Table of Contents
History of Law
Ancient Greek Law
Constitutional History of the Modern Greek State
Organization of the state
The President of the Republic
Websites of Ministries and other parts of the Government
Delegation of Legislative powers
Codification and publication of laws
Sources of Law-Public and Private Law
The Greek Financial Crisis
Legal Professions in Greece
Greece, officially called the “Hellenic Republic” (Elliniki Dimokratia, hereinafter Greece), is situated in the Balkan Peninsula and shares borders (from west to east) with Albania, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Bulgaria and Turkey. It encompasses 131,957 sq. km. (50,949 sq. mi.) and, as of 2011, has a population of 9,903,268 according to the official Greek Statistics Bureau (Elliniki Statistiki Archi). Its largest population center, the city of Athens, is also Greece’s capital, which is situated in the prefecture of Attica. The next largest cities with respect to population are Thessaloniki, Piraeus and Patra. The next census will take place in 2021. The official language is Greek.
Greece was a founding member of the United Nations. It has accepted the compulsory jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice, with reservations, excluding from the competence of the Court any dispute relating to defensive military action taken by the Greece for reasons of national defense. On January 1st 1981 it became the tenth member of the European Communities. It is also a member of numerous international organizations including the Council of Europe. On January 1st 2002 Greece adopted the Euro as its currency; previously, the national currency was the drachma.
Greece is a Parliamentary Republic, and all Greek citizens over the age of 18 have the right to vote. Greece is a civil law country, thus jurisprudence is not considered as a source of law. The Hellenic Constitution (hereinafter the Constitution) is the supreme law of the land. Article 28 paragraph 1 of the Greek Constitution provides that international conventions ratified by Greece as well as the “generally recognized rules of international law” shall prevail over any other provision of law. Arguably, customary international law also falls within paragraph 1 of Article 28. Article 28, paragraph 2 provides that in cases of important national interests, constitutional competence can be delegated to international organizations. The third paragraph of article 28 provides that international treaties can set limits on national sovereignty, so long as the setting of limits is dictated by an important national interest, and does not infringe upon basic rights, democratic governance and equality. The issue of superiority of EU law to the Constitution is contested, and Greek courts have avoided adjudicating on the topic. The dominant position in constitutional theory supports a joint interpretation of paragraphs 2 and 3 of Article 28. In practice, EU law de facto precedes the Constitution.
History of law
Due to the constant changes of Greece’s borders over the past two millennia, the history of Greek Law can be located in multiple sources, from Egyptian papyrus to decrees of the Byzantine emperors in Constantinople or even customary legal rules that the Greek Diaspora followed during the 17th and 18th century.
Ancient Greek Law
The Greek legal culture has its roots, albeit very remotely, in ancient Greece, dating back to almost 1000 B.C. and extending to the 1st century B.C. when Rome conquered Greece. The term “Ancient Greek Law” refers to a collection of laws of Greek city-states, which shared many common characteristics. Cities with the same political organization had more things in common than cities with completely different regimes. Thus, the expression “ancient Greek law” stands for a “family” of legal cultures, each representing a different legal order.
Ancient Greek legal systems were based on dispute settlement through mediation or arbitration between the parties. Distribution of justice was based on retaliation and reciprocity. Religion played a central role then, as it did later on, during the Archaic and Classic periods. Through the centuries, the system became progressively more concrete, and evidence has been found of the existence of courts in Athens during the Classic Antiquity period.
According to Adam Watson, a representative of the English School of International Relations, as well as other scholars in international relations, ancient Greek city-states exhibited cooperative behavior, which was highly organized. A central institutional form that promoted cooperation was inter-city-state arbitration, which remained operational between the 6th and the 1st century B.C. Arbitration has been characterized as “the predominant fundamental institution for the ancient Greek society of states.” (Reus-Smit). The main goal of arbitration was to foster peaceful coexistence amidst the numerous wars and conflicts of the period and to solve problems of cooperation. It is known that weaker as well as stronger states were involved in arbitration, and arbitration clauses were included in treaties signed between states. Thus, the ancient Greek city-state system displayed characteristics similar to the modern international system. However, its quasi-international qualities derived not from any form of law tantamount to international law, but from arbitration.
The terminology referring to law changed over time, indicating a transition from a belief in divinely inspired laws to laws as human constructs. In the older texts (Homer and other poets), the term indicating the source of regulation of human behaviour, Themis, had religious connotations. Later, it was replaced by the word Diki (or Dike), a derivative of the verb Deiknymi, which meant “to show” or “to demonstrate.” Dikaios, or righteous was the person who did was they were supposed to or expected to. The word Nomos (the Law) was established later, during the Sophists’ era. It derives from the verb Nemoo, that is, to distribute. Accordingly, Nomos represented the belief that the distribution of goods and rights among people was the work of humans and not gods. Thus, Law was juxtaposed to Nature (Nomos versus Fysis).
Homeric years: Ancient Greek law was mentioned in writings as early as the Odyssey and the Iliad of Homer, however, not much is known about justice during that era. According to the opinio communis, ancient Greek law during the Homeric years was not written; it was transmitted from generation to generation through an oral tradition, and it was customary in nature. Those who knew the law and had the means of transmitting the law were representatives of aristocratic families who also sat as judges to various disputes.
Archaic years: Before the 6th and the 5th centuries, law was mixed with religious beliefs, social morals as well as hygiene rules. The first legislators (Zaleukos and Harondas, 7th century BC) lived when it was believed that gods created laws. Towards the end of the 6th or the beginning of the 5th century, this belief was progressively abandoned, and laws were thought to be creations of humans. For example in Pindaros (520-460 BC) the expression “the law is everyone’s king” (Nomos panton vasileus) was connected to the secular order, part of which was the legal order.
During the 7th century, people with prestige, the legislators (nomothetai or aisymnitai), were in charge of putting the law, which was oral and customary, in writing. According to Aristotle, theaisymnitai were monarchs who were elected for life, different from tyrants in the sense that they did not seize power by force but were given authority by others. Another interpretation is that theaisymnitai were supposed to deal with emergencies, or in Homeric years they were referees or judges, while in the classic era, they were high-ranking officials in the administration of the city-state.
Classic era (5th– 4th century BC): The more dominant position of law in the legal orders of the Greek antiquity coincides with the establishment of democracy in the city-state of Athens. The freedom of citizens could not be restrained without a legislative provision, which was the only source of compulsory regulation of human behaviour. Democratic principles provided for participation of all Athenian men who were born free and were above the age of 20 years in all functions of government. However, the vast majority of the population, namely slaves and women, as well as metoikoi, citizens of other city-states, were not allowed to participate in any form of government, since they were not considered to be citizens.
The predominant principles of governance of the Athenian democracy were equality before the law (isonomia) and freedom (eleutheria). A citizen was considered free by definition and was only constrained to obey the law. A citizen also had a civic duty and privilege to participate in the legislative process.
The proposals of laws submitted to the people (Ecclesia tou Demou) were supposed to be in conformity with fundamental principles of governance. A lawsuit for illegitimacy (grafi paranomon), which was tried before the Court (Iliaia), would be raised against any person who would propose the adoption of an “unconstitutional” provision. Possible contradictions within the laws were examined every year from the thesmothetes before the people.
The Ecclesia tou Demou decided on the important state issues, namely the declaration of war, the signature of peace, the accession and exit from alliances, the voting of laws and public economics and budget. A right to vote was granted to all “genuine/original” descendants of two Athenian parents (ex amfioin goneoin). They became Athenian citizens after they were 20 years old if they had not been deprived of their political rights.
The Ecclesia was in regular session forty times a year and held additional sessions whenever the circumstances made it necessary. The sessions took place in the Pnyka and some times in the market (agora) and the theater of Dionysos. Any citizen who wanted to give a speech, did so and then a decision was made by show of hands (heirotonia).
Despite the predominance of law in democratic city-states of the classic era, the number of legislative texts was rather small. The Athenians of the 5th and the 4th century kept the legislation of Solon as well as the law of Drakon on homicide. The number of new provisions on private law was limited.
The oldest court in Athens was the Areios Pagos. Other courts were the epi Palladio, the epi Delfinio, the en Freattoi and the epi Prytaneio, whose competence was reduced after 462 BC to manslaughter and some other, less important cases. Other courts also existed, and some serious cases were tried by the Parliament (Vouli) or even the Ecclesia.
From the era of Solon, especially after the reform of Efialtis, the most important court was the Iliaia, which resembled the Ecclesia tou Demou because it was composed of 6000 judges (Iliastai), of which 1000 were substitutes. Iliaia was the main court, formed not by professional judges, but by all citizens above the age of thirty without a criminal record, who were randomly picked to be judges. Thejudges were divided into ten departments of 500 judges each. It is possible that all Athenian tribes were represented in each department and each trial. For each trial, a lottery took place, and 201, 301, 401 or 501 judges were drawn from each department depending on the seriousness of the trial. The odd number of judges excluded the possibility of a tie during voting. The judges were given two to threeovolous (the Athenian currency) on the day of the trial as compensation. A hydraulic timer, the klepsydra, determined the time of accusation and rebuttal. Voting was secret.
Trials were of two types: public (grafai) and private (dikai). A different procedure was followed for each kind. In private trials there were court fees (prytaneia), and the plaintiff had the option of settling with the defendant. In public trials, it was the state’s interest to punish the crime, thus there were neither court fees nor an option for settlement. If the parties decided to settle, there was a fine of 100 drachmas.
After the composition of the court and the beginning of the trial, the plaintiff (diokon) would speak first, and then the defendant (feugon) would take the stand next. The time each had to make his case was predetermined, limited and timed with the klepsydra. The positive effect of timing trials was that speechwriters generally made efforts to avoid rambling, be right on point and write their speeches with care. However, in some trials time was unlimited for the participants.
The laws required that the plaintiff and the defendant were obliged to argue their own cases before the court. Sometimes, however, interested parties resorted to the logografous (speech writers). These were experienced orators who, in exchange for money, wrote the texts of the speeches that the plaintiff and the defendant would memorize and make before the court. After they made their case, there would be a secret vote by the judges. In the case of a tie, the accused was found not guilty. In private trials, if the plaintiff got less than a fifth of the votes, he would pay a fine of one thousand drachmas and would have to refrain from similar lawsuits in the future.
Aristofanis presents the Iliastai in his work Sfikes as simple Athenian citizens lacking prior legal education and judicial training. Thus, the logografoi had to know not only the law, but also the psychology of the judges, so that they could be influenced towards the interest of the clients. Lysias was the greatest speechwriter for court speeches. Other great orators acting in Attica at the time were asAeschines, Andocides, Antifon, Lysias, Isokrates, Likourgos, Dimosthenis, Deinarhos, Hyperides, Isaeus. Their speeches are very important to contemporary research because they illustrate the life circumstances, ideas, political and moral values and religion of the time. They are the main sources of our knowledge of law in Attica.
The decisions of the Iliastai were final with the exception of people who were tried in absentia, who were allowed to be retried two months after the first trial. Also those who could prove that they were convicted because of false witness could be retried at any time.
Under certain circumstances the Ecclesia tou Dimou had judicial competence. This occurred when a prosecution (eisaggelia) for a crime could not be tried by the established courts due to lack of provisions that determine the penalty for that crime. In that case the democratic body would either keep and try the crime itself, or send it to the competent court and determine the law under which the accused would be tried.
Philosophy and Theory of Law: The ancient Greeks first established the idea of justice, and they distinguished between the law by the state (positive law) and the idea of justice as more abstract, related to natural law. These concepts can be found in the ancient tragedies. An important example occurs in Antigone by Sophokles when Antigone claims that she has to obey natural law and thus disobeys the order of Kreon not to bury her brother, which is state law (positive law).
Sophists also distinguished between positive and natural law and often criticized positive law as not being consistent with the idea of justice. Aristotle mentions this distinction in the Ethica Nikomaheia.Cicero and Seneca also developed the idea of natural law in Roman law. In the Apology by Plato, Socrates drank the conium (poison) believing in obedience to the laws of the city, even though he was wrongfully accused. He explicitly explained that in Kriton. Thus, Plato may be seen as supporting a positive law attitude. Stoics on the other hand, are seen as the first strong supporters of natural law with their advanced theory on nature.
The ancient Greeks developed a legal culture but progress as far as creating a legal science, which was developed later by the Romans. Legal Philosophy however was very much developed by the Pre-Socratics, Plato, Aristotle, the Sophists, Epicureans and Stoics. Notions of law and justice are mentioned in many ancient Greek texts, such as:
- Speeches of well-known orators like Dimosthenis and Lysias that contained elements of law together with some analysis.
- The Laws of Plato (Nomoi) and most of the Platonic works.
- The 158 Republics (Polities) of Aristotle and the work About Laws (Peri Nomon) by Theofrastos who was Aristotle’s student
- Some comedies of Aristophanes.
Ancient Sparta: The famous disputes between Athens and Sparta, which eventually led to the Peloponnesian war, resulted from the conflicting cultures of a liberal democracy and a militaristic aristocracy. In ancient Sparta, the Great Clause (Megali Ritra) established all governing institutions. The main governing body was the Senate (Gerousia), which was composed by 30 older men, theApella (popular body during the holidays in honour of the god Apollo) and two kings (arhagetas, which means leaders).
Hellenistic era, 323-146 B.C.: During the Hellenistic era, the structure of the city-state of the classic antiquity, uniting people around the city community, was progressively abandoned. Coexistence with other national groups was encouraged during the time of Alexander the Great. After the brief reign of Alexander, the Hellenistic kingdoms, which were formed progressively during the century after his death, were ruled by the Antigonid dynasty, the Ptolemaic dynasty, the Seleucid dynasty and the Attalid dynasty. The extensive variety of nations resulted in an analogous multitude of legal systems that prevented the unity of law. Law was mostly customary, and justice was delivered by peoples’ courts with touring judges (periodeuontes).
Provisions established by the monarchs were hierarchically superior in courts. Customary provisions were implemented in cases of legal void, and as a final resort judges would be asked to judge “with conscience of justice” (something very close to the contemporary notion of equity). Moreover, a first form of Conflict of Laws was introduced at the time. In Ptolemaic Egypt, for example, there were three types of Courts: Dikastiria (or Dikasteria) for the affairs of the Greek-speaking populations, Laokritas, judges of the peoples for the other (non-Greek speaking) local populations and Koinodikaion(literally translated as Common Law), namely mixed courts for mixed cases.
Greece was conquered by the Romans around 146 BC and thus became part of the Roman Empire. The Romans created the notion of legal science, or law as a discipline.
The history of Roman law starts from the time law became written (dodekadeltos nomos) around the 5th century B.C., when it was drafted by a commission. Great Roman legal scholars of the classic era of Roman law (first two centuries A.D.) were Cicero, Seneca, Papinianus, Ulpianus and others. With respect to Roman Law, the following can be observed briefly:
- The idea of the law became more concrete (lex).
- The science of the law began in the Roman Empire.
- There was a distinction between the law of the provinces and the law of the Roman Empire (the democratically voted leges and the provisions from the plebeians, plebiscita, and the edicta of the governors).
- The idea of jus gentium was introduced, which meant that a group of legal norms were generally binding to all people.
- The governance system changed progressively as the Roman Empire declined, and the Roman Emperor controlled legislative processes in a more direct manner.
The Roman Empire was divided into an Eastern and a Western part, with the region occupied by contemporary Greece becoming part of the Eastern Roman Empire (Byzantium). The legal science continued throughout the Byzantine years. When the emperor Justinian ascended the throne in 527 A.D., he decided that the entire legislation should be codified. Thus, for the first time in history one can see the process of codification. A committee whose membership included Trivonianus, a renowned legal expert of his time, was in charge of the project, which is currently referred to as corpus juris civilis or the Ioustinianian Code.
In 892 A.D. under the emperor Leo VI of the Macedonian Dynasty, the corpus juris civilis was simplified and translated from Latin to Greek. The “royal laws”, or Vasilika, was accessible to lawyers as a sixty-volume codification. The influence of the Vasilika lasted until the creation of the modern Greek state. Before the adoption of the Civil Code, the Vasilika were adopted to regulate private legal relations. This connection of Modern Greek law to the Roman era via the Vasilika codification has prompted modern references to strong ties with Roman law.
The Vasilika became the basis for formation of the majority of the following Byzantine law. During the Middle Ages, feudalism in Europe created new forms of legal relationships and balancesffected to a large extent by the competence of the Catholic Church. The political decentralization and creation of small states characteristic of this era were ideal circumstances for the reintroduction of customary law. The last codification of the Byzantine Empire law took place in 1345 A.D. by a judge in Thessaloniki, Armenopoulos, and is known as the Eksabiblos. During and after the 15th century, which witnessed the emergence of new inventions, the discovery of the new lands and the development of commerce, Roman law was introduced once more, and the corpus juris civilis was studied again.
After the conquest of Constantinople by Mehmed II in 1453, the majority of Greek populations became part of the Ottoman Empire. Despite the fact that it was characterized by the coexistence of populations with different nationalities and religions, the Ottoman Empire was a theocratic state, governed by Muslims according to Islamic Law. The form of governance within the rapidly expanding Empire was based on the millet system, which allowed for a relatively peaceful coexistence of different nationalities and religious groups. The millet system was a significant method of the Ottoman Empire to address the practical issue of administration of a large territory with a variety of religious and national populations and deal with the minorities’ problem.
In essence, the structure of the Ottoman Empire combined the nomadic way of life, Eastern Orthodox administration functions and the Islamic spirit. The Islam provided with a template of communal organization based on religious autonomy. This system was inherited from the successor-states of the Arab Caliphate. It implemented the ruling of the Quran, according to which Christians and Jews were, like Muslims, “People of the Book” (people to whom the Holy Scripture was revealed). Thus, even though the millet system was part of the Islamic law, that is religious law, its content was one of religious tolerance. It allowed non-Muslim populations to continue their religious practices, legal traditions and customs and administer their own affairs as long as they were obedient and paid taxes.
On a more practical level, this allowed the coexistence of numerous minorities without serious problems, but it also enabled the use of the skills of these minority populations and the effective collection of taxes. The family, rather than the territory was the fundamental unit of organization. Religion and nationality were difficult to separate. The Ottoman state was the super state, and the millets could have been a form of legal sub-states. It was assigned mainly a form of policing function, protecting its subject from internal conflicts and external enemies.
The three largest millets were Islam, the Greek Orthodox (or Eastern Christian Orthodox) and the Jewish millet, and other millets were the Armenian and Syrian Orthodox. Non-Muslims were often referred to as ‘Rayas’ that is those who do not participate in government. Mehmed II, according to some sources, proclaimed the favourable terms of the Greek millet very early, immediately after the conquest of Constantinople. Thus, ecclesiastical tribunals continued to function. The system lasted until the creation of the Modern Greek State in 1830. The autonomy of the millets was highly fragmented and based on ecclesiastical hierarchy. The leaders of each religious group had a jurisdiction in deciding religious, educational and charitable issues for their own population. At the same time, religious leaders decided matters of personal and family status, such as marriage, divorce, adoption and inheritance. They were also charged with collecting taxes and delivering them to the Ottomans.
The Eastern Orthodox Church continued to exist and function and was identified with the Roum nationality (that is, the Byzantine Greek nationality that later developed to become the Greek nationality). Greek was also the main language spoken among Greeks, since each millet had the legal right to use its own language. Overall, they were able to maintain their identity.
The head of the Greek millet was the Orthodox Patriarch and was delegated political power from the Sublime Porte. His election required formal recognition from the Porte. A grand council of the Synod of the Greek Orthodox Church was under his headship. There was also an Armenian Orthodox Patriarch, which originally included the Syrian Orthodox populations under his jurisdiction, and later the Syrian Orthodox became its own millet. Towards the end and the decline of the Ottoman Empire, more autonomy was granted in religious groups within the Armenian millet. Rulings and laws of one millet were inapplicable in disputes among subjects of other religious affiliation. The existence of multiple orthodox millets shows that the differentiation was not exclusively religious, but also national.
It appeared that the laws of the Greek millet had their origins in older practices and customs, dating to the Byzantine era. Thus, to a certain extent, laws that were in existence prior to the Ottoman conquest remained in place after the imposition of the millet. The Greek community dealt with the problems of its members through the Council and its head (and other subdivisions of administration within the millet). In addition to the legal institutions dealing with marriage, divorce, inheritance, and other personal civil affairs, they developed their own educational and cultural institutions. A very important aspect was that of the right to maintain independent courts for religious and personal matters. Judgments of these courts were enforced as forming part of the Ottoman administrative decisions. An important source of information for records of transactions among Greek populations at the time was also Muslim religious courts (sijillat or sicillat). They were in charge of provincial administration but also the maintenance of records, official documents and certificates. Muslim law was supposed to apply only to Muslims, thus it remained inapplicable in disputes among subjects of other religious affiliation
After the 17th century the Eastern Orthodox populations turned to a more westernized education, as a result of commercial relations with the West. The Greeks became familiar with Western manners and learned Western languages. This put them in a privileged position, enabling a more active participation in the Ottoman administration, as well as the negotiations between the Ottoman State and western powers. Nevertheless, this form of autonomy granted to the Greek millet was not systematic, but rather based on ad hoc considerations and in a fragmented manner. The non-Muslim milletswere not in equality with the Muslim, which was dominant. It was not until the Tanzimat period (mid-19th century) that the doctrine of equality played a more dominant role within the Ottoman Empire (then already in decline).
The affairs of the millets were under the jurisdiction of the Ottoman Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which indicate that they were treated as if they were foreign nations. However, a closer examination shows that the privileges granted to the millets were in a large extent different to those of foreign capitulations. The millets were considered part of the Ottoman administration. They did not enjoy the extra-territorial jurisdiction of capitulations but an intra-territorial set of privileges of self-organization, based on principles of Islamic law.
Thus, the millet has been characterized as a church organized into a nationality, or a nationality organized into a church. Putting aside the injustices related to the Ottoman Empire towards its subjects and the inequality among the Islam millet and the other millets, this system of “non-territorial communal autonomy” is rightly perceived as a valuable example of coexistence of diverse ethnic populations that can assist to address what we nowadays observe as the exhaustion of the nation-state. Over time, the Ottoman Empire evolved to what can be seen as an example of a pre-modern religious pluralism, and the millet system contributed to the maintenance of pluralism.
Constitutional History of the Modern Greek State
The Greek War of Independence began in approximately 1820, and in preparation for their eventual liberation from the Ottomans, the Greeks drafted three different constitutions, each named after the town where the constitutional assembly took place: the Constitution of 1822 (Syntagma tis Epidavrou), the Constitution of 1823 (Syntagma tou Astrous) and, most importantly, the Constitution of 1828(Syntagma tis Troizinas). These constitutions are considered liberal, with the 1828 Constitution establishing a form of parliamentary democracy, a very innovative step at the time.
Eventually the sovereignty of Greece was established by the 1830 London Protocol and subsequently reaffirmed in 1832 by the Treaty of Constantinople, which formally created the modern state of Greece. The first governor of Greece was Ioannis Kapodistrias, who was murdered in 1832. The same year the constitutional assembly adopted the so-called “Hegemonic” Constitution of 1832(Igemoniko Syntagma), which was never implemented since Otto became the first king of Greece, ruling without a constitution or democratic participation. Initially, Otto ruled under a regency council from 1832 until 1835 and continued his rule as an absolute monarch from 1835 to 1843. As a result of growing dissatisfaction with Otto, a revolt occurred on September 3rd 1843 (often referred to as the September 3rd Revolution), which ultimately resulted in the adoption of the 1844 Constitution. Though Otto remained in power, popular dissent continued until his departure in 1862. He was succeeded by King George the first, and following a national assembly, the Constitution of 1864 was adopted. The new constitution resembled other European constitutions, in particular the 1831 Constitution of Belgium and the 1849 Constitution of Denmark.
The 1864 Constitution was reformed in 1881 and again in 1897, resulting in a change from a constitutional monarchy to a democratic constitutional monarchy. The principal moment of parliamentary reform, however, took place in 1895, when the principle of the stated confidence (Archi tis dedilomenis) of the majority of members of parliament of the government was established. According to the stated confidence principle, the person who is appointed as a prime minister should, after their election, informally have or obtain the political support of the majority of the members of parliament.
Having obtained this support, the King would then appoint him as a prime minister. The newly appointed prime minister would then go to the parliament to address its newly elected members and request a vote of confidence, which formally installs the new prime minister in his office. The principle of stated confidence was later incorporated expressis verbis in the text of the Constitution of 1927 and is retained in the current Constitution in article 37 paragraph 2 (a).
Important events that followed the establishment of the stated confidence principle were the bankruptcy of the state in 1893 and the reformist movement of the armed forces in Goudi in 1909. The latter led to a major reform of the 1864 Constitution and the adoption of the Constitution of 1911. The constitution of 1911 incorporated amendments pertaining to the protection of human rights, the right to assemble, mandatory free education, the inviolability of private residences and equal taxation. It also introduced the tenure system of civil servants and added changes to improve judicial independence.
Later, the internal clash between monarchists and democrats in 1915-1922 and the defeat in Asia Minor in 1922 were followed by the drafting of the Constitution of 1925, which never entered into force, and the adoption of the Constitution of 1927. In the decade after 1922, successive military coups destabilized the Greek political system, however the constitution remained in force for the most part. In 1935, the Constitution of 1927 was abolished, and the 1864 Constitution as amended in 1911 was re-established. The next year, a coup brought Ioannis Metaxas to power. His dictatorship, which exhibited many fascist elements, lasted from 1936 to 1941 and was followed by the German Occupation between 1941 and 1944.
The end of the German occupation of World War II marked the beginning of a long period of instability and great problems for the Greek state (inter alia, there was a civil war from 1946 to 1949). The 1935 constitution was readopted and amended in 1952. In 1967, after a military coup, a dictatorship was established that lasted for 7 years. Following the overthrow of the dictatorship in 1974,democracy was restored, and the current constitution, consisting of 120 articles, was adopted by the new parliament. It has since been amended three times – in 1986, 2001 and 2008 – and is thus officially referred to as the Constitution of 1975/1986/2001/2008, each of the years mentioned indicating the date for each of the amendments.
Article 1 of the Constitution defines the form of government to be a parliamentary republic where popular sovereignty is the foundation of government and all powers derive from the People and exist for the People and the Nation. Article 2 reinforces Article 1 by reaffirming the respect and protection of the value of a human being as a primary obligation of the state. It continues by declaring that Greece, adhering to the generally recognized rules of international law, pursues the strengthening of peace and justice and the fostering of friendly relations between peoples and states.
In 1986, eleven articles of the 1975 Constitution were amended. Most notably, the responsibilities of the President of the Republic were curtailed significantly.
The revised Constitution of 1975/1986 was amended again in 2001, introducing new civil rights, such as protection of genetic identity and protection from electronic data processing. Also included were new rules of transparency in political campaign funding and regulation of the relationship between owners of mass media and the government. It also significantly revised the judicial system, reinforced decentralized governance and included the so-called “Independent administrative authorities” (Aneksartites arches) within the constitutional framework.
The most recent amendment of the Constitution of 1975/1986/2001 occurred in 2008. It introduced minor amendments, such as the lifting of the absolute prohibition of professional activities by members of the parliament (Articles 57 and 115), the granting to the Parliament the power to amend allocations of the state budget (article 79) and the introduction of special legislative provisions for more isolated and mountainous areas of the state (article 101).
The system of governance in Greece is based on the principle of separation of powers (article 26 of the Constitution) into three branches – the executive, the legislative and the judiciary – with one notable exception, the President of the Republic, who is a member of both the executive and legislative branches. The executive branch, which is responsible for the daily administration of the state, consists of the Government and the President of the Republic and has as its main duty the enforcement of the laws passed by the legislative branch. The legislative branch consists of the Parliament and the President of the Republic, and its main responsibility is to pass legislation. The judiciary resolves judicial disputes among individuals, or between individuals and the government.
The President of the Republic (Proedros tis Dimokratias) is officially the Head of the State, represents the country internationally and participates in both the legislative process as well as the administration of the government. The President is elected to a five-year term by the members of the Parliament and is only eligible to be reelected once. To be eligible for the presidency, one must be at least forty years old and a descendant of a Greek father or mother. Unlike the Government or the Legislature, the President of the Republic is not politically accountable, since he is not elected through direct popular vote.
According to Article 50 of the Greek Constitution, the executive duties of the President of the Republic are strictly enumerated. Under his executive powers, one of his duties is to appoint the leader of the party that has obtained a parliamentary majority as the Prime Minister. He also appoints the members of the Government after they receive a vote of confidence by the Parliament. He also calls the Parliament in session, dissolves the Parliament, declares elections, addresses the nation under exceptional circumstances, declares war, signs peace and other treaties and announces referendums. Finally his most common and important duty is to ratify and publish the laws that have been passed by Parliament.
The President’s legislative duties include issuing forms of legislation of technical and detailed character that are necessary for the implementation of other laws. Such legislation is issued only after explicit authorization from the Parliament, under the guidance of the relevant Minister. The President also issues special acts in cases of emergency or national security until the Parliament can assemble and legislate. Such acts have a limited temporal validity and require ratification by the Parliament to become permanent laws. [See Figure 3]
The executive branch consists of the Government (Kybernisi) and the President of the Republic. The Government consists of the Prime Minister (Prothypourgos) and the Ministers (Ypourgoi). Each Minister is the head of a particular Ministry. Generally, the Government is formed from the party that receives the majority in the elections. A special process is put forward in the event where such a majority has not been achieved. The current political landscape, which contains no dominant political parties, seems to no longer favor parliamentary autonomy thus resulting in the necessity to form coalition governments. After the elections, the prime minister receives a mandate to form a government and requests the approval of the Government from the Parliament. After receiving a vote of confidence, the new Government is appointed.
Websites of Ministries and other parts of the Government
- Prime Minister
- Ministry of State
- Ministry for the Environment, Physical Planning and Public Works
- Ministry of National Education, Religious Affairs, Culture and Sports (Religion and Education Section, and Culture Section )
- Ministry of Development, Competitiveness, Infrastructure, Transportation and Networks (Development and Infrastructure section and Transportation Section)
- Ministry of Economy
- Ministry of Employment and Social Security and Social Protection
- Ministry of Administrative Reform and Electronic Governance
- Ministry of the Environment, Energy and Climate Change
- Ministry of Foreign Affairs
- Ministry of Health
- Ministry of Internal Affairs
- Ministry of Justice Transparency and Human Rights
- Ministry of Macedonia and Thrace
- Ministry of Marine Affairs and the Aegean
- Ministry of National Defense
- Ministry of Public Order and Citizen Protection
- Ministry of Rural Development and Food
- Ministry of Tourism, Greek National Tourism Organization
- General Research and Technology Network
- General Secretariat for Consumers
- General Secretariat for Information Systems
- General Secretariat for Research and Technology
- General Secretariat of Commerce
- General Secretariat of Communication and Information
The legislative branch consists of the President of the Republic along with a single Parliament (Vouli ton Ellinon/Koinovoulio), since Greece has a unicameral system of legislature.
The Parliament consists of 300 Members, each of whom is elected for a term of four years through national elections. Every person above 25 years old is eligible to run for Member of Parliament. The Constitution (article 54) allows the Parliament to determine the electoral system through a law. According to the 2001 Constitutional amendment, an electoral law may only go into effect in the next round of general elections if it is passed with a two-thirds majority, otherwise these changes may only go into effect into the subsequent round of general elections (Article 54 paragraph 1). The electoral system is traditionally based on a form of “reinforced” proportional representation. Out of the 300 Members, 288 are elected based on constituency votes, and 12 are elected from party lists in proportion to the percentage a party receives at the national elections.
The current legislation regulating elections is Law 3231/2004, as amended by Law 3636/2008. Law 3636/2008 added to Law 3231/2004 the stipulation that the party receiving the largest number of votes during the elections receives 50 additional seats in the Parliament (instead of the 40 stipulated by law 3231/2004). Consequently, the “majority autonomy” threshold in the parliament decreases. These changes were implemented for the first time during the elections of May 6th 2012. The codified legislation regulating the national elections is Presidential Decree 26/2012.
A sui generis law, the Regulation of Parliament (Kanonismos tis Voulis) regulates the internal proceedings of the Parliament. Greek citizens who are outside of the country at the time of elections cannot vote since the Parliament has not established absentee ballots, despite the fact that Article 51 paragraph 4 of the Constitution provides for such arrangement.
The main legislative function is assigned to the Parliament, which is bound to exercise its powers within the limits of the Constitution and those set by International Conventions ratified by Greece. The legislative process is organized according to Articles 74-80 of the Constitution. The legislative initiative lies with the Government and the Parliament. For the vast majority of laws, the Government, represented by a minister or a group of ministers, puts forwards a Bill (Nomoshedio). It can also come from any member of parliament, in which case it is called Law Proposal (Protasi Nomou, article 73 of the Constitution).
According to Article 76 of the Constitution, the Parliament votes for a Bill or Law Proposal to become a Law (Nomos) in three voting sessions: firstly in principle, then per article and then as a whole. Once the bill is passed, it is sent to the President of the Republic to ratify and publish it in the National Gazette (Efimerida tis Kyberniseos). [Figure 1]
Figure 1. Legislative Process
The Parliament, having the primary legislative capacity (primary power to enact legislation), has the power to engage in the following further legislative procedures: constitutional revisions (article 110 of the Constitution), voting on the Regulation of Parliament (article 65 of the Constitution), adoption of the budget, financial statement and general balance sheet of the State and Parliament (article 72 paragraph 1 b of the Constitution), approval of economic and social growth programs (article 79 paragraph 8 of the Constitution), proclamation of a referendum (article 44 paragraph 2 of the Constitution), declaring a state of siege (state of emergency) by enacting relevant statutes (article 48 of the Constitution), suspension of parliamentary sessions for a period up to thirty days (article 40 paragraph 3 of the Constitution). Also, the Parliament elects the President of the Republic according to article 32 of the Constitution and his Presidium according to article 65 paragraph 2. [See Figure 2]
Figure 2. Plenary and Parliamentary Sections
Delegation of legislative powers
Delegation of legislative powers is generally allowed as provided by Law [Figure 3]. The most significant form of delegation is from the Parliament to the President, who issues Presidential Decrees (Proedriko Diatagma). Presidential decrees are based on statutory delegation and are published in the National Gazette. A draft of each decree must be checked by the Council of State (Symboulio tis Epikrateias).
The Parliament may also delegate power to the executive branch. Thus, Ministers of the Government issue Ministerial Decisions (Ypourgikes Apofaseis). Finally, the Parliament can delegate authority to issue regulatory decrees to other administrative authorities.
In cases when legislation is required to deal with a matter of urgency, the President of the Republic, following a Governmental proposal, issues acts of legislation (Praxeis Nomothetikou Periexomenou), again under the requirement of consequent ratification by the Parliament. This delegation of legislative powers to the President of the Republic can take two forms. First, according to article 44 paragraph 1 of the Constitution, the delegation can occur for the immediate regulation of legislative needs. This form of delegation happens frequently. These acts must be ratified by the Parliament within 40 days after the beginning of the first parliamentary session. It is unclear whether these acts are, in fact, subject to scrutiny from the legislative body ex post or their ratification is only typical.
The second form of delegation to the President of the Republic is that of article 48. It is rare, and it takes place in the case of emergency (threats against national security or threats against the democratic governance of the Republic). It is an exceptional case of legislation, when the country is in a situation of serious distress. [See Figure 3]
|Acting Authority||Name of Act||Types of Acts||Parliament Authorization||Requirements/Comments|
|PRESIDENT||Presidential decrees||à executive [43§1]||PRE ACT||Together with MINISTER (no parliament participation)|
|à regulatory [43§2a]||PRE|
|Proposal by MINISTER, special authorization by law passed by thePARLIAMENT|
|à regulatory [43§4]||PRE ACT||Explicit special authorization byPARLIAMENT in PLENARYsession (Framework laws)|
|MINISTER||Ministerial Decisions||à regulatory – secondary/technical legislation|
à executive – execution of legislation
|PRE ACT||Explicit authorization by law passed by the PARLIAMENT|
|Other administrative authorities||Regulatory Decrees||à regulatory [43§2b]||PRE ACT||Explicit special authorization by law passed by the PARLIAMENT|
|PRESIDENT(under advisement byMINISTERIAL COUNCIL)||Acts of Legislative Content||à emergency [44§1]|
|POST ACT||Ratification by PARLIAMENTwithin 40 days in PLENARYsession [72§1 via 44§1], otherwise void.|
|à war/draft/national security threat [48§5]||POST ACT||Ratification by PARLIAMENTwithin 15 days in PLENARYsession [72§1], otherwise void.|
Figure 3. Delegation of legislative authority
Codification and publication of laws
The Parliament, depending on the nature of legislation, often incorporates various relevant laws into codes. Codes are usually a form of legislation that has a more concrete and structured form. Codification is very common in civil law systems. A lawyer wishing to address a legal inquiry would begin by researching the general framework of codes relevant to the specific field of law and then move to even more specific legislation.
Hard copies of legislation can be obtained at the National Gazette office (34 Kapodistriou Street, 10432 Athens, Greece). In addition, laws can be found online in the National Gazette. Since 2010, by virtue of article 7 of Law 3861/2010, all issues of the National Gazette can be accessed online. This is part of the Cl@rity program (Programma Diavgeia), introduced by Law 3861/2010 as part of the efforts to reinforce transparency through mandatory on-line publication of laws and other acts of government, administrative and self-administrated authorities. In particular, for the first time the online publication of government actors’ decisions is mandatory, in order to ensure access of citizens to all such decisions. These decisions cannot be implemented unless they are published online at the Cl@rity program website. Additionally, upon publication, each decision is assigned a unique number of Online Publication, which certifies the decision. Moreover draft legislation and policy initiatives are published at opengov.gr prior to their submission to parliament, allowing citizens and organizations to post their comments, suggestions and criticisms. Laws passed by the Parliament but not yet published in the National Gazette can be obtained in the Parliament website.
Legislation and case law can also be accessed through the website of the Athens Bar Association via the Isocratis database, which is free for all lawyers who are members of the Athens Bar Association. A private online service, the Nomos database that works through subscription can be also used for legislation research.
- National Gazette
- Hellenic Parliament
- Cl@rity program
- Isocratis database (Athens Bar Association)
- Nomos Database (private, subscription-based)
Courts in Greece are divided into Administrative, Civil and Criminal.
Disputes of an administrative nature are under the jurisdiction of the Council of State (Symboulio tis Epikrateias or STE) and the Regular Administrative Courts (courts of First Instance and Courts of Appeal).
Disputes of civil nature and voluntary jurisdiction are under the jurisdiction of Civil Courts.
The punishment of crimes and the adoption of all measures required by the criminal laws are under the jurisdiction of Criminal Courts.
The Court of Cassation or Hellenic Supreme Court of Civil and Penal Law (Areios Pagos) is the Supreme Court for Civil and Criminal Law. It is the highest degree of judicial resort and only examines legal and not factual issues.
The auditing of public spending, the control of contracts of a significant economic value where one of the contractors is the State, the auditing of the finances of public persons, the submission of a report to the Parliament for the statement of accounts and balance sheets of the State is under the jurisdiction of the Court of Audit (Elegktiko Synedrio).
The adjudication of objections at the validity of national parliamentary elections, referendums and the resolution of conflicting jurisprudence between courts and administrative commissions or between the Council of State and Regular Administrative Courts, or Civil and Criminal Courts, or between the Court of Auditors and other Courts, as well as the clarification of customary international law rules is under the jurisdiction of the Special Highest Court (Anotato Eidiko Dikastirio).
All courts can examine the constitutionality of laws through judicial review, but their decisions are only binding for the particular case before them, according to articles 93 paragraph 4 and 87 paragraph 2 of the Constitution. The constitutionality of laws is not examined prior to their application, except inside the Parliament, as provided by article 100 of the Regulations of Parliament. However, even prior to the constitutional provisions, the Greek courts had established their authority for judicial review since the late 19th century. The decision 169/1893 of the Areios Pagos is the equivalent of the U.S. Supreme Court decision Marbury vs. Madison.
Another organ of quasi-judicial nature is the Legal Council of State (Nomiko Symboulio tou Kratous). According to article 100A of the Constitution, the Legal Council of the State is assigned with the judicial support and representation of the State and to the recognition of claims against it or to the settlement of disputes with the State.
Decisions of courts can be found on the websites of courts and also in online databases, but a subscription is required to obtain access to the latter. Also, copies of decisions can be obtained at the Secretariat of the Courts. Some decisions are published as part of the Cl@rity program. Facts about the high Courts can also be found at the website of the Ministry of Justice.
- National Gazette
- Isocratis database (Athens Bar Association)
- Nomos Database
- Database of Legal Information
Administrative Law: The sources of administrative law are the relevant articles of the Constitution as well as numerous laws and codes regulating administrative process and other relevant issues. An important law is the Code of Administrative Process.
Administrative Procedure: In Administrative Procedure the main legislation is the Code of Administrative Procedure as well as several other legislative texts that regulate the function of lower administrative courts and the Council of State. Through a complex system of distribution of issues, disputes are tried by either administrative courts (first instance or courts of appeal) or by the Council of State.
Criminal Law: The main legislative texts in criminal law are the Criminal Code and the Code of Criminal Procedure.
The Criminal Code consists of a general and a special part. The main legislative text in criminal law is the Criminal Code as amended through laws 3904/2010, 3943/2011, 3984/2011, 4042/2012,4049/2012, 4055/2012 and 4072/2012 (a permanent link did not exist for the last three laws on December 2012, however they can be found at the website of the National Gazette).
The general part of the Criminal Code (articles 1-133) defines what constitutes a crime is, what are the elements of a criminal act, when a criminal act is attributable to the perpetrator, issues on self-defense and state of emergency, what forms of malice and negligence there are, issues of attempt, conspiracy, incitement and contribution. Also it regulates issues on sentences, multiple crimes, juvenile criminals and probation.
The special part (articles 134-459) regulates specific crimes such as crimes against the state and the system of governance, treason, crimes against other states, crimes against the exercise of political rights and the elections, crimes against public authority, the public order, religious peace, crimes regarding the army draft, crimes relevant to monetary issues, and other official documents and negotiable instruments, crimes relevant to the system of justice, crimes of people under official capacity (corruption and bribery), crimes dangerous to the general public, crimes against the safety of public transportation, crimes against life, crimes against integrity, crimes against personal freedom, sexual crimes, crimes relevant to marriage and family, honor crimes, breach of classified materials, crimes against property, crimes against property rights and other minor crimes.
Recent amendments included revisions and additions to the articles providing for crimes perpetrated outside the Greek territory (Article 8), the main penalties (Article 51), calculation of penalties (Article 79), conditions and terms for release (Article 106-110A), the crime of bribery (Article 159), the crime escaping from prison and of assisting escapes of prisoners (Articles 172 and 173), disturbance of peace (Article 189), recidivism on currency forgery (Article 214A), violation of court decisions (Article 232A), passive, active bribery and bribery of judge (Articles 235-237), disturbance of public transportation safety and obstruction of public transportation(Articles 290 and 292), crimes against telephone communication security (Article 292A), unprovoked bodily harm or severe bodily harm perpetrated by someone who is trying to conceal his or her identity (Article 308A paragraph 3 and 310 paragraph 1), bodily harm against police officers (Article 315A), human trafficking (Article 323B), crimes against someone’s sexual dignity perpetrated online and such crimes involving minors (Article 337), child abuse (Articles 339 and 342), crimes against sexual freedom (Article 344), incest and incestuous acts (Articles 345 and 346), child pornography (Articles 348A and B), procuring prostitution (Article 349), court orders of security measures (Article 352A), crimes against the dignity of a civil servant (Article 368), violation of privacy of telephone conversations (Article 370A),
The code of Criminal Procedure regulates all the issues of prosecution, evidence, interrogation and trial. As amended by laws 3904/2010, 3994/2011 and 4055/2012 which brought about a major reform in Civil and Criminal procedures in order to enhance court efficiency and the prompt distribution of justice.
Public International Law is also part of public law. The relevant article of the Constitution declaring the place of Public International Law within the Greek legal order is article 28. Public International Law binding upon Greece is General International Law, Customary Law and Treaties to which Greece is a party.
Civil code: The Civil Code has been in effect since 1946 and covers most issues of private law. It has been amended several times, through various laws. In addition, specific legislation has been adopted regulating specific areas of law, like labor law or corporate law (in corporate law a more specific law provides for additional and more detailed regulation of issues regarding corporations, negotiable instruments and intellectual and industrial property). The history of the Greek Civil Code is rather brief. After the establishment of the Modern Greek state (1832), the first efforts to institute a common civil code started. Concurrently, regional civil codes were applied, such as the Ionian Code of 1841, the Samiakos Code of 1899 and the Cretan code of 1903. Finally, the government of Eleutherios Venizelos was effective in its efforts to institute a Civil Code, establishing a committee for that purpose. The committee consisted of legal scholars and drafted a fully developed civil code. This code was put in force with Law 2250/1940, but due to the German occupation that followed, its application began on the 23rd of February 1946.
The Civil Code has five chapters: General Principles, Contract Law, Property Law, Family Law and Inheritance Law. The three other main legislative texts that are relevant to the Civil code and provide for additional provisions or more detailed regulation are the Code of Civil Procedure (regulating the procedure in courts as far as civil trials are concerned), the Commercial Code (providing special legislation in particular regarding corporations) and legislation regarding labor issues.
The chapter of General Principles (articles 1-286) begins with three provisions of general application, determining that sources of law are legislation and custom, and regulating retroactivity of laws and public order. Then, articles 2 to 33 are the provisions of Greek private international law, that, together with the Brussels convention (Council Regulation 44/2001) and the law of Greek citizenship3284/2004 as amended regulate most of the issues of conflict of laws. Various specific treaties, ratified by Greece exist in this area, regulate specific issues of conflict of laws.
The other chapters of General Principles regulate issues of who has a legal capacity, when a person begins and ceases to exist, other information on identity (address, right to personality, name), legal entities and how they start and cease to exist, capacity for being a party to a contract and general issues of going into a contract, issues of deadlines and start and finishing of legal relationships, power of attorney, consent, public order and public morals.
Contract Law (articles 287-946) has a general and a special part. The general part has provisions applicable to all contracts, regardless of their nature, and it becomes very useful in cases of gaps in the law. It regulates who are the parties to a contract, issues of payment and interest, pecuniary and non-pecuniary damage, when, where, how and by whom can the contract be fulfilled, and what happens in different cases of breach, dissolution and void of contract. The special part regulates specific kinds of contracts such as donation, selling and exchange, lease, labor contract, mediation, order, corporation, rights shared by more than one person, loans, depository, guarantee, compromise, negotiable instruments, torts and others.
Property Law (articles 947-1345) in Greece is structured on four types of property rights (numerus clausus), one of which is possession while the remaining three are other forms of property rights, such as mortgage and pawn. Possession varies between movable and immovable property.
Family Law (articles 1346-1709) has been through two major legislative reforms. The first was in 1980 and introduced the option of civil marriage while abolishing certain old fashioned regulations (i.e. dowry). The second took place in 2002 and regulated issues of medical assistance to human reproduction. The civil code chapter pertaining to family law begins with provisions on engagement and marriage and continues with chapters on pecuniary and personal relations of husband and wife, divorce, which people are considered to be relatives, who has the obligation to support financially members of their family and under what circumstances, relationships between parents and children, adoption, custody of children, foster children and other relevant issues.
Inheritance Law (articles 1710-2035) regulates issues relevant to wills and their content as well as cases of persons who have died without making a will. Certain members of a family (spouse and children) are entitled to inherit regardless of the situation, through the provisions of legal share. Inheritance law also regulates the legal position of persons that are not entitled to inherit from the deceased, stipulates the legal relations between multiple heirs and who shall execute the will and how.
Various provisions of the code were amended on several occasions, most importantly in 1982 by law 1250/1982 and 1983 by law 1329/1983, which established the civil wedding and reinforced equality between men and women. Recently, the Civil Code was amended by law 3853/2010, which brought about minor changes in sales law, as well as law 4055/2012, which changed the provisions with respect to formation of unions and some provisions of family and inheritance law.
Commercial Law: Thus far commercial laws have not been codified into a commercial code. There are few published collections of laws related to commerce (banking, securities, industrial property, corporations, insurance etc.), which are based on private initiatives from academics and lawyers. As such, the collections under the name “Commercial Code” are not official codifications, but collections of commercial laws such as B.D. 2 May 14, 1835, Law 2239/1994 and Law 1733/1987. Part of Commercial Law is also the Maritime Code. Importantly, the legislation of Corporations has changed recently. Law 3604/2007 as well as laws 3884/2010 and 4072/2012 amended the Corporations’ law of 2190/1920. The purpose of the first two laws was to codify recent changes in Corporate Law and to incorporate the changes introduced by the Directive 2006/68/EC. In particular, Law 4072/2012 changed the rules of “personal corporations” and introduced the European Private Company (Societas Privata Europaea). Another recent addition was the General Commercial Registry (Geniko Emporiko Mitroo) the purpose of which is to unify and increase the promptness of procedures with respect to incorporation, changes in corporate forms and dissolution of corporations.
The Greek Financial Crisis
The recent Greek financial crisis, which is ongoing as of January 2013, brought about a large number of changes to legislation. This article will offer a brief timeline, focusing mainly on laws that were passed by the Greek Parliament as part of the efforts to address the crisis and also as part of the implementation of International Agreements.
In 1974, after the re-establishment of democracy in Greece, began a period of big loans for the country. In 1981 Greece became part of the European Communities, and in the period between 1980 and1993, the Greek debt rose from 28% to 111% of the GDP. In 2001 Greece became a member of the Eurozone, entering the Economic and Monetary Union and adopting the Euro (€) as its currency. Between 2004 and 2007 Greece witnessed a slight economic development. In 2008 the global financial crisis erupted and affected the Greek debt. By 2009 the Greek debt was 126.8% of the country’s GDP (amounting to 298 billion €), and the balance of payments deficit was at 15.4% of the Greek GDP (amounting to 36.1 billion €). Investors began to fear that Greece would not meet its debt obligations, and international credit rating agencies constantly downgraded the status of the Greek economy and bonds.
On February 9th 2010 the Greek government announced the first set of economic austerity measures, which included suspension of public sector salary increases and a 10% reduction of all government benefits. Cuts were also announced for all overtime payments and travel expenses. On March 3rd 2010 a second set of economic austerity measures was announced and included a 30% reduction in welfare benefits for Christmas, Easter and paid vacation time, a reduction of 7% for salaries of local government employees and other employees, an increase in the VAT and in imported vehicles taxes. On April 2010 the Greek government debt was downgraded to “below investment” grade.
On May 2nd 2010 a new set of austerity measures was announced, with some cutbacks in salaries of those who earn less than 3000 € per month and more significant cuts for those earning more than that or more than 2500 € in pensions and those retired before the age of 60. Also further cuts in government employee salaries and a further rise in the VAT and the imported vehicle tax was announced. The minimum wage was also lowered, and the minimum retirement age was raised to 65 years.
The next day, on May 3rd 2010 Greece applied for a loan from the Eurozone Countries and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Specifically, Greece requested 80 billion € from the Eurogroup and 30 billion € from the IMF. It attached 3 memoranda to its application, jointly called “the First Memorandum of Understanding”: The Memorandum of Economic and Financing policy, the Technical Memorandum of Understanding and The Memorandum of Understanding on the Specific Condition of Economic Policy. A committee consisting of representatives of Troika, the IMF, the European Central Bank and the European Union (represented by the European Commission) (hereinafter The Troika) signed two agreements with Greece: the Loan Facility Agreement was signed between Greece and the Eurozone Countries, and the Stand-by Agreement was signed between Greece and the IMF. The terms for these agreements were a three year repayment plan of the 110 billion € loan, conditioned upon the successful implementation of the austerity measures. As a result, Law 3845/2010 [ΦΕΚ 65/Α’/6.5.2010] was passed by the Greek Parliament with the purpose of implementing the mechanism of support of the Greek economy from the member states of the Eurozone and the International Monetary Fund. On May 10th 2010 the Eurozone countries created the European Financial Stability Facility as a temporary rescue mechanism.
The first Memorandum (Law 3845/2010) was challenged before the Council of State (Symvoulio tis Epikrateias or STE) in the Decision 668/2012 (STE, Olomeleia 668/2012). The Athens Bar Association, the Association of Civil Servants and other Public Employees, the Association of Pensioners and other organizations filed a joint application for the annulment (Aitisi Akyroseos) of the Memorandum before the Council of State. The rationale behind the application was that the Memorandum and the laws and provisions that were adopted as part of the implementation of the Memorandum impose drastic economic measures whose legality is incompatible with some articles of the Greek Constitution. The first issue was the legal nature of the memorandum. The Council of State, in plenary session, stated that even though the Memorandum was drafted in the English language, it does not bear the characteristics of an international agreement, either between the member states of the Eurozone and Greece or between Greece and the IMF, which, in any event, had not signed the memorandum. Thus, the court by majority ruled that since the Memorandum was not an international treaty, it did not need to be passed into law through Article 28 of the Constitution, which provides for a larger majority of 3/5 or 180 votes in case of international treaties. In addition, the court ruled that the lack of ratification of the Memorandum did not violate either Article 36 paragraph 2 of the Constitution or article 82 of the Constitution. According to the court, no additional authority had been recognized for international organizations that would limit Greek sovereignty and the Government maintains its full competence for the establishment of general government policy, as Article 82 provides. Finally, the court maintained that the provisions of the Memorandum did not violate other articles of the Constitution such as article 2 on human dignity, article 4 on equality, article 5 on economic freedom, article 17 on private property (which includes salaries and pensions), article 20 on judicial protection and others. The decision also states that cutbacks on salaries and pensions were justified on the basis of public interest and were found to be reasonable.
On December 15th 2010 a new bill covering employment regulation and the reduction of salaries of employees of Public Utility Organizations was passed. By the end of 2010, the Greek debt was 142.8% of its GDP, and the deficit of the balance of payments was 10.5% of the GDP. These changes were introduced by Law 3899/2010 [ΦΕΚ 212/Α/17.12.2010] on urgent measures of implementation of the support program for the Greek economy. Around the same time, two very important laws were passed: Law 3900/2010 [ΦΕΚ 213/Α/17.12.2010] on the rationalization of procedures and promptness of administrative law trials and Law 3904/2010 [ΦΕΚ 218/Α/ 23.12.2010] on criminal trials.
In January 2011 Law 3908/2011 [ΦΕΚ 8/Α/ 1.2.2011] was passed to support private investment, entrepreneurship and economic development. In March 2011 Law 3919/2011 [ΦΕΚ 32/Α’/2.3.2011] was passed as part of the fiscal measures of the Greek economy and provided for the opening of certain professions and the expansion of professional freedom in Greece. On March 12th2011 the members of the Troika and Greece agreed to lower the interest on the previous loan by 1% and lengthen the time of repayment to 7.5 years. In July 2011 the Greek Parliament adopted a new set of measures, under the title “Urgent Measures for the Implementation of the Medium Term Framework of Fiscal Strategy 2012-2015” or as it is known, the Medium Term Fiscal Plan 2012-2015 withLaw 3986/2011 [ΦΕΚ 152/Α/1.7.2011]. It imposed a series of fiscal cuts to raise revenues in the public sector, including some tax measures. It also established the Privatization Organization to privatize and utilize public revenues. Later in July during the EU Leaders’ Summit, the issue of the Greek debt was extensively discussed. The summit concluded on the 21st of July 2011 with a new 158 billion € loan agreement for Greece: 109 billion € in new money from the EU and the IMF and 49 billion € remaining from the first bailout. 37 billion € of this latter sum came from private lending, and 12 billion came from the repurchase of bonds, whose expiration was extended up to 30 years. In August 2011 new measures were adopted, among which was a new one-time property tax that would be attached to electrical utility bills. Pensions were further cut, and all “closed” professions opened. The maximum income for low-income tax breaks was lowered from 8,000 € to 5,000 €. On October 20th 2011 a new bill was passed. Law 4024/2011 [ΦΕΚ Α’ 226/27-10-2011] further cut down pensions, imposed new taxation regulations and included regulations on labor law and other provisions for the implementation of the Medium Term Fiscal Plan 2012-2015. On October 27th 2010 the EU, during a new summit to deal with the Eurozone Crisis, decided to cut the Greek debt by 50% with an additional bailout of 130 billion €. According to the agreement, private parties owning Greek bonds would lose half of their bonds’ value on a voluntary basis. The agreement also included a ten-year fiscal program and the establishment of a permanent monitoring mechanism. On December 6th 2011 a Supplemental Memorandum of Understanding was agreed upon between the European Commission, Greece and the Bank of Greece.
On February 2nd 2012 Law 4038/2012 [ΦΕΚ 14/Α/2.2.2012] was adopted with more urgent measures for the implementation of the Medium Term Fiscal Plan 2012-2015. On February 8th 2012Greece applied once again for financial assistance. Together with its application, it adopted a number of new measures, such as the lowering of minimum wage from 751 € to 586 € per month with an even lower minimum wage for those under the age of 25 entering the workforce for the first time. 150,000 civil servant positions were eliminated, and the “life-tenure” of civil servants was abolished for certain organizations. Taxes were further raised in conjunction with cuts in public spending in the areas of health, defense and elections. 200 public tax revenue offices were shut down. Law 4046/2012 [ΦΕΚ28/Α/14.2.2012] was adopted and approved: the draft of Loan Facility Agreements between the European Financial Stability Facility, the Greek Government and Bank of Greece; the draft of a Memorandum of Understanding between the Greek Government, the European Commission and Bank of Greece; and other provisions for the reduction of the Greek public debt. Also Law 4047/2012 [ΦΕΚ 31/Α/23.2.2012] was adopted with more urgent measures for the implementation of the Medium Term Fiscal Plan 2012-2015, which ratified previous legislation on salaries, pensions and other fiscal issues. Law 4048/2012 [ΦΕΚ 34/Α/23.2.2012] regulated issues of Regulatory and Good Governance and Transparency. Finally, Law 4051/2012 [ΦΕΚ 40/Α/29.2.2012] further regulated some pension issues related to Law 4046/2012.
On March 1st 2012 the Eurogroup member states agreed to grant financial assistance under the auspices of the European Financial Stability Facility in response to the Greek application and approved of the measures adopted. Greece and the Bank of Greece signed a new Memorandum of Understanding (the “PSI MoU”) with the European Commission providing inter alia for the voluntary bond exchange between Greece and private sector investors. This is called “the second Memorandum of Understanding”.
On November 7th 2012 a new bill was approved by the Parliament. Law 4093/2012 [ΦΕΚ 222/A/12.11.2012] was a result of continuing negotiations between the Greek Government and the Troika which concluded in drafting a new Medium Term Fiscal Plan 2013-2016. The new measures amount to cuts of 18.9 billion €, 9.4 billion of which are scheduled to occur in 2013. As part of the measures, the retirement age was raised by 2 years, pensions above 1000 € per month were reduced by up to 15%, and several important welfare benefits were abolished. A minimum contribution of 25 € for all hospitalizations was introduced. On January 15 2013, a new tax law was passed. Law 4110/2013 [ΦΕΚ 17/A/23.01.2013] which brought about significant changes to the previous tax code.
Legal Professions in Greece
The most common legal professions in Greece are practicing lawyer, judge, notary and legal advisor.
In order to practice law in Greece, a recognized law degree is necessary. Law degrees from Greek Law Schools provide graduates with the qualifications to take the Bar exams automatically. Law degrees obtained outside Greece need to be recognized through the Hellenic National Academic Recognition Information Center (D.O.A.T.A.P.). There are three Law Schools in Greece, which are located in Athens, Thessaloniki and Komotini. As for all universities in Greece, the three Law Schools are public, and there are no tuition fees according to Article 16 of the Greek Constitution.
- University of Athens, School of Law
- University of Thessaloniki, School of Law
- University of Thrace, School of Law
Graduates from all three Schools are eligible to register at Bar Associations. Then, after a required 18-month traineeship, they sit for the Bar Exam. There are 63 Bar Associations, as many as the Courts of First Instance in Greece.
- Agrinio Bar Association
- Alexandroupoli Bar Association
- Arta Bar Association
- Athens Bar Association
- Chalkida Bar Association
- Chalkidiki Bar Association
- Chania Bar Association
- Chios Bar Association
- Corfu Bar Association
- Drama Bar Association
- Edessa Bar Association
- Giannitsa Bar Association
- Heraclion Bar Association
- Ioannina Bar Association
- Kalamata Bar Association
- Karditsa Bar Association
- Kastoria Bar Association
- Katerini Bar Association
- Kavala Bar Association
- Kilkis Bar Association
- Kos Bar Association
- Kozani Bar Association
- Lamia Bar Association
- Larissa Bar Association
- Lasithi Bar Association
- Lefkada Bar Association
- Mesologgi Bar Association
- Mitilini Bar Association
- Nafplio Bar Association
- Orestiada Bar Association
- Patra Bar Association
- Peiraius Bar Association
- Rethymno Bar Association
- Rhodes Bar Association
- Rodopi Bar Association
- Samos Bar Association
- Serres Bar Association
- Thesprotia Bar Association
- Thessaloniki Bar Association
- Tripoli Bar Association
- Veroia Bar Association
- Volos Bar Association
- Xanthi Bar Association
- Zakynthos Bar Association
Various lawyers’ websites:
After graduation from law school, the following options are available:
- Practicing lawyer: an 18 month traineeship is mandatory in a law firm, and then after exams, those who pass are registered in the registry of the Bar Association. The Code of Conduct for Lawyers (“Kodikas peri dikigoron”) regulates the exercise of the legal profession. A lawyer can work independent from a law firm offering his or her legal services. This may include becoming a salaried legal advisor to banks, corporations, organizations and others.
- Judge, Prosecutor: To become a judge in Greece, one has to graduate from the National School of Judges, which is situated in Thessaloniki. Admission to the National School requires passing one of the periodic admission examinations. Examinations are in areas such as Public Law, Civil law and civil procedure, Commercial and Corporate Law as well as Criminal Law and Criminal Procedure. Examinations vary depending on the department of law one wants to work in, and, thus there are different examinations for administrative and civil courts. To sit for the exam, the main criteria are having graduated from law school and being at least 27 years of age. All those admitted have a general education but later they are chosen, after another examination for a particular specialization (civil and criminal or administrative courts), depending on their performance on the relevant law.
- Notary Public: The prerequisite to become a notary public is having been a practicing lawyer. Candidates to fill vacant positions must participate in a yearly written examination administered by the Ministry of Justice. The exercise of this profession regulates the code for Notaries (“Kodikas Symvolaiografon”)
- Academic Career: One must have a doctoral degree from a domestic or a foreign University. There is an announcement for positions by each law school separately and a cadre-law on advanced academic institutions regulates the process of choice.
- Diplomatic Corps: A law school graduate can become a diplomat after being admitted and successfully attending the School for the Diplomatic Corps. The admission examinations for this school are considered to be the most difficult national examinations since the examination topics are very broad. Knowledge of English and French are required.
- Public Sector: Legal studies allow access to commissions and committees of the public sector, the school of public administration, legal persons of Public law, and organizations of local governments, independent administrative authorities and others.
Greek legal texts and documents, as well as case law, are not generally available online. When they are online, a subscription is required to one of the currently available databases. Legal texts can be obtained in hard copies in codified forms from the major legal publishers in Greece.
When researching comparative and foreign law, one may refer to the Institute of International and Foreign Law 73 Solonos Street, Athens, tel: 011-30-210 36 15 737, 361 56 646 fax: 011-30-210 361 9 777
- Ant. N. Sakkoulas
- Sakkoulas Publications
- Law and Economics P.N Sakkoulas
- Nomiki Bibliothiki
- Epitheorisi IKA Asfalistikou kai Ergatikou Dikaiou
- National Gazette
- Isocratis database (Athens Bar Association)
- Nomos Database
- Nomoi info
- Database of Legal Information
- Ermis Government Portal
- General Secretariat of National Statistical Service
- National Documentation Center
- Electronic Catalog of Libraries of the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens
- European Public Law Center
- Center of International and European Economic Law
- Hellenic Foundation for European and Foreign Policy
- Hellenic Center for European Studies
- Marangopoulos Foundation for Human Rights
- Institute of International Relations
- Research Center for Gender Equality
- Center for European Constitutional Law
- Institute of International Public Law and International Relations
- Hellenic Criminal Bar Association
These websites provide useful information with respect to regulations of specific sectors related to commerce and industry. In these websites are also published laws and decisions that affect specific areas or industries.
- Athens Chamber of Commerce and Industry
- Athens Professionals’ Chamber
- Peiraius Chamber of Commerce and Industry
- Peiraius Professionals’ Chamber
- Evia Chamber
- Aetoloakarnania Chamber
- Voiotia Chamber
- Fokida Chamber
- Corinth Chamber of Commerce
- Argolida Chamber
- Chamber of Arkadia
- Laconia Chamber
- Messinia Chamber
- Achaia Chamber
- Ilia Chamber
- Chamber of Corfu
- Chamber of Zakynthos
- Chamber of Cefalonia and Ithaca
- Samos Chamber
- Chios Chamber
- Lesvos Chamber
- Kyklades Chamber of Commerce
- Dodekanisa Chamber
- Chania Chamber of Commerce
- Heraclion Chamber of Commerce and Industry
- Lasithi Chamber
- Rethymno Chamber of Commerce
- Thessaloniki Chamber of Commerce and Industry
- Chalkidiki Chamber of Commerce
- Kavala Chamber of Commerce
- Kozani Chamber of Commerce
- Serres Chamber of Commerce
- Kilkis Chamber of Commerce
- Imathia Chamber
- Florina Chamber of Commerce
- Grevena Chamber of Commerce
- Drama Chamber
- Chamber of Evros
- Rodopi Chamber of Commerce and Industry
- Xanthi Chamber of Commerce
- Arta Chamber
- Preveza Chamber of Commerce
- Chamber of Ioannina
- Larissa Chamber
- Karditsa Chamber of Commerce
- Trikala Chamber of Commerce
- Magnisia Chamber of Commerce
- Fthoiotida Chamber of Commerce
- Athens Chamber of Artisans
- Thessaloniki Chamber of Artisans
- Peiraus Chamber of Artisans
- Rodopi Chamber of Professionals and Artisans
- Greek Economic Chamber
- Greek Maritime Chamber
- Greek Geotechnical Chamber
- Technical Chamber of Greece
- Technical Chamber of Greece, East Crete division
- Hellenic Chamber of Hotels
- Hellenic Chamber of Shipping
External Commercial Relations: Chambers of Commerce and Industry
- Turkish Greek Chamber of Northern Greece
- Italian Greek Chamber
- Romanian Greek Chamber of Commerce and Industry
- Dutch Greek Chamber of Commerce
- Swedish Greek Chamber
- French Greek Chamber of Commerce
- British Greek Chamber of Commerce
- German Greek Chamber of Commerce
- German Greek Enterprise Association
- Baltic Greek Chamber of Trade and Industry
- Arab Greek Chamber of Commerce
- Israel Greek Chamber
- Chinese Hellenic Chamber
- Japanese Greek Chamber of Commerce
- American Greek Chamber of Commerce
- Hellenic Canadian Board of Trade
- International Chamber of Commerce
Civil and Human Rights-related committees and authorities
- National Committee for Human Rights
- Hellenic Data Protection Authority
- The Greek Ombudsman
- National Bioethics Commission
- National Center of Public Administration and Self Administration
- Mediterranean Programme for International Environmental Law and Negotiation
- General Greek Labour Union
- Greek Manpower Employment Organization
- Hellenic Property Federation
- Hellenic Organization of Standardization
- General Consumers’ Federation of Greece
- Greek Company of Local Development and Self-Government
- Hellenic Telecommunications and Post Commission