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The Buzz in Greece with Virginia Murray of Watson Farley & Williams

The Buzz in Greece with Virginia Murray of Watson Farley & Williams

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“While the Greek government has responded well to the COVID-19 crisis, shutting down a lot of social hotspots very early on, there are some areas which remain troubled,“ says Virginia Murray, a Partner at Watson Farley & Williams in Athens. “Tourism is a massive part of the Greek economy and the crisis stands to leave a huge impact, which is a real shame given that Greece has started to turn a corner, economically speaking, particularly since the start of the year."

The country is currently on lockdown, Murray says, with “numbers of new cases still being manageable.“ According to her, “people can leave the house by notifying the authorities via text message or written document, but mainly for going to get groceries, taking exercise, or going to work." She reports that some places “have put curfews in place, like Mykonos,“ adding that “it wouldn’t surprise me if a general curfew gets placed around Easter, which is a massive family holiday here."

“All the hotels are shut down, and while there haven’t been waves of cancellations for the summer season yet, they may not be far off,“ Murray continues. To stem the effects of the crisis, the government has introduced a raft of measures, including support payments for people whose work has been suspended, delaying or discounting tax and social security payments for businesses, and suspending loan repayments, as well as making it illegal to lay people off because of the COVID-19 crisis. Still, she says, “these measures are expensive and come at a great price to the State, especially now, just as Greece was moving away from a period of recession."

Murray reports that Greek courts have been closed for almost a month, that court bailiffs have stopped working, and that most public registries are closed. “The notaries were initially banned from executing any deeds other than wills and no corporate registrations are possible since the registries are closed," she says. In her opinion, the Greek government is “doing everything it can to respond to the difficulties caused by the lockdown,“ and she adds that we can “expect to see further legislative changes in order to enable most work involving the State to be performed electronically.“

Finally, Murray reports, the legal industry remains busy. “A lot of companies have term sheets and are rushing to finish loan agreements out of fear that margins may be increased,“ she says. The energy sector is booming as well, she says, noting that there have been no cancellations involving energy projects as yet. In addition, she says, “large law firms in Athens were hiring like crazy before the crisis started, so it is realistic to assume that no massive layoffs will occur within the short term, but there may be a transitional period until firms get accustomed to having their teams working remotely.“