An event was held today at the premises of the Athens Chamber of Commerce and Industry, organised jointly by the Athens Traders' Association, the Thessaloniki Traders' Association, EFG Eurobank, and the Association for the Monetary Union of Europe - AMUE, in the presence of the Deputy Minister of Development, Mrs. M. Apostolaki. The purpose of the event was to present a new preparation guide for the retail-trade industry in view of the introduction of the euro in Greece. The guide's title is 'The Euro in your Shop - A Preparation Guide', and it is addressed specifically to small retail enterprises.
Also speaking at the meeting were the General Secretary of the AMUE, Mr B. de Maigret, and the Managing Director of EFG Eurobank, Mr Nicolaos Nanopoulos. Opening the discussion, the President of the Athens Traders Association, Mr P. Karellas, stressed the need for companies to prepare in a timely fashion for the introduction of the euro, and drew attention to the important role that the euro's success will play in the realisation of the European Monetary Union. Any failure, he pointed out, could imperil the very political and economic independence of Europe. In a brief greeting, the Vice President of the Thessaloniki Traders' Association, Mr C. Haralambidis, broadly followed the same line as Mr Karellas. He said that those active in the world of commerce were fully cognizant of the role they were being called upon to play in achieving a smooth transition to the euro. He added: "We are currently co-operating closely with the government in trying to solve the problems that will arise from the introduction of the new European currency, the euro". The Deputy Minister of Development, Mrs M. Apostolaki, spoke of the support which Economic and Monetary Union has enjoyed from the great majority of Greek citizens, in spite of the sacrifices that the process of nominal convergence required of them. Mrs Apostolaki also noted how short the transitional period will be in the case of Greece (1 January 2001 - 1 January 2002), and stressed the need for close co-operation between all the actors involved - government, business and citizens - in order to achieve the synergies necessary for the whole enterprise to be crowned with success. The Deputy Minister also referred to the law currently being drafted by the Ministry of the National Economy.This, she said, would provide answers to many of the questions which people have been asking today, for example, concerning the issue of the dual price display during the transitional period. She drew attention to the good co-operation existing between the ministries concerned and the Hellenic Banking Association, and referred to the code of conduct which the HBA is proposing to adopt - on the basis of recommendations issued by the European Commission in 1998 - on the matter of banking expenses for the conversion of drachmas into euro: crediting of drachma bank accounts with euros free of conversion charge; automatic conversion, free of charge, of all drachma accounts into euros on 31 December 2001; and same commissions for same services, whether these are in drachmas or in euros. Mrs Apostolaki welcomed the contribution of the guide's joint publishers in raising citizens' awareness, and stressed the useful role it can play in the information campaigns on the euro which are taking, and will take, place in Greece, as well as its role as an incentive for the launching of new and similar initiatives on the part of other parties. The General Secretary of the AMUE, Mr B. de Maigret, for his part welcomed Greece's accession to the euro zone, following the decisions of the European Council at Santa Maria da Feira in Portugal on 19 and 20 June. Mr de Maigret said that it was an honour for Europe that Greece had agreed to replace the drachma, a currency with a history of 2,650 years, with the common European currency, the euro. It is also, he added, a source of great satisfaction for Europeans that the Greeks had proven capable of bringing their great efforts to achieve nominal convergence to a successful conclusion, a condition for membership of the euro zone. Mr de Maigret then turned to the contents of the Preparation Guide, and, following the chapters in their order, explained the various problems which retailers will face in their attempts to adapt their enterprise to the single currency: adaptation of information systems, accounting books and methods, communication with the consumer, application of the correct rules for the conversion of prices, adaptation to payments in euros, and training of staff. Mr de Maigret also drew attention to the need for timely adaptation of cash registers and other equipment to the euro, an operation whose costs will prove lower, he pointed out, if combined wisely with the natural replacement or upgrading of equipment. In conclusion, Mr de Maigret pointed out that in the countries of the euro zone, its use as a medium of payment - even if in book form - has increased among enterprises, but that its use by consumers is lagging behind. This fact - a result of the 'no compulsion - no prohibition' rule - has led most enterprises to postpone their transition to the euro, and this has resulted in some shopowners being under the mistaken impression that they can wait until the new euro banknotes and coins are introduced before embarking on the procedures required for adapting their enterprise to the euro.
The Managing Director of EFG Eurobank, Mr N. Nanopoulos, in concluding the presentations, noted that today marked the end of a cycle. This cycle, which began two and a half years ago, consisted in the joint publication by Eurobank and the Association for the Monetary Union of Europe of the euro preparation guides. This was now coming to a close with the publication of the fourth and last Preparation Guide. The aim of the Bank, Mr Nanopoulos explained, is to assist the business world in the great effort made imperative by the need for enterprises to adapt to the new euro rιgime and environment. The recent decisions of the European Council have confirmed that Greece has won its historic wager, as it now embarks upon a new period whose the two basic characteristics are, first, the need to maintain the current low indices of nominal convergence and, second, the need for a substantial speeding-up of the economy's growth rates. Those who are more capable will certainly benefit more from the new environment; but the latter gives us all the opportunity to adapt strategically to the new rules of competition and improve our competitiveness and efficiency. Mr Nanopoulos reminded his audience that Greece is entering the euro zone belatedly. But this - provided Greek businessmen begin preparing today - will perhaps prove less of a drawback, bearing in mind the small-to-large delays observed in the adaptation of businesses in the eleven countries of the euro zone. Mr Nanopoulos noted that the retail sector was in the vanguard of the national endeavour to adopt euro. The banks too are playing a primary role, since they form the link between actors throughout the range of economic activities. In any event, today's banks have evolved into the businessman's partner, and in this framework will play an important role, not only in the introduction of the euro as such, but also in informing in the best possible way the public and assisting the businessman. In this connection, Mr Nanopoulos recalled, on the one hand, the close and creative collaboration which Eurobank has developed over the years with the AMUE, evidence of which is the publication of the four guides on the adaptation of enterprises, and, on the other hand, the role and contribution of Eurobank in the information campaigns being mounted throughout Greece to improve the preparedness of businessmen and the public at large for the forthcoming introduction of the new currency, the euro.