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Trying to Speed Up Courts in Greece: A Buzz Interview with Dimitris Emvalomenos of Bahas, Gramatidis & Partners

Trying to Speed Up Courts in Greece: A Buzz Interview with Dimitris Emvalomenos of Bahas, Gramatidis & Partners

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Chronic delays and procedural inefficiencies are key issues plaguing Greece's judicial system, according to Bahas, Gramatidis & Partners Deputy Managing Partner Dimitris Emvalomenos, despite past and recent changes aimed at improving legal proceedings.

"The Greek judicial system has suffered significantly over the years from delays," Emvalomenos begins. "It's a lengthy and cumbersome process to bring proceedings in Greece. Despite having many judges, the courts are few, and the procedures prevent immediate access to justice. This has been a persistent problem, with Greece steadily ranking low within the EU regarding the time litigants need to receive answers," Emvalomenos explains. Furthermore, he reports that, in major cities like Athens and Thessaloniki, the situation is "even worse, with delays often doubling or tripling." 

To address these delays, Emvalomenos reports that, over a long period "various governments and ministers of justice have attempted to accelerate the judicial system. Numerous laws have been passed in recent years, but the results have been negligible. Deadlines and time limits are often not followed or applied; just last month, the current Minister of Justice made another effort to support acceleration, but such efforts have typically been more about words than action," Emvalomenos shares. 

The most recent reform was introduced in May 2024. "It aims to support acceleration in a more structured manner. One significant introduction is the unification of first-instance courts dealing with civil justice, which has been a major problem area. This reform merges the single and three-member courts into a unified first-instance court system," Emvalomenos explains. "This new system will come into force at the beginning of the next judicial year in September 2024, with Athens and Piraeus implementing it by 2026. However, it remains to be seen whether this change will truly speed up the process. Based on past experiences and the mentality of lawyers, I am doubtful about its positive impact," Emvalomenos adds wearily. 

Continuing, Emvalomenos shares that, due to problems in litigation, many people are turning to alternatives like arbitration and mediation. "The 2023 law for international commercial arbitration aligns with modern arbitration practices, and in significant cases, parties often prefer arbitration. Mediation, which became mandatory for certain cases in 2019, is also on the rise. This change is based on the EU Mediation Directive and is helping to shift the culture among lawyers and litigants – many now understand that it's better to try to compromise out of court, as it saves time and costs," he says. 

Focusing on other significant sectors that have seen legislative developments come to pass, Emvalomenos mentions real estate, particularly having in mind "Greece's Golden Visa program. This program, similar to those in Spain and other Mediterranean countries, has seen a significant increase in transactions. The minimum purchase price threshold has been raised due to high demand, which has driven up real estate prices, making it harder for Greek citizens to purchase property," he explains. "Another key sector is renewable energy. Legislation is encouraging the growth of renewable energy sources, a necessary step in addressing climate change and finding more cost-effective and environmentally friendly solutions," Emvalomenos shares. 

Finally, Emvalomenos mentions tourism as being a major sector of influence as well, "especially post-COVID-19. There has been a notable increase in tourism, which impacts various professions, from lawyers to hotel and ship owners. Lastly, shipping remains a stable and critical sector for Greece, continuing to produce significant economic activity and employment opportunities."

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