Finance Minister George Papaconstantinou on Wednesday defended and lauded the government's volition to liberalise so-called "closed professions", speaking in Parliament during debate on a draft law on vocational licensing.

Papaconstantinou added that presidential decrees will define which of the protective clauses currently into force will continue to be active in order to ensure public interest.

He reminded that the opening of closed professions was a pre-election pledge that was undertaken in the past by the two major political parties (PASOK and New Democracy) but never implemented, and as a result “Greece is now trailing behind” the rest EU states in this area.

He rejected the argument that the abolition of minimum fees will lead to downgraded services. As regards the absence of a list with the professions set to be liberalised, he stated that a list will be prepared if this is deemed necessary by responsible ministries.

Commenting on the proposed draft law, main opposition New Democracy (ND) rapporteur MP Marios Salmas stated he is “open, but wary”, adding that the government has presented no study on the consequences, both social and financial, the proposed changes will have on each profession.

Communist Party of Greece (KKE) MP Angelos Tzekis expressed concern that the changes proposed will “clear the way for the establishment of large companies that will find their way into all professional sectors”.

Popular Orthodox Rally (LA.OS) MP Makis Voridis warned that by “abolishing the minimum fees for professionals like physicians, lawyers or engineers, the quality of the services offered will be jeopardised”.

Finally, leftist SYRIZA MP Dimitris Papadimoulis stressed that no study on the consequences of the reforms has been prepared by the government accusing it of proceeding with the opening of roughly 400 professions through presidential decrees and with no prior consultations.

Independent MP Dora Bakoyannis expressed her support of the draft law, stressing that “good professionals are not defined by the size of the fees they charge”.

Doctors continue occupation of ministry, declare 24-hour strike

Protesting doctors continued to occupy the ground floor of the health ministry on Wednesday in protest against proposed reforms of the healthcare system, refusing to budge unless the ministry withdrew the proposed legislation.

The Federation of Hospital Doctors announced a last-minute 24-hour strike on Wednesday and called on its members to meet at the health ministry at 10:00 a.m.

A common session of all doctors' association boards will take place at the ministry at 1:00 p.m.

Social Insurance Foundation (IKA) doctors are on strike until Friday, saying they will continue strikes until the health minister backs down from proposed structural reforms.