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THE UNION OF HELLENIC CHAMBERS
 

 

UHCC actions pivot around the assumption of it being the State’s enacted advisor on economy and growth in general; it also represents Hellenic Chambers at home and abroad, and provides services to them. To this end, it develops actions making it an effective tool in the country’s economic and social development.

 

Based on the above, the UHCC has set the following objectives, by order of priority:

 

1. To perform its consulting role vis-a-vis the authorities in the most effective way;

2. To provide integrated information services to its member-Chambers;

3. To efficiently represent Chambers at home and abroad;

4. To assert the management of development projects from the State.

 

 

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UHCC OBJECTIVES AND ACTION KEYSTONES

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ORGANISATION STRUCTURE

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SERVICES PROVIDED TO MEMBER - CHAMBERS

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THE UHCC AND CHAMBERS AS TOOLS IN THE DEVELOPMENT PROCESS

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BUSINESSES AND THE UHCC

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SUPPORT TO SECTORAL CHAMBER INITIATIVES

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CONSTANT PRESENCE BEFORE THE STATE

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WORKING CLOSELY WITH THE MINISTRY OF DEVELOPMENT

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ACCESS TO FINANCING MEANS

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PROGRAM AND PROJECT IMPLEMENTATION

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INTERNATIONAL ACTIVITY

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DYNAMIC PRESENCE ABROAD

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AT THE CENTRE OF EUROPE

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BRUSSELS OFFICE

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LEADING ROLE IN SOUTHEAST EUROPE

 

 

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UHCC OBJECTIVES

AND ACTION KEYSTONES

 

The UHCC has set the following priorities:

 

•        Essential contribution of the Chambers in economic policy-making and implementation, via the submission of opinions on every economic-related matter or bill, by the UHCC.

 

•        Active participation in all functioning Committees that the State and various state bodies are setting up from time to time, concerning the economic activity. Such participation shall pertain to the formulation of joint positions and informed proposals, for a more effective intervention in decisions and choices concerning their members.

 

•        The immediate realisation of the General Trade Register, being a standing request of the country’s productive classes, with the creation of a Central Administration for General Trade Register within the UHCC.

 

•        An active presence of the UHCC abroad, and especially within the European Union, South-eastern Europe and Eastern Mediterranean. Fostering relations with national Chamber unions in those areas, and in particular,close cooperation and activity within the Eurochambres and the Association of Balkan Chambers.

 

•        The development of a permanent and fixed communication and cooperation network abroad, via the creation of the Representation Office in Brussels of the UHCC, enabling the provision of better services to members, and to Hellenic businesses, by extension, to improve the business environment in which they operate and to have better access to various financing means.

 

•        Better adaptation to rules and the new standards in the single European market, by improving the competitiveness of businesses, and by freeing them of rigid and burdening regulations.

 

•        Maximisation and full utilisation of the potential that small and medium-sized enterprises have for employment, growth and competitiveness.

 

•        Vesting the UHCC with a coordinating role in promoting entrepreneurship and better preparing young, small and medium-sized entrepreneurs.

 

•        Expanding the role and activities of Chambers in vocational training.

 

•        Assigning the UHCC with a more active role in the absorption of EU funds, attracting foreign investments, increasing exports and disseminating information.

 

•        The enactment of direct response mechanisms for dealing with current problems of the business classes, thus accelerating the development process.

 
 

ORGANISATION STRUCTURE

 

Chamber network and efficient organisation

 

UHCC members are all 59 Chambers covering the entire country. The Union represents the Chambers at home and abroad and expresses their positions and a component of their views. All 59 Hellenic Chambers participate in the UHCC on an equal basis: Commerce -Industry -Craft and Professional. In particular, each prefecture has a mixed Chamber, except the country’s three largest cities, which have three Chambers each. Using this network, the UHCC represents our country’s entire business world: namely 880 thousand Hellenic enterprises. UHCC, and the member-Chambers, are the connecting link between businesses and public administration, and the official forum for dialogue between the state and the productive classes.

 

By developing a fixed communication and cooperation network with its member-Chambers, the UHCC is offering Hellenic businesses various services to improve the business environment they operate in and to have better access to various financing means. Moreover, by submitting and forwarding various entrepreneurial requests, it can intervene in the decision-making procedures that pertain to entrepreneurial matters and problems,and substantially contribute to shaping economic policy. Besides -via the various local Chambers the UHCC is the only body in Greece representing and expressing the views of the entire business world, and by extension, of the productive classes (trade, craft, professional, industrial and service businesses).

 

Chambers in Greece operate the most complete national communication network, on a business world level, with the UHCC being the reference centre, and the various local member-Chambers being the regional units, which are also responsible for promoting economic growth in their region’s local economy. Moreover, via the UHCC link to Eurochambres (the coordinating body of all European, in the broader sense, Chambers) the above network acquires European dimensions.

 

 

 

 

 

SERVICES PROVIDED

TO MEMBER - CHAMBERS

 

Actions aimed at informing and supporting members

 

One of the essential services the UHCC offers its members is the provision of information and updates with regard to all economic developments and matters that the Union obtains from the domestic and foreign arena. Information and updates are provided both via the known conventional methods and through available new technologies, especially the internet.

 

Taking the above into account, and with a view to utilising opportunities arising in the contemporary environment, and to monitoring national and community strategic directions, the UHCC focuses its activities on the following fields:

 

1. To strengthen all available bodies in the chamber institution, so as to improve both communication and cooperation with member - Chambers, and the optimum and more effective coordination of actions.

2. To provide integrated information and updating services to its members, that will help them improve their operation, as well as develop and take initiatives, and facilitate communication amongst them, communication with third parties, mainly by using and disseminating IT technology and telecommunications.

3. To provide Chambers with regular updates on developments and events of broader interest from the Hellenic and international arena (conferences, community programs, legislative regulations, etc.) either by sending printed material, or electronically via the internet. At the same time, this effort is complemented by information meetings.

 

4. To study special Chamber problems, so that they be forwarded to the decision-making centres, where appropriate and beneficial solutions will be found.

 

5. To decently represent Chambers at home and abroad;

 

6. To perform its consulting role vis-a-vis the authorities in the most effective way;

 

7. To promote and realise the important work of the General Trade Register, to the Chambers’ benefit.

 

8. To assert the management of development projects from the State.

 

9. To implement, by both the UHCC and the Chambers, various projects stemming from participation in programs such as the Central Support Structure -Centre for Business and Technological Development (KEDY-KETA), the Citizen Service Centres (KEP), EQUAL, Information Society and other initiatives and actions.

 

10. To create and operate Electronic Data Banks and Business Information Data Bases (e-boss and e-chamber), that are of interest to Chambers and their member-businesses, and provide them with information on various entrepreneurial and business matters, disseminate product and raw material demand and supply information in collaboration with other bodies, etc.

 

 


 

 

THE UHCC AND CHAMBERS

AS TOOLS IN THE DEVELOPMENT PROCESS

 

The UHCC’s main concern is the attempt to expand its role, as well as that of Chambers, as authentic spokespeople of the business community, mainly through taking up new initiatives in support of the country’s economic growth, by participating as implementation agencies for development projects and strategic services. Chambers and the UHCC can manage development projects better and more effectively, since they possess both the necessary means and the required experience.

 

 

BUSINESSES AND THE UHCC

 

Chambers embrace approx. 880 thousand businesses - of all categories, sectors and legal forms - most of which have a constant, two-way communication with them and use the services offered.

 

•        The UHCC uses this local Chambers network to receive prompt information as to the problems and requests coming from businesses all over the country, as well as their views on various economic and social problems.

 

•        At the same time, via the same network, the UHCC disseminates information material to the entire business world in Greece, on markets (in Greece and abroad), the developments in the legal framework for entrepreneurial actions (national and community), partnership opportunities, technology, innovation, etc.

 

•        Moreover, it provides information on financing possibilities, available financing tools for businesses, various community and national development and restructuring programs, etc.

 

 

The Chamber network mostly addresses SMEs which in any case constitute the largest part and the foundation of Hellenic and European economy.

 

 

SUPPORT TO SECTORAL

CHAMBER INITIATIVES

 

The UHCC is very sensitive when it comes to development initiatives of a regional character, embarked upon on initiative of Chambers, and for this reason will offer any and all possible assistance and support to these actions. In this framework, the UHCC participates in meetings of statutory bodies and other events, of both the Hellenic Chamber Association for Transports, and the Greek Islands Chamber Development Group, offering constant and essential support.

 

CONSTANT PRESENCE BEFORE THE STATE

 

Supporting local and regional requests before central administration - cooperating with competent Ministries and providing opinion to authorities

 

The UHCC mostly has a coordinating and complementary role to that of Chambers and by no means a competitive one. According to the principle of subsidiarity, the UHCC intervenes only in case its action is more effective than that of its member-Chambers.

 

Following arrangements with local Chambers, the UHCC forwards matters of local or regional interest, that needs to be resolved in favour of the business community and local interests, to the Central Administration.

 

The UHCC opinion-giving function to public authorities, namely the Parliament, the Government and Ministries, constitutes the eminently enacted competence of the UHCC and of Chambers. Giving advice on economic policy and growth, such as the development incentives law, the main axes of economic policy, and economic measures (tax regime), transport, tourism, vocational training and employment, commerce, industrial policy, SMEs, etc., is part of UHCC’s main opinion-giving activity.

 

The UHCC is actively represented in all government meetings on matters under the responsibility of Chambers, as well as the following Committees and Boards:

 

•        The National Exports Council, Ministry of Economy and Finance.

 

•        The National Quality for Growth Council, Ministry of Development.

 

•        The National Consumer Council, Ministry of Development.

 

•        The Coastal Transportation Council, Ministry of Mercantile Marine.

 

•        The Deliberation Committee for the prevention and confrontation of “MARKET” problems in tax and customs issues, Ministry of Economy and Finance.

 

•        The Law preparatory Committee for adaptation of the legislation on insurance mediation pursuant to Directive 2002/92/EEC, Ministry of Development.

 

•        The Board of Directors of the “Credit Guarantee Fund for Small and Very Small Enterprises SA”, Ministry of Development.

 

•        The Operational Program “Competitiveness”, Ministry of Development.

 

•        The Tourism Committee.

 

•        The technical Training and Examination Committee for Private Insurance Intermediaries.

 

•        The working group for harmonisation of the applicable legislation to directive 2002/65/EC, on distance marketing of consumer financial services.

 

 

The UHCC has also participated in:

 

•        The Committee to reform Development Incentives Law 2601/98, Ministry of Economy and Finance.

 

•        The Committee to Reform the Tax System, Ministry of Economy and Finance.

 

•        The Law preparatory Committee for the elaboration of a Draft Bill on the review and modernisation of the Chamber Legislation, Ministry of Development.

 

Through these activities, the UHCC:

 

8      Seeks the representativeness and scientific validation of its positions on the country’s most important economic matters. The representativeness is ensured by composing the views of all member-Chambers during the elaboration of a position on any given matter of national interest and importance. Scientific validation is achieved with the support of UHCC departments and with the help of outside associates, renowned scientists, academics or market consultants.

 

8      Takes a stance on matters within its competence and communicates this to the Government and the Opposition, whether they ask for it or not. When deemed necessary, the UHCC President requests to have a meeting with the competent Minister, preferably with the participation of Chamber Presidents. Especially when it comes to local interest matters, when the UHCC meets with state bodies, the respective local Chamber President is also invited to participate.

 

8      Makes its positions public, either through its President, or in the Media, through press releases. Moreover, when it comes to matters of exceptional importance, the UHCC makes special publications (manual, leaflets, etc), or special website postings.

 

 

WORKING CLOSELY WITH

THE MINISTRY OF DEVELOPMENT

 

Chambers and their Union keep close working relations with the supervisory authority, namely the Ministry of Development. Indeed the Ministry of Development has ceded several chamber responsibilities directly linked with the operation of businesses, to Chambers. Chambers and the UHCC, that expresses the resultant opinion, constitute the State’s main enacted Advisor on economy matters, actively participate in formulating the country’s general economic policy, and regional economic policy in particular.

 

ACCESS TO FINANCING MEANS

 

3rd CSF Community Programs and the UHCC

 

The UHCC fosters close cooperation both with various Ministries, and with various involved agencies, for the successful implementation of 3rd CSF programs and the development of initiatives aimed at modernising mainly small businesses.

 

At the same time, it does not fail to fulfil the primary objective of providing information to Chamber Management bodies and officials so as to offer Hellenic businesses various services to improve the business environment they operate in and to have better access to various financing means.

 

The UHCC also processes and forwards on to Chambers, issues regarding the 3rd CSF, information society, e-commerce and in general, the development and utilisation of internet structures that are pertinent to chamber and business activity.

 

Finally, the UHCC participates in the Monitoring Committee of the “Competitiveness” Operational Program (2000-2006), made up of representatives from the Ministries of Economy, Development, Labour, Environment Physical Planning and Public Works, the Payment Management Authority, the Fiscal Control Committee and other public sector bodies, the Local Authorities, Economic and Social Partners, and representative non-governmental organisations.

 

PROGRAM AND PROJECT IMPLEMENTATION

 

The UHCC implements various programs and support actions, designed and elaborated to create and operate major EDP and other projects and applications, aimed at contributing to the strengthening of networking and information capacities for UHCC member-Chambers.

 

UHCC infrastructure

 

UHCC infrastructure focuses on the electronic support and promotion of Chambers and their members.

 

The UHCC has created a hub www.e-boss.gr offering the following services:

 

•        On-line information on programs, exhibitions, business news, etc.

•        On-line presentation of the UHCC and the Chambers.

•        Announcements - Articles - Studies - Positions

•        News from Greece, the World, Businesses, the Economy, Science, etc.

•        Business directory

•        Demand and Supply

•        Yellow pages

•        Demand and Supply matching

•        On-line certificates (digital signature activation still pending).

 

Further, the UHCC also participates in the transnational portal www.bcross.gr, teaming up with Chambers from Austria and Italy, offering the above services to businesses on a transnational level.

 

The UHCC is also a point of contact between Chambers and Citizen Service Centres (KEP), since it offers an intermediate server to operate the system.

Finally, the UHCC, with the cooperation of Hellas SAT, set up a company called HOS, to support Chambers and their members with satellite applications.

Having the necessary infrastructure and know-how, HOS is operating the UHCC Business Service Centre with other countries and regions such as China, Korea, the Balkans, etc. The Business Service Centre’s responsibilities include the operation and support of all of UHCC’s activities, such as semi-auto supply and demand matching, certification of Chamber member-businesses, etc.

 

INTERNATIONAL ACTIVITY

 

The UHCC’s international activities are basically two-fold:

 

8      In the European Union, with European Commission and the Association of European Chambers of Commerce & Industry (Eurochambres), and

8       In South-eastern Europe, with the A.B.C. (Association of Balkan Chambers) and the Association of the Black Sea Zone Chambers of Commerce & Industry.

 

 

 

DYNAMIC PRESENCE ABROAD

 

Chamber international relations and representation

 

In Europe, the UHCC has set the following priorities:

 

•        To provide integrated information services to its member-Chambers and their respective businesses.

•        To efficiently represent Chambers abroad

•        To perform its interventionist role vis-a-vis European authorities and decision-making centres, as effectively as possible

•        To assert development projects from European agencies

 

Chamber representation in international organisations and fora is a major UHCC responsibility. This representation is defined per geographical region and organisation.

 

Moreover, the UHCC:

 

•        Seeks to develop cooperation with Chamber Unions from other countries, and for this reason is responding positively to all bilateral cooperation requests.

 

•        Is working closely with the Hellenic National Committee of the International Chamber of Commerce, to the benefit of Greek businessmen.

 

AT THE CENTRE OF EUROPE

 

The UHCC promotes direct contacts with the European Commission Directorates-General, and especially those handling matters of interest to Chambers (Competition, Enterprise and Industry, Internal Market and Services, Regional Policy, Transport and Energy, Information Society and Media, Employment - Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities, Education and Culture, Environment etc), with the Secretariat of the Council of Ministers, the Economic and Social Committee, the Committee of the Regions and the European Parliament, to forward the interests of Hellenic businesses, or other Chamber-related matters. The Brussels Office plays a major role in these contacts and actions.

 

Furthermore, the UHCC is actively and systematically involved with the Eurochambres, the union that is the representative body of all Chambers from 25 EU member-states, but also other states having special relation with the EU (44 countries in total) and expresses the interests of two thousand Chambers of Commerce and Industry and approx. 18 million businesses. More than 80% of those businesses are SMEs, while Eurochambres members employ 120 million people in total.

 

The UHCC follows and participates in the proceedings of the Eurochambres’ General Assemblies - Board of Directors meetings -Executive Committees and Annual Conferences. Moreover, it elaborates position and submits texts with proposals and opinions.

 

As a Eurochambres member, the UHCC has the opportunity to support the requests, and to seek solutions to the problems that productive sectors face in Greece, by expressing views and opinions during the creation of new European Commission pieces of legislation, and in defining the effects of community institutional initiatives within the context of single European market integration and consolidation.

 

 

The re-election of UHCC President George Kassimatis as Eurochambres Deputy President, responsible for energy, transports and tourism, has created the conditions for strengthening the UHCC presence in European developments.

 

The UHCC participates in various Eurochambres actions and initiatives (Export to Japan Promotion Campaign: «E.U. Gateway to Japan», Executice Training Programme for Japan and Korea etc).

 

 

 

BRUSSELS OFFICE

 

The UHCC Brussels office is the most effective lever to put forward the plans for the development of a permanent and fixed communication and cooperation network abroad. The Office has a huge contribution to the active and systematic presence and activity, not only of the UHCC, but of Greek Chambers as well, in Eurochambres and the EU institutional bodies, and helps Hellenic Chambers achieve their objectives, thus benefiting all the classes they represent. Moreover, the existence and operation of the Office in one of the world’s primary political poles, has made it possible to offer better services to UHCC member-Chambers, and, by extension to Hellenic businesses, enabling them to improve the business environment they operate in and to have better access to various financing means.

 

The purpose of the Office is to inform the UHCC and all Hellenic Chambers on EU developments, whether programs and community initiatives, or legislative initiatives, to promote the Hellenic Chambers’ positions in formulating Chamber-related community policy, and to provide scientific and technical support to Chambers participating therein.

 

At the same time, the Brussels Office supports many Chambers in the preparation and submission of various proposals, as well as the promotion of monitoring activities of the evaluation and final acceptance procedures, by the European Commission and various community bodies.

 

After the election of UHCC President George Kassimatis as Eurochambres Deputy President, responsible initially for enlargement and later for energy, transports and tourism, the Office’s contribution to the successful fulfilment of his duties has been decisive.

 

The National Chamber Women Network

 

The National Chamber Network of Women Entrepreneurs was initiated in 2004 by the UHCC, in order to address the needs of women entrepreneurs and help towards the activation of the decisions of Lisbon.

 

Its purpose is the development of women entrepreneurship, the promotion of the equality of sexes in business, the creation of an equal opportunity environment and the development of the female populations’ skills and abilities in order to contribute to the productivity of the economy and the identification of the obstacles, which prevent women from participating fully in the working bodies of society.

 

The National Chamber Women Network is the extension of the Eurochambres Women Network. It is a fact that its President, Sophia Economacos, is the Vice-President of the Eurochambres Women Network, what brings the two organizations in close co-operation and gives our National Network a universal profile and orientation.

 

The National Chamber Women Network undertakes and implements Community projects, career counseling activities and training programs and seminars for its members. It also promotes the networking of women entrepreneurs by helping them find solutions to issues related to the business market, competitiveness and employability.

 

Moreover, the Brussels Office:

 

•        Holds meetings with Representatives of other Nation all Chamber Missions, to exchange views and foster bilateral cooperation.

•        Works with the Greek Commissioner’s Office for enlarged UHCC and Chamber participation in EU action programs, with a view to supporting the European Strategy for Employment and Innovation.

•        Works with members of the Permanent Greek Delegation to the EU.

•        Works with members and officials of the European Parliament. In this context, the Office offers assistance and cooperation to Greek Euro-MPs, who organise

•        Greek missions to Brussels, as well as other events, thus contributing to the success of their work. Representatives from all political parties and Local Authorities visit the Office and are informed on its actions and role in Brussels.

·        The Office organises information meetings at its premises for the various missions organised on invitation of Greek Euro-MPs.

 

The mission of the Brussels Office:

. to inform and raise the awareness of the UHCC central service and members,

on European issues in the fields of interest for the Hellenic business community.

. to represent the UHCC and formulate and forward its positions, in collaboration with the central service:

– in the Eurochambres, where UHCC President holds the position of Deputy President

– in the EU institutional bodies (the European Commission,

the European Parliament and the Permanent Greek Delegation).

 

The office offers the following services the UHCC member - Chambers:

. Information on latest European developments.

. Advice on European issues.

. Visits to European institutional bodies.

 

 

LEADING ROLE IN SOUTHEAST EUROPE

 

The UHCC priorities also include fostering the cooperation with the Chamber Associations in Central and Eastern European countries, in particular the countries that have recently joined or are about to join the European Union.

 

In this framework, the UHCC is quite active with the Association of Balkan Chambers (ABC) which comprises the national Chamber associations and unions of the Balkan countries (Albania - Bulgaria - Cyprus FYROM - Greece - Romania - Turkey - Serbia - Montenegro), as well as initiatives promoting Black Sea cooperation, like the works of the Association of the Black Sea Zone Chambers of Commerce & Industry).

 

Specifically, the UHCC places great importance on interbalkan cooperation, and for this reason it plays a leading role in the Association of Balkan Chambers, being a founding member thereof. This deep involvement aspires to turning the Balkans into a region of economic growth and close commercial cooperation, and at the same time contributes to the gradual and steady rapprochement and convergence of the Balkan countries to the prospect of the unified Europe.

 

Activities include:

 

– Assisting member-state businesses to develop bilateral or multilateral relations within the Balkans.

– Establishing the necessary institutions to enable operation of the free market.

– Trade liberalisation in the Balkans

– Creation and development of a business information system

– Exhibitions and trade missions.

 

Finally, the UHCC follows the developments in the Balkans and relations with the countries in the region, by participating both in the Board of Directors of the Inter-Balkan and Black Sea Business Centre (DIPEK) in Thessaloniki, and the works of the Permanent Committee for Trade Facilitation - HELLASPRO, that operates under the auspices of the Ministry of National Economy, on the resolution of technical foreign trade issues appearing in Greece’s relations with SE European countries.