Author: Rokas Law Firm (https://www.linkedin.com/company/rokas-law-firm)
Contact: Alkistis Christofilou, Partner - email@example.com
Overview of legal measures as of 07.05.2020 adopted in Greece, as response to the coronavirus crisis.
Please note: Due to the extraordinary situation, the legislation is in continuous evolution and may change very fast. The presentation below constitutes an indicative overview of the measures in force up to 07.05.2020 in highlights, however, is not intended to be used as legal advice and is subject to ongoing changes.
The Hellenic State has adopted, in view of the COVID-19 outbreak, and with the aim to minimize its spread and address its adverse impact, a series of extraordinary and temporary measures. A first category of measures imposed restrictions (up to the complete prohibition) of operations of certain categories of businesses, while at the same time a second category of measures was enacted aiming to support the businesses severely affected by the crisis, as well as to maintain employment positions. In this context, measures such as tax and social security contributions deferrals, and measures concerning partial payment of business and main residence leases are in place.
Apart from the general measures, a series of sector-specific measures in response to the coronavirus crisis have been also adopted by competent authorities, such as in the capital markets, the insurance sector, etc., while guidance is available with respect to data protection issues arising. The operation of state authorities is also affected, in the sense that they are either not open to the public and operate by distance communications means, or they operate under strict safety conditions (limited people per square meters, use of protective masks and gloves, limited operations, et. al.). A series of measures has been further enacted in this context developing the notion of "digital governance", in the sense that several state services have been made available to the public via digital means.
1. INTERVENTIONS AND RESTRICTIONS
The appearance and spread of COVID-19 in Greece has caused an unprecedented, multi-faceted crisis and has made extraordinary measures necessary. In this context, a series of measures have been decided by the Greek Government in order to reduce the spread of the virus.
To date several important measures have been adopted in this relevance by the Greek Government, starting within the second week of March, 2020:
1.2 Prohibition of crowds and Lockdown
Gatherings of more than 10 individuals are not permitted. On the basis of the constitutional command to the government to protect citizens’ health, in order to reduce the risk of the spread of the virus, as a precautionary measure and for the absolutely necessary period of time, a restriction of the movement of citizens in all Greek territory was imposed, with strict exemptions, such as visits to doctors and pharmacies, supply of essential goods, care of people in need and personal exercise. The duration of this lockdown last from 23.03.2020 until 04.05.2020, while movement is still prohibited outside the Prefecture of the main residence and to the islands.
In addition, the State closed all educational facilities, which are expected to gradually open after 11.05.2020, starting from the last High School grade and potentially spreading to lower classes. The entire educational machine has been continuously operating via the web and teachers to university professors became adequately adept to produce lessons over a webcam.
Other State Authorities are similarly not open to the public and provide the necessary services via phone, e-mail, or by pre-scheduled meetings in strictly defined cases. The lockdown of the State Authorities has caused a significant “digitalization” of the Greek Public Administration, in the sense that the government massively accelerated the digital reform of the administrative services to the citizens, and many State services have been made available to the public via digital means and platforms.
The lockdown was extended to certain private businesses, considered as not essential, such as retail shops, coffee shops, restaurants, hotels, cinemas, gyms, museums etc. During the shutdown period a number of financial support measures were introduced, which are described in other sections of this report.
Citizens were informed meticulously on a daily basis on the evolutions in the COVID-19 front and educated on the protection measures by the head epidemiologist and the head of civil protection of the State, who also answered on scientific and other questions by the media.
Following an almost 8-week shutdown, and on the basis of the effectiveness of the measures, the country started to gradually ease the lockdown. Certain categories of small businesses (barber shops, beauty salons, small book or computer retail businesses etc.) were allowed to open starting from 04.05.2020, while the rest of the retail market shall be opening within the coming weeks, and provided there will be no revival of the epidemic. The entrance and presence of persons within stores and offices are subject to strict measures depending on the size of the premises, while the use of a mask by employees and customers in barbershops, hairdressers, beauty salons and other services that require physical contact is mandatory. The same applies to supermarket and grocery stores employees and to those using public transportation. The second section of the market that will be allowed to re-opening on 11.05.2020 are the rest of the retail businesses, driving schools, churches and other worship places. The third that would be allowed to re-opening on 18.05.2020 are private tutoring schools, archaeological sites, zoos and botanical gardens. Coffee shops and restaurants would be allowed to re-opening on 01.06.2020, but according to the officials, there is a possibility for an earlier opening on 24/25.06, depending on how well the country will be doing. The use of a mask by the employees of restaurants and coffee shops will be mandatory, the tables should be at least 1.5 meters apart and only outdoors, with the possibility of certain exceptions under strict conditions to businesses that only own indoors property. As far as tourism is concerned, the Government plans to open the summer season starting July 1 2020, however to this point nothing official has been decided yet.
1.3 Supply of essential medical goods
Businesses operating in the production, import, trade, sale, distribution, etc. of pharmaceuticals and personal protective and hygiene equipment in the Greek territory, shall submit to the competent authority information regarding their stock of (a) surgical masks, (b) antiseptic solutions, (c) antiseptic wipes, (d) ethyl alcohol, either intended as a raw material for the production of antiseptic products, or available bottled for retail sale with an alcohol content of 95%, and (e) COVID-19 infection tests. The (compulsory) requisition, with reasonable compensation, of movable and non-movable items, which fall within the meaning of special hospital equipment, personal protective equipment and medicines, has been enacted.
As long as there is still danger that COVID-19 will reoccur and spread, extraordinary procurement contract procedures regarding any appropriate personal hygiene or collective protection equipment may be carried by any contracting authority, via direct awarding, deviating from any relevant provision of the existing national legislation on public contracts. Furthermore, the National Emergency Aid Centre may send our invitation, deviating from the relevant provisions on public contracts, for the purchase of spare ambulances and medical equipment and the Minister of Health may accept any donation of special hospital equipment of any kind, personal protective equipment and medicines of any kind from third parties, natural and legal persons.
1.4 Health Care
In order to deal with emergencies from the onset and spread of coronavirus COVID-19, auxiliary medical, nursing or other staff may be recruited for one (1) year, in derogation of the existing provisions, in military hospitals, university hospitals universities, the Health Units Société anonyme (A.E.M.Y.) and the decentralized administrations for staffing needs, without the need of a relevant approval according to the otherwise applicable provisions.
The National Public Health Organization (E.O.D.Y.) may, in derogation from all existing national provisions on public procurements, conclude contracts with private health care providers (diagnostic laboratories) via direct awarding, for the examination of samples.
Special Purpose Mobile Health Teams have been established, with the purpose of (a) providing nursing care services, (b) obtaining samples of biological material from individuals (possible patients of COVID-19) and (c) providing training services for newly hired health professionals in hospitals, health centers and the National Emergency Aid Centre (EKAB).
Furthermore the Greek Government has enacted measures for recruitment of non-specialized medical staff, as well as the extension of the contracts of medical staff specialized in infectious diseases. Moreover, a special volunteer program for the employment of adult citizens, who do not belong to vulnerable groups of the population, in public health structures has been constituted.
Finally, in order to track the COVID-19 patients, a National Registry of COVID-19 patients has been established, while special provisions regulate the provision of health monitoring, information, and consulting services to COVID-19 patients who are not hospitalized and remain at their homes, as well as people living with them, with the use of distance, digital means.
1.5 Persons with a higher risk
In order to ensure the continuation of the treatment of vulnerable groups of the population, as well as patients who are restricted to their houses due to the lockdown, the Greek Government has enacted the measure of sending medicines from the pharmacies of the National Health Service Organization (E.O.P.Y.Y.) to these vulnerable groups, on the same day, through a certified courier company.
Poor and uninsured patients with chronic renal failure may be treated in haemodialysis units of the private sector, which are contracted with the National Health Service Organization (E.O.P.Y.Y.).
1.7 Shareholder's meetings and other meetings of companies
According to the enacted extraordinary provisions, the General Assembly of shareholders or partners, of any legal person or legal entity, may take place by means of teleconference in relation to some or all of its members, regardless whether such possibility is provided in the entity's Articles of Association or not. In such cases, the invitation to the members of the General Assembly shall include the necessary information and technical guidance for their participation in the meeting.
Furthermore, the Boards of Directors of any private law legal entities may convene and take decisions by means of teleconference for all or some of their members, with any appropriate telecommunications means, as well as by circulation, regardless of whether such possibilities are provided in the company's Articles of Association or not. In such cases, the signatures of the members of the respective collective company organ may be replaced by means of e-mail exchange or other electronic means.
The above mentioned extraordinary provisions are applicable until the 30.06.2020.
A number of sanctions has been imposed to those that are violating the legal provisions regarding the measures to halt the spread of COVID-19, the most important of which are the following:
a) Businesses that have an obligation to submit to the competent authority information regarding their stock of (a) surgical masks, (b) antiseptic solutions, (c) antiseptic wipes etc. face administrative fines ranging from EURO 1,000 to 100,000, if they fail to do so.
b) People and businesses in breach of the measures set out in Art. 1 of the 25.02.2020 Legislative Act (such as the mandatory submission to clinical and laboratory medical examination of potential COVID-19 patients, the temporary restriction, in whole or in part, of air, sea, rail or road connections with countries with a high prevalence of the disease, the temporary ban on the operation of school and private tutoring units, the temporary ban on the operation of theaters, cinemas etc.) are facing administrative fines of EUR 5,000 for each breach and imprisonment for up to two (2) years, unless the act is more severely punished by another provision of the law.
c) Those that are selling goods or services, which are considered to be essential for the health, nutrition, transportation and safety of the consumer, and in particular medicinal products, personal protective and hygiene equipment, and which exceed the value of the benefit so that the gross profit margin is greater than it was before February 1st 2020, are facing either recommendations to stop this illegal practice or administrative fines ranging from EUR 1,000 to 1,000,000.
d) People that were found to violate the lockdown provisions are facing administrative fines of EUR 150. However, if they were caught breaching the lockdown provisions while traveling outside the regional unit of the place of residence, the fine of the previous paragraph amounted to EUR 300.
e) People that do not wear masks, when it is mandatory, and businesses that do not make sure to use tables 1.5 meters apart or do not limit the number of customers they allow inside and which, in general, do not follow the hygiene rules as set out in the relevant Legislative Acts or Ministerial Decisions, are facing fines ranging from EUR 150 to 2,000.
2. SUPPORT OF BUSINESSES
The State restrictive measures that have been imposed in an attempt to address and mitigate the COVID-19 outbreak include measures either temporarily prohibiting or severely affecting business operation for several categories of businesses. In an effort to support liquidity and viability for businesses affected by the above measures, the Hellenic State adopted a series of supporting measures, including tax deferrals, social security contributions deferrals, etc. available to business in temporary shut-down or severely impacted by the coronavirus situation, as determined by virtue of a Ministerial Decision in accordance with their Tax Business Activity Code Numbers (KAD).
Greece has also availed of the Temporary State Aid Framework adopted by the European Commission in view of the COVID-19 crisis, and enacted certain state aid measures, which were approved by the Commission.
2.2 Horizontal measures
A first set of business supportive measures were enacted and apply horizontally to all businesses either severely affected by the crisis, or the business of which is temporarily prohibited by virtue of the applicable special provisions. Such measures indicatively include:
· The possibility to suspend the payment of VAT or other certified debt to the Tax Authorities, which was due by 30.04.2020, until 31.08.2020. In case any business timely paid,by 30.04.2020, a discount of 25% on the amount applied while particularly with respect to VAT, it acquired a 25% setoff with respect to taxes payable from May 2020 onwards;
· Suspension of payment of social contributions due for April 2020 until 31.10.2020 and of installments of certified debt relating to social contributions by 31.07.2020. Similar provisions were enacted in relation to social contributions payable by freelancers (lawyers, self-employed professionals, etc.);
· Provisions regulating rents for business establishments (please see relevant Section below);
· Immediate payment by the State of amounts due to businesses as tax returns, up to the amount of EUR 30k.
2.3 Public Guarantee of loans
A state aid scheme in the form of capped business loans portfolio guarantees for new working capital loans in the COVID-19 outbreak was enacted, aiming to ensure sufficient liquidity in the market. The measure is implemented through guarantees issued by the Hellenic Development Bank (HDB), partially guaranteeing eligible loans originated by financial intermediaries (e.g. banks). The measure concerns a State guarantee that covers 80% of the losses incurred on the individual working capital loans, with an additional cap of 40% on the losses incurred in the reference portfolio. All Greek undertakings may qualify as beneficiaries, except from financial intermediaries, and undertakings active in the aquaculture, agriculture and in sectors non-eligible under the European Regional Development Fund. Only loans with a maturity from 1 to 5 years are eligible, while the aid may be granted until 31.12.2020. The applicable provisions also regulate the maximum amount of the loan to be subject to the state guarantee at hand. According to the State, no more than EUR 2 billion in aid will be granted under this measure, which are expected to translate into an amount of up to EUR 8 billion of new working capital loans to the Greek economy.
This state aid scheme was notified and approved by the Commission by virtue of its Decision dated 03.04.2020 on Case No. SA.56857.
2.4 Interest subsidy measures
The interests of existing loans of small and medium-sized enterprises that are affected by the coronavirus crisis shall be subsidized for April, May and June, while it is possible to extend the period of subsidy by another two months, should it be considered necessary. The grants may not, in any case, cover interests due after 31.12.2020, default interests or other penalties. Namely, the measure provides aid in the form of grants up to EUR 800k per undertaking, intended to support availability of working capital for small and medium-size enterprises (SMEs) affected by the COVID-19 outbreak, applying to SMEs active in sectors particularly affected by it, as defined in the list of activities specified in the call for applications for aid. The estimated total budget of such support measure amounts to EUR 1.2 billion, with an initial budget of EUR 750 million, regarding interests of loans with a specific number of instalments, debenture loans and credit agreements, including securitized loans and credits that were paid on time until 31.12.2019, for which a financial institution that participates in the subsidy measure acts as a servicer.
The aid scheme was notified to the Commission and approved by virtue of its Decision dated 08.04.2020 on Case No. SA.56839.
2.5 Repayable Advance Scheme (RAS)
Undertakings that have been economically affected by the COVID-19 outbreak are entitled to financial aid, which shall be fully or partially recovered, in the form of repayable advance. Such advance shall not be confiscated, taxed or offset against any debt. Furthermore, an online electronic platform named “myBusinessSupport” is established under the supervision of the Independent Public Revenue Authority (AADE). The calculation of the repayable advance amount shall take into account the losses incurred, the specific business type features of the undertaking and other COVID-19 support measures from which the undertaking has benefited. The estimated budget under this scheme is EUR 1 billion, while aid may be granted until 30.06.2020.
Applications for the provision of such financial aid shall be submitted to this online platform, by private undertakings of any form, (regardless of their industry, including individual undertakings) which occupy 1 up to 500 employees, have their registered office or establishment in Greece and are affected by the COVID-19 outbreak, provided that their business is not inactive since April of 2019. Further, applications shall be submitted by general partnerships, limited liability companies and private companies that do not occupy any employees, have their registered offices or establishment in Greece and are affected by the outbreak of COVID-19, provided that their business is not inactive since April of 2019. In order to be considered as undertakings severely affected, beneficiaries shall demonstrate a reduction of their business activity of at least 30% compared to the average business activity of the corresponding period in the preceding 3 years or another equivalent period in cases where the company exists less than 3 years.
The measure was notified to the Commission and approved by virtue of its Decision dated 07.04.2020 on Case No. SA.56815.
2.6 Financial aid to small, very small and medium businesses of the Greek islands
Small, very small and medium businesses having their registered seat in the Greek islands, apart from Crete, Evia and Lefkada, and entitled to financial aid covering the difference between the actual transportation cost of the enterprise and the sum it would have paid for the same distance, should its registered office be in mainland Greece, will be paid until 30.4.2020 with 60% of the required financial aid. As soon as the administrative verification is completed, the enterprises will be paid with the rest of the financial aid, provided they are entitled to it .
3. SUPPORT OF THE JOBMARKET
The appearance and spread of COVID-19 in Greece has caused an unprecedented, multi-level crisis and has made extraordinary measures necessary. In this context a series of measures have been adopted by the Greek Government in order to support the economy, business and employees.
To date several important measures have been adopted by the Greek Government on the following subjects:
Special Purpose Compensation/ Financial Aid
Sick leave/ Special Purpose Leave
Prohibition of redundancies
Remote work/ teleworking
Suspension of working time declarations in Information System "ERGANI"
Business operation with security staff
Personnel transfer to companies within the same group
Payment of the Easter bonus
Payments to Social Security Funds
Emergency allowance for the long-term unemployed
3.2 Support measures
Special Purpose Compensation / Financial Aid
Employees of companies - employers that have ceased their operation by virtue of a State decision are entitled to a Special Purpose Compensation, equal to EUR 800, corresponding to the time period between 15.03.2020 - 30.04.2020. The Special Purpose Compensation is payable directly by the State, and cannot be subject to compulsory seizure, tax, and cannot be offset with any other debt.
Employees of companies - employers that have been significantly affected by the situation, and whose contracts of employment have been suspended, are also entitled to the aforementioned Special Purpose Compensation, equal to EUR 800. This measure has been also extended to some categories of freelancers.
To date (04.05.2020) regarding special categories of professionals (such as lawyers, doctors, engineers, accountants, teachers, researchers) a EUR 600 financial aid has been adopted and, if the crisis persists, further financial support has been announced by the Greek Government.
Sick Leave / Special Purpose Leave
If an employee is affected by COVID-19, then the general provisions for sick leave are applicable. Pursuant to these provisions, the employees are entitled to either a half or a one month's pay, depending on whether the sickness occurs during or after the first year of employment.
Working parents are also entitled to use a Special Purpose Leave. The scope of the leave covers the working parents whose children: a) are enrolled in nursery schools and kindergartens, b) are enrolled in mandatory school units, c) are studying in special schools or in special education school units, irrespective of their age, and d) have special needs and who, irrespective of age, are benefiting from open care service facilities for people with disabilities.
the operation of these school units has been suspended and thus to facilitate working parents and for as long as the aforementioned units remain closed, a right to obtain a Special Purpose Leave of at least three (3) days is established, provided that the employee makes use of one (1) day of his ordinary leave for every three (3) days of the Special Purpose Leave, in the context of the tripartite participation in this emergency measure.
The two thirds (2/3) of the days of the Special Purpose Leave are covered by the employer and the one third (1/3) is covered by the Regular State Budget, after the data of the Ministries of Finance, Labour and Social Affairs, and Interior Affairs are cross-checked.
Prohibition of redundancies
Companies-employers that have ceased their operations following a State decision are not allowed to proceed with personnel redundancies by means of termination of employment contracts. In case such terminations take place, they shall be void.
Companies-employers of the private sector that have been significantly affected by the COVID-19 situation, are not allowed to proceed with personnel redundancies by means of termination of employment contracts. However, they may suspend the employment contracts of their personnel for a period of time, in order to adjust their operational needs to the adverse economic environment.
Remote work / Teleworking
The employer may by its own decision determine that the work provided by the employee at the designated by the employment contract workplace, shall be carried out remotely.
Suspension of working time declarations in I.S. "ERGANI"
The employer’s obligation to register in the information System “ERGANI” any change or modification of the work shift or of the organization of the employees’ working hours, as well as the additional work and the legal overtime, is suspended.
Business operation with security staff
The employer may decide to appoint security staff for the operation of its business, with specific employee participation quota.
Personnel transfer to companies within the same group
The employer, the business activity of which is severely affected or is under prohibition on the basis of the applicable regulatory provisions, may transfer personnel between companies of the same group, upon a relevant agreement between them. The group companies that will apply the measure must maintain, totally, the same number of employees, as the one before the transfer.
Please see reference under "Leases"
Payment of the Easter Bonus
Businesses that have been financially affected or their operation has been suspended under a state decision, may defer the payment of the Easter bonus to their employees to a later time.
Payments to Social Security Funds / Social Security Contributions
The payment of deferred or overdue liabilities to insurance funds, whose due dates expire from 31.03.2020 onwards, by businesses that have been significantly affected or their operation has been suspended under a state decision, as well as by their employees, is suspended for 3 months. The same suspension applies to freelancers, self-employed and individual business owners, whose payment due date expires between March and May 2020.
The respective deadlines for payment of social security contributions pertaining to February and March 2020 have been deferred to 30.09.2020 and 31.10.2020 respectively. The same suspensions applies to freelancers, self-employed and individual business owners. The payment of said contributions will be made in 4 monthly installments starting in September 2020. Alternatively, if these are paid without deferment, a 25% reduction applies.
Emergency allowance for the long-term unemployed
An emergency allowance of EUR 400 for long-term unemployed has been adopted by the Greek Government. This allowance is granted by the Labour Employment Office (OAED) to long-term unemployed, who have been registered in OAED register of long-term unemployed on 01.04.2019 or after.
4. TENANCY AND LEASE
4.1 Legal basis
Law 4683/2020 (Government Gazette A' 83/10.04.2020) regarding the Ratification of Legislative Act dated 20.03.2020 "Urgent measures to address the consequences of the risk of coronavirus COVID-19 spreading, support society and entrepreneurship and ensure the smooth operation of the market and public administration" and other provisions.
The Law ratifies the Legislative Act of 20 March 2020 (Government Gazette A' 68/20.03.2020) and introduces additional provisions with regard to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In the field of commercial leases, Article 1 of L. 4683/2020 ratifies the provision of the previously issued Legislative Decree of 20/3/2020 pursuant to which lessees who rent their business establishment under a commercial leasing agreement are released from the obligation to pay 40% of the total rents for the months of March and April 2020, provided that urgent measures have been taken suspending or temporarily prohibiting the operation of such establishments due to the COVID-19.
Consequently, partial payment according to the above-mentioned provision does not give rise to a right to terminate the leasing agreement at the lessee’s expense or to any other civil claim.
The above provision also applies to commercial leases of movable and/or immovable assets intended for business use by businesses affected from urgent measures suspending or temporarily prohibiting their operation due to the COVID-19.
The above release from the obligation to pay 40% of the total rents for the months of March and April 2020 is extended to main residence leasing agreements for lessees who work in businesses affected from urgent measures suspending or temporarily prohibiting their operation due to the COVID-19, provided that their employment contract is temporarily suspended as a result of the COVID-19.
Finally, pursuant to Article 26 of L. 4683/2020, the above provisions are extended only for the month of April 2020 to businesses and their employees that have been severely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic as per delegated acts adopted in accordance with the Legislative Decree of 11/3/2020.
5. JUDICIAL AND COMPULSORY EXECUTION PROCEEDINGS
5.1 Overview - General Framework for Suspension
Due to the spread of the coronavirus epidemic, a temporary suspension of the operation of Courts and Prosecutors is legislated for the period 28.04.2020 – 15.05.2020 in order to safeguard public health in general. However, specific exceptions to the above mentioned emergency measure are prescribed.
The General Framework for Suspension concerns the suspension of trials and law cases, the suspension of legal and judicial deadlines, the suspension of the statute of limitations of claims, as well as the suspension of any enforcement proceedings and auction proceedings, with simultaneous legislative provision to extend the protection framework of the main residence from forced liquidation.
5.2 Exceptions - Special provisions
Exceptionally, the written procedure and the representation of parties are promoted via statements during the gradual operation of the Courts, while the expansion of the applications of digital justice (such as the issuance of Certificates by Judicial Authorities services electronically and free of charge, the electronic filing of documents, the electronic sending of judicial decisions etc.) has been fostered.
Subsequently, the exceptions under the suspension also apply to bailiffs as follows: the publication of legal decisions, as well as applications for temporary and urgent judicial protection, are excluded from the general suspension.
Especially for the Administrative Courts cases are currently heard exclusively via declarations by all the parties without their presence, which can be filed electronically, as well as special procedural regulations have been provided for the submission of documents and pleadings.
Regarding the Civil Courts, applications for interim measures relating to the operation of mortgage registry and land registry (e.g. registration or elimination or reform of mortgage notices, conservative attachment of mobile or immovable property etc.) are heard, while provisional orders are heard without the opposing party’s summons. Finally, concerning provisional orders that have already been granted the President of Service is responsible for the extension of their validity.
Moreover, the legal hearing of Criminal Courts cases concerns misdemeanors in which the criminal is caught in the act, felonies for temporary prisoners, which are supplemented by the maximum temporary detention and felonies of which the limitation period is completed.
5.3 Judicial Holidays
Apart from the above extraordinary measures, legislation on the restriction of judicial holidays for the current judicial year is crucial.
According to recently passed provisions the judicial holidays exclusively for the current judicial year shall begin on 16.07.2020 (instead of 01.07) and expire on 31.08.2020 (instead of 15.09).
5.4 Protective Measures
The aforesaid exceptionally permitted operation of the Courts, Judicial Services and Land Registry offices is carried out in accordance with and under specific protection measures, such as the use of disposable masks/gloves, the observance of distance between individuals, the setting of a maximum limit for incoming persons, the proportion of persons / m2, available antiseptic in public areas, thermometer of incoming people and the existence of protective -plexiglass in courtrooms and services.
Apart from the State restrictive measures imposing business lockdown and restriction on movements, the business and labour supportive measures, and the other specific measures described above, a series of sector-specific measures have been also enacted by competent Authorities, while regulatory guidance has also been issued in relation to sector-specific issues.
7.2 Data Protection Issues
The Hellenic Data Protection Authority (HDPA) issued a series of Guidelines concerning the processing of personal data taking place in the context of the measures adopted against the COVID-19 pandemic. The HDPA highlighted that the processing of personal data concerning the state of health of an identified or identifiable individual, as well as of details concerning travels abroad, constitute personal data processing activities falling into the scope of the GDPR and the applicable Greek data protection law. According to the HDPA, the right to personal data protection is not absolute, but must be evaluated in relation to its function within the society and weighted in relation to other fundamental rights and in accordance with the proportionality principle. In light of these general remarks, the HDPA adopted Guidelines in relation to personal data processing activities (including of special category personal data) implemented by either the competent Public Authorities or by private law entities, such as businesses – employers, in the context of temporary and extraordinary protective measures against the spread of the coronavirus.
Further to the above, and taking into account that many employers have adopted the teleworking (work-from-home) model during the COVID-19 outbreak, the HDPA published a set of Guidelines concerning the data processing and data protection issues arising from this model of work, and acknowledging that employees have higher expectations for the protection of their privacy, as they remain at home. The HDPA states that the employer shall determine and support specific procedures concerning teleworking, taking into account, for each particular case, the nature and severity of the risks to data protection deriving from the teleworking model, and shall adequately inform, train and assist its employees for the implementation of said procedures. Specific guidance is provided by the HDPA in relation is internet access issues, remote access to the employer’s internal network and databases, the use of e-mail and other message exchange applications for the purposes of teleworking, the use of terminal devices and storage means by the employees, and the choice and use of appropriate teleconference application and software.
Additional data processing issues are regulated in several of the temporary and special provisions enacted by the Hellenic State. According to the applicable provisions consulting, guidance and support services to COVID-19 patients that remain in their residence, as well as to people living with them shall be provided with the use of special digital means and services, while the relevant provisions also regulate the data processing issues arising from the use of such means.
The collection and transmission of personal data required in the context of due diligence measures, such as the collection of personal data that are necessary for the verification of identity and annual income of individuals and the transmission thereof to banks and other financial institutions, has been made necessary with the use of the Single Digital Portal of Public Administration, following a request from the individual concerned, which acts as his/her consent to the relevant data processing activities. Furthermore, the applicable provisions have established a National Registry of COVID-19 Patients, for the purposes of the State policy against the pandemic.
7.3 Private Insurance Sector
The Bank of Greece in its capacity as the supervisory authority for the private insurance sector, has granted, in compliance with relevant guidance from EIOPA, an extension to regulatory reporting obligations for insurers.
With respect to insurance intermediaries, special provisions have been enacted extending the deadline for them to submit the necessary documentation to the Special Registry for Insurance Intermediaries, which is required for the maintenance of their registration therein.
7.4 Capital Markets
The Hellenic Capital Markets Commission has issued a Decision prohibiting short-selling, i.e. prohibiting any legal or natural person from entering into short selling and transactions other than short sales which might constitute or increase net short positions on stocks admitted to trading on the regulated market of the Athens Stock Exchange, irrespective of the venue where the transaction is executed. The prohibition is applicable until the 18.05.2020.
Additional measures have been adopted by virtue of ESMA Decisions and Recommendations.
7.5 Intellectual Property
By virtue of the applicable special provisions, all deadlines of the commercial trademarks law referring to requests and appeals before the Trademarks Committee are suspended for a time period of two months, beginning from 11.03.2020, i.e. they are suspended until 11.05.2020. The suspension period may be extended by virtue of a relevant Ministerial Decision.
A similar 2-month suspension, starting from 11.03.2020, is applicable to deadlines before the Office of Industrial Property (competent for patents, industrial designs, etc.), with the exception of any deadlines concerning the payment of any kind of fees, annual and procedural fees.
7.6 Banking sector
On 19.03.2020 the Greek credit institutions – members of the Hellenic Banking Association decided to grant suspension for the payment of any loan instalments payable within the next 3 months. The measure is applicable in favour of any individuals directly affected by the coronavirus crisis and, particularly, those receiving the Special Purpose Compensation enacted by the State, i.e. people active in businesses the operation of which has ceased. Similar suspension of instalment payments was decided for legal entities.
In relation to bank cheques, any legal deadlines relating to their term and payment that lapse within the time period between 30.03.2020 and 31.05.2020 are suspended for 75 days from the date noted on each cheque. The measure applies to cheques issued by businesses, of which the operation has been suspended by virtue of State restrictive measures, or has been severely impacted by the COVID-19 crisis, and the Tax Business Activity Code Number (KAD) of which is included in the list of heavily impacted businesses adopted by virtue of the applicable Ministerial Decisions. To benefit from the suspension of the deadlines, issuers should file a relevant electronic application. A special category of severely affected businesses (on an individual basis) has been also established, for businesses the income of which deriving from cheques falling into the above suspension measures corresponds to 20% of their turnover.
7.7 Competition law
The Hellenic Competition Commission (HCC) established a COVID-19_Competition task force, competent to inform businesses and the public on the implementation of the competition law rules, the HCC’s researches, etc. The aim is to create a hub for the questions received by organisations and companies, and to prevent/ address any competition distortions that may arise (such as overpricing, illegal cartels, etc.).
The HCC further follows the common declaration of the European Competition Network concerning the implementation of the competition law in the context and during the coronavirus crisis.