The Greek government has finalised the legislation which will see the deregulation of the ‘closed professions’ in Greece.

The liberalising of the 160 closed professions has been a high priority for the Papandreou government because it has been a crucial condition of the EU/IMF bailout deal which saved Greece from bankruptcy.

It is one of the key targets Greece should have met by end February in order to secure the fourth tranche of EU-IMF funds in March 2011.

“The draft bill on the opening up of so-called closed professions represents a historic change in the benefit of society, since it guarantees new business and growth opportunities which boost the competitiveness of our country,” stressed Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou, during his address to the cabinet.

“These are deep, historical changes,” Papandreou said. “They strengthen our country’s competitiveness, which means they can bring jobs, growth, cheaper products and better services for citizens and businesses.”

Pharmacists and lawyers on Wednesday began a series of 24-hour strikes to protest against the reform, which they say would hurt their sector.

Pharmacists across Greece have been closed for the last three days to protest the changes in the regulation of their profession.

Pharmacists’ unions are mostly against a proposed extension of work hours, liberalisation of pharmacy ownership provisions, a greater discount allocated to social insurance funds and any relaxation of population restrictions for opening a new pharmacy.

A limited number of pharmacies were open during shopping hours to serve emergencies during the strike, while late night pharmacies continued to operate to a restricted schedule.

They will continue their action on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday of this week in an attempt to prevent the changes to their profession.

Meanwhile, the Bar Associations in Greece called on lawyers to participate in protests on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday against the opening up of their profession — by abstaining from their court appearances, except from the Athens Bar Association, which decided not to take part in the strike action.

The lawyers object to several draft law provisions including the level of the legal fees and the lifting of geographic restrictions in law practices.

This week has also seen railway workers, public servants, doctors who work in public hospitals and for the social welfare funds as well as dentists also on strike against reforms in their sectors.

Sources: Reuters, ANA, Xinhua