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Import regulations and customs duties  - Distribution - Transportation of goods - Standards - Patents and brands

Import regulations and customs duties

In accordance with its European Union membership, Greece applies the European Union (EU) rules that are in force in all European Union countries. While the EU has a rather liberal foreign trade policy, there is a certain number of restrictions, especially on farm products, following the implementation of the CAP (Common Agricultural Policy): the application of compensations on import and export of farm products, aimed at favouring the development of agriculture within the EU, implies a certain number of control and regulation systems for the goods entering the EU territory.
Moreover, for sanitary reasons, regarding Genetically Modified Organisms (after being allowed in the European territory), their presence should be systematically specified on packaging. Beef cattle bred on hormones is also forbidden to import.
The BSE crisis (often called the "mad cow disease") urged the European Authorities to strengthen the phytosanitary measures to make sure of the quality of meats entering and circulating in the EU territory. The principle of precaution is now widespread: in case of doubt, the import is prohibited until proof is made of the non-harmfullness of products.


Customs duties
Since the first of January 1993, the European Union, of which Greece is part, has been a single market, without any customs barriers, which ensures free circulation of goods. On May, 1st of 2004, ten "candidate countries" became new members of the European Union: Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, the Slovak Republic, and Slovenia. Trade within the European Union is totally free from customs duties, provided that the merchandises' country of origin is one of the 25 European Union Member States. Nevertheless, when introducing merchandises into Greece, exporters shall fill in an intrastat declaration.

When the country of origin of the merchandises which are exported to Greece is not part of the European Union, customs duties are calculated Ad valorem on the CIF value of the goods, in accordance with the Common Customs Tariff (CCT).

The duties for non-European countries are relatively low, especially for manufactured goods (4.2% on average for the general rate), however textile, clothing items(high duties and quota system) and food-processing industry sectors (average duties of a 17.3% and numerous tariff quotas, PAC) still know protective measures.
In order to get exhaustive regulations and custom tariffs rates regarding their products, exporters shall refer to the TARIC code and its database, which includes all applicable customs duties and all customs trade policy measures for all the goods.

Moreover, many bilateral and multilateral agreements have been signed by the European Union, in order to define specific customs duties with the following countries:

- Customs agreements with Australia, Canada, United States, Mexico and South Korea.

- The EU-EFTA (European Free Trade Association) Agreement was signed in 1972 with Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.

- Free trade agreements with Bulgaria and Romania that hope join European Union in 2007.

- Mediterranean Agreements, concerning: Turkey, Israel, Jordan, Morocco, Palestinian Authority, Tunisia, Egypt, Lebanon and Syria.

- The ACP agreements, with 95% of the tariff lines with a 0%rate for developing countries in Pacific, Caribbean Islands and Pacific. The Cotonou Agreement, signed in the year 2000, defines the new EU-ACP partnership.

- The Generalised System of Preferences (GSP): 54% of the tariff lines are at 0% for developing countries outside the ACP framework.

To get an exhaustive list of the foreign trade agreements of the European Union, click here.

>> To get further information on customs policies in the European Union, please check the exhaustive report by the European Commission.


Import taxes
To get further information on the VAT rates in Greece, please check the list of vat rates applied within European Union.

>> More detailed information on excise duties is available concerning alcoholic beverages, tobacco products, energy products on the European Commission website.



Distribution is a major sector of Greece's economy. In 2004, the Greek retail market was worth 61.9 billion euros, showing a growth of 4.5% as compared to 2003. Commercial establishments represented 45% of companies in the secondary and tertiary sector. The two principal economic zones are Athens and Théssalonika, which together constitute nearly half of the countryÆs population.

The Business to Consumer (B to C) market
Traditional distribution networks- small sized independent merchants serviced by regional wholesalers, continue to be widespread. In 2003, they were approximately 300,000 in number. However, more modern distribution networks have now sprung up and the leaders in food distribution in Greece are now large groups:
- the largest is the group Marinopoulos (20% owned by Carrefour) which had a turnover of 1.458 billion euros in 2003.
- Followed by the group Delhaize-Alpha Vita Vassilopoulos with a turnover of 901.6 million euros in 2003.
The other visible trend is the development of discount supermarkets. Thus, the German hard discount group Lidl recently set up in Greece. Mostly discount supermarkets like Dia Hellas and Baazar Discount are found here. However, the discount market remains relatively small in size as it represented only 6% of the food distribution market in 2004.

Until 2000, the non-food distribution market was mainly dominated by national groups but the trend has completely changed since then : international groups have started making investments. Thus, the British group Dixons (specialized in electrical home appliances) took over Kotsovolos, Fnac has set up in Athens in 2006 (commercial center The Mall Athens) and Ikéa opened its first store in 2001.

The Business to Business (B to B) market
Since 1994, the Greek GDP has been growing at an average annual rate of more than 2.5%. The public sector still generates practically 50% of the GNP but the Greek government started the process of privatisation and stabilisation of large public companies which allowed the country to integrate with the Economic and Monetary Union on 1st January 2001. In 2004, the FDI (Foreign Direct Investment) inflow into the country reached 1.3 billion euros. There are numerous opportunities in this market of 11 million people, mainly in the field of renewable energies, the building related products, electricity production systems, construction material, medical equipment, telecommunication equipment and services, computers and peripherals, transport, tourism and environmental protection. Greece, with 70% of its foreign trade taking place with its partners in the European Union, established the Centre Hellénique pour l'investissement in 1996 in order to encourage and facilitate foreign investment in the country.

To enter this market, it is recommended to take an agent or to have a joint-venture agreement in order to benefit from their networks. Franchises started developing in the 1990's, particularly in the field of textiles (which constituted 29% of the franchise market in 2002) and more particularly in the field of fast food restaurants. In 2003, there were around 3,000 franchises in Greece.


Transportation of goods

By road
Greece has approximately 40.000 kilometers of roads. Of them, 31.000 kilometers are part of the regional network, while the remaining 9.000 constitute the main road network. Greece has currently embarked on a massive program of public works, which are co-funded by the EU. The Patras-Thessaloniki highway, which will extend to the Bulgarian border, as well as the Egnatia highway from Igoumenitsa to Alexandroupoli, are good examples of the scope of the public works. Road transport is used for a significant proportion of the goods transported domestically.

By rail
Greece has 2.500 kilometers of railway on two main routes: Athens-Thessaloniki and Athens-Corinth-Patras-Kalamata. The state-owned Hellenic Railways Organisation (OSE) controls the railways and has begun a gradual program of modernizing and expanding the existing network in cooperation with the EU. Rail transport accounts for 4% of passenger traffic and 1% of the freight transported only. The timetables are available on the OSE timetables.

By sea
Greece's many islands and islets, as well as its geographical peculiarities, are attested to by the 440 ports to be found all over the country. Of these, 123 charge port fees. The chief ports are Piraeus (the chief port of the greater metropolitan area of Athens), Patras (the main point of departure for destinations along the Adriatic) and Thessaloniki (the main port for cargo traffic to the Balkans and the Black Sea). The international transport of cargo is carried out mainly by sea, while domestically sea transport accounts for only a small percentage of the goods transported for the mainland.

Coastal shipping: Coastal shipping, a smaller portion of the total Greek fleet, comprises 408 ships (32% are open type ferries and 29% are closed type) and is important for the economy of the country as it provides the main contact between the Greek mainland and the islands, thus contributing significantly to the development of tourism and consequently to the inflow of foreign exchange.
Information on the Greek fleet: Greece, with a fleet of 3.225 Greek registered or Greek owned ships over 1.000 gt (last available data July 2001) commands 10.9% of the international fleet, while its 142.2 million dwt represent 18.5% of total capacity. The Greek registered fleet of ships over 300 gt holds first place in the EU with 58% of tonnage and 21% of the total number of ships. Greece is thus the number one power in international shipping.


In the past fifty years, Greek shipping has had an average annual growth rate of 6.5% (or 6.5 million grt). Indicatively, one in six tons transported internationally is transported by Greek-registered or Greek-owned ships. Furthermore, Greeks own a large proportion (from 4 to 21% in 1999) of the four types of ships (tankers, mixed cargo vessels, chemical tankers and bulk carriers) that transport most of the international cargo.
The sector employed approximately 50.000 people in 1999. As of June 2000 there were 835 greek shipping companies. Of these, 45% are companies with one or two ships, while 2.8% of these companies are large, i.e. they own a fleet of more than twenty-five ships.
It should be noted that Greece is the only country among the first ten shipping powers in the world that does not have a second or international shipping registry, which, in addition to other advantages, is known to provide particularly favorable regulations on issues related to the personnel and taxation of ships and for the nationality of its crew. The largest portion of new Greek ship orders goes to the Far East (S. Korea, China, Japan etc.) while Greek ships are registered under 45 different flags (e.g. Liberia, Panama, Cyprus and others).
Greek shipping and the international economic climate: The Greek fleet includes ships of all categories, sizes and types depending on the cargo being transported. It is most active abroad, given that Greece's needs cannot absorb the huge capacity of its fleet. Greek shipping therefore, depends on the foreign charter and international money markets and, as a result, is directly impacted by the international economic climate (recessions, economic crises, changes in government, etc.). Furthermore, it is vulnerable to protectionist measures taken by Third countries to protect their own shipping.
Foreign exchange earned by shipping: The net inflow of foreign exchange resulting from shipping is considerable and in 2000 stood at 4.182 million euros, up 60.5% compared to the 2.606 million euros earned in 1999.

By air
Greece has 80 airports, half of which are capable of accepting international flights, 2/3 thirds of the total situated on the islands. The main ones are Athens, Thessaloniki and Heraklion, Rhodes and Corfu. The internal flights are operated by the airline Olympic Airlines as well as Aegean Airlines. About 13 million passenger arrivals and a similar number of departures take place annually.


To get information about the standards in Greece, it is necessary to contact the ELOT (the Hellenic Organisation of Ratification). For the ratification of foodstuffs and drinks, there is a chemical general laboratory of State as well as the Pharmaceutical National Body and Phytopathology's head office for pharmaceutical products, phytosanitary registers of seeds and plant products.
The forum of Hellenic quality (non-profit organisation), was created in 1993 to develop and promote the conception of quality products, its purpose is to control the quality of manufactured goods, to encourage the quality of components and equipment.
Greece signed the agreements of the GATT during Tokyo Round.
The respect for the quality standards ISO 9000 : 900X allows to be more competitive as compared to other companies.

Patents and brands

Patent, trademarks and design are protected in Greece by the Organisation of the Industrial Property (OIP).
Greece signed the Agreement of Paris concerning the protection of industrial property and the agreement which establishes the World Intellectual property Organization (WIPO). In terms of patents, Greece ratified the agreement of Munich for European patents, as well as the Patents Co-operation Treaty ( PCT).

Texts currently applying to patents/brands

  Text Date entered into law Period of validity Comment
Trademark Law on Trademarks - 15 years renewable -


Last modified in 2006 - ongoing update
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